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  • Rachel Burchfield

History Lesson: 1992, the annus horribilis

Updated: Jun 17, 2019


Photo: The Queen delivering her annus horribilis speech at Guildhall.


Every so often on the blog, we’ll go back in time for a series I’m calling “History Lesson.” The first iteration of this series is a look back at one of the worst years in Queen Elizabeth II’s life, 1992 – her annus horribilis.


The Queen is usually very averse to discussing her feelings or her personal life. That’s why it was so shocking when, on November 24, 1992 – before the year was even over – she called 1992 her annus horribilis, Latin for “horrible year,” while giving a speech at Guildhall in London to mark the fortieth anniversary of her ascension in 1952. The expression was made iconic by the Queen during this speech.


In her very Queen Elizabeth II way, she said in her speech “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.” (The “sympathetic correspondent” was later found out to be Sir Edward Ford, her former assistant private secretary.)


Here’s why 1992 was royally terrible:

· On March 12, Mauritius, the last Commonwealth realm on the continent of Africa, abolished its monarchy.

· A week later, on March 19, the Duke and Duchess of York (Andrew and Fergie) separated.

· On April 23, Princess Anne and her husband, Captain Mark Phillips, divorced.

· That very same day, her nephew Prince Albrecht of Hohenlohe-Langenburg died.

· The bombshell book Diana: Her True Story (which was a “biography” by Andrew Morton but was really a ghostwritten autobiography orchestrated by Princess Diana as a tell-all about her problematic marriage to Prince Charles and his affair with the then Camilla Parker Bowles) dropped in bookstores on June 8.

· On August 20, photographs of Fergie having her toes sucked by her financial advisor John Bryan were published. Keep in mind that, while separated, Andrew and Fergie were not divorced. (Although even if the divorce had been finalized, it still would have been mortifying.) Oh, and did I mention the Duchess of York was topless in the photos?

· The daughters-in-law are at it again: On August 24, just four days later, Diana’s intimate phone conversations with James Gilbey were leaked. And it was bad. Then, to top it off, a highly sexual and, quite honestly, disgusting call between Charles and Camilla was leaked, too. (Let’s just say it involves Charles saying he wishes he was a tampon.)

· On her forty-fifth wedding anniversary to Prince Philip on November 20, one of her homes, Windsor Castle, caught fire.

· Four days later, she delivered the speech.

· But 1992 wasn’t over. In December, Charles and Diana separated.


There was death. Destruction. The dissolution of three of her children’s marriages (her youngest, Edward, was still a bachelor at the time, so 100 percent of her children’s marriages blew up in 1992). Yeah. It was a bad year.


So, to whatever lovely soul is reading this: If the Queen and the monarchy can survive 1992, honey, you can survive today!


Read the full text of her annus horribilis speech here.

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