2018's biggest royal moments: Weddings, babies and birthdays top the calendar
It was an especially busy year for the British royals, what with weddings, babies and birthdays on the calendar. And once again, the masters of pomp and pageantry showed off their skills to the delight of billions watching around the world.
Here are the top 12 moments on the royal stage in 2018:
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say 'we do':
This was the marquee event, especially for Americans, given that the royal bride for Harry is historic: Older, divorced, biracial, American and an actress, she is the first such bride to be welcomed into the royal family in...well, forever.
The Los Angeles-born Markle, who gained modest fame on USA's "Suits," was the undisputed star on May 19 in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in an ancient ritual that featured the first gospel choir and gospel preacher from Chicago to shake up a royal wedding. Even her father's pre-wedding dithering about whether he show up (he didn't) failed to ruin the day; she glided down the aisle on the arm of Prince Charles, her father-in-law-to-be.
To all that, add Markle's stunning couture gown by Givenchy, with a veil that paid special tribute to the queen, a second gown by Stella McCartney for the two receptions, and a colorful carriage procession under brilliant skies through Windsor as thousands lined the Long Walk to cheer in person and people all over the world watched on TV and social media.
Now she's HRH Meghan the Duchess of Sussex, married to the sixth-in-line to the throne and pregnant with their first child, who will be the eighth great-grandchild to Queen Elizabeth II.
"The boss" takes to Duchess Meghan:
The queen is the head of the royal "firm," so her approval is crucial. Whenever a new bride joins the family, custom calls for the queen to carry out a joint engagement with the newbie. For Duchess Meghan, this debut came surprisingly quickly, in June less than a month after the wedding, and also featured an unprecedented invitation to board The Royal Train for a day of solo engagements with Her Majesty in Cheshire.
Meghan not only got to spend the night on the train – something even Harry hasn't done – she got a master's-class lesson in her royal job from her new boss. And both appeared to enjoy the experience judging from the photos of the two giggling together.
The 65th anniversary of the last British coronation:
As the queen approached her ninth decade, significant anniversaries began to fall: Her 60th year on the throne in 2012; her passing of great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria's record for longest-ever reign, in 2015; her 90th birthday in 2016; and now, in 2018, the 65th anniversary of her coronation on June 2, 1953 in Westminster Abbey.
(She became queen in February 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI, but the official crowning takes place later because coronations take time to organize.)
Hers was the fourth and final British coronation of the 20th century and it followed to a remarkable degree the ceremonial script set down nearly 1,000 years ago.
Except, it was the first coronation to be televised. Still, the most sacred moment of the hours-long ritual – the Act of Consecration when the monarch is anointed with blessed oil – was deemed so holy that it was kept off camera.
Prince Louis of Cambridge is born
Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge welcomed their third child on April 23, 2018, a new little prince of Cambridge, a historic royal baby and the new fifth in line to the British throne.
Like his brother, Prince George 5, and sister, Princess Charlotte, 3, he was born at St. Mary's Hospital in London. Louis entered the world shortly after 11 a.m. local time, weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces.
About seven hours later, Will and Kate emerged from the hospital, baby in arms and she looked none the worse for wear. The baby was named Prince Louis Arthur Charles, with the name Louis pronounced in the French way.
The baby is historic because he is the first male heir born in the royal family who will not displace his older sister Charlotte in the succession to the throne. Louis is the queen's sixth great-grandchild.
Shortly before Prince George was born, the United Kingdom changed its law on royal succession so that girls are no longer automatically displaced by their younger brothers in line to the throne.
The queen's seventh great-grandchild is born
Prince Louis was only one of several royal baby events in 2018: Next up was the queen's latest great-grandchild, Lena Elizabeth Tindall, who was born June 18, to Zara Phillips Tindall, the queen's eldest granddaughter, and her husband, Mike Tindall.
Lena (pronounced Lay-na), whose middle name is in honor of the queen, is the fourth grandchild for the queen's daughter, Princess Anne the Princess Royal, and the queen's seventh great-grandchild. Lena has an older sister, Mia, 4.
The Tindall girls also have two cousins, Savannah Phillips, 7, and Isla Phillips, 6, who are the daughters of Peter Phillips, Anne's son and the queen's eldest grandson.
The baby's arrival was especially joyful after Zara Tindall suffered a miscarriage in 2016.
A royal christening
The third Cambridge christening, for baby Prince Louis, occurred on July 9 in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace, where George was christened.
As per usual, the christening was an occasion for a close family gathering, so there were new pictures of George and Charlotte.
But the queen and husband Prince Philip were not there. It was not because of ill health on either's part, palace officials said, although the Duke of Edinburgh, 97, has largely retired from public life. The queen was scheduled to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force and then meet later in the week with President and Mrs. Trump at Windsor Castle.
Everything else about the short ceremony followed closely for earlier christenings going back more than 100 years, including the antique silver Lily Font and the handmade replica of the 177-year-old royal lace christening gown.
Royal wedding Number 2: Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank:
Princess Eugenie of York, daughter of the queen's second son, Prince Andrew Duke of York, married her longtime commoner boyfriend, Jack Brooksbank, on Oct. 12, dressed in a stunning Peter Pilotto gown and a royal Russian-style tiara, in a lower-key repeat of the nuptials that enchanted the world Harry wed Meghan.
The York nuptials took place in the same church – St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle – and featured some of the same elements, including gorgeous couture gowns and dazzling tiara, bridesmaid Princess Charlotte and pageboy Prince George, a colorful carriage procession, a reception hosted by the queen at the castle, hundreds of high-profile guests and the presence of the royal family from the queen and Prince Philip on down.
The bride, 28, is not as well known outside Britain, let alone her groom, 32, a former bartender-turned-tequila-brand rep, but a royal wedding is still something in the U.K. and the ancient town of Windsor celebrated with gusto.
Harry and Meghan announce she's pregnant:
More baby news: The new royal couple announced Oct. 15 that they will welcome their first baby in spring 2019.
When the baby is born, he or she will be the eighth great-grandchild for the queen and Prince Philip, and will be seventh in line to the throne behind Harry.
"Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the spring of 2019," the palace announced in a pair of tweets that landed as the couple landed in Sydney to begin their first long royal tour of Down Under and the South Pacific.
Immediately, people began more closely examining Meghan's midriff in person and in pictures as the duo explored the region.
There was widespread delight, especially on Twitter, but also in the royal family, including the queen and Philip, Prince Charles the Prince of Wales (this will be his fourth grandchild), and Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge.
Doria Ragland, mother of Meghan, 37, also appeared overjoyed in a statement from the palace. “Ms. Ragland is very happy about this lovely news and she looks forward to welcoming her first grandchild," the statement said.
"A big congratulations to the #dukeandduchessofsussex," was a typical tweet. "You're both an amazing couple and very inspirational. Love you both so very much. Best news ever! I'm sooooo over the moon!"
Harry and Meghan's adventures Down Under
Thrilled about their pregnancy and eager to embrace their new role as Commonwealth ambassadors, Harry and Meghan embarked Oct. 16 on a grueling three-week tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, traveling thousands of miles and making dozens of public appearances.
Plus, they presided over the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney, the competition for wounded warriors founded by Harry in 2014, and the place where they unforgettably debuted as a couple, and were photographed together for the first time, in 2017 in Toronto.
The trip was a deemed a resounding success even with a fashion mishap or two (like the price tag dangling from the bottom of Meghan's dress hem or the see-through skirt that seemed to show her underwear) or the brief security scare at one venue.
But those images were trumped by pictures of the two walking barefoot on the beach, meeting koalas at the zoo, posing in romantic places, rubbing noses in the traditional Maori greeting, laying wreaths at memorials, watching dance performances and looking consistently fabulous at fancy receptions.
Prince Charles turns 70
The Prince of Wales, already the longest-serving heir to the throne in history, turned the big 7-0 on Nov. 14 and was celebrated by his family and friends at a major bash at Buckingham Palace hosted by the queen.
She toasted her first-born with a warm tribute to his lifelong environmentalism, his dedication to conservation and the arts, his prodigious charitable work, his dedication as the heir to the throne, and as a "wonderful" father.
"It is a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday. It means you have lived long enough to see your child grow up. It is rather like – to use an an analogy I am certain will find favor – planting a tree and being able to watch it grow," she said in remarks shared by the palace.
It was only the latest of a series of birthday year celebrations for Charles, which began as early as May with a garden party at the palace to mark the prince's indefatigable charity efforts.
His just-married second son, Prince Harry, and his new wife, Duchess Meghan of Sussex, even postponed their honeymoon to make their first appearance together since their wedding to praise Charles at the garden party.
It could still be many more years before he becomes Britain's 42nd sovereign as King Charles III, but for now the Prince of Wales has been showered in esteem and affection.
Prince Philip really disappeared from public life:
This time he really meant it: He was retiring from public life and would not be seen much in public in 2018 except for family events such as the weddings of his grandchildren, Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie.
At 97, the Duke of Edinburgh had been saying for years that he was cutting back on his busy round of appearances, but he still had a robust schedule even after he turned 90. Now the queen does most of her hundreds of engagements per year on her own.
Philip announced in August 2017 that he was hanging up his spurs after his last solo public engagement – No. 22,219 for those keeping score – but it seemed especially obvious in 2018 when he didn't turn up for the usual big-deal ceremonies, such as Trooping the Colour or the Order of the Garter ceremony. His last appearance at Royal Ascot was in 2017.
Then there was his hip replacement surgery in April. Would he be up and about for Harry and Meghan's May nuptials? He was; he didn't even use a walker. Same for Eugenie's wedding in October. He was prominent in the media photos of the weddings and the official family photos taken later.
Aside from that, he was photographed as per usual walking to church at Sandringham on a Sunday in January, and by paparazzi at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in early May and at a polo event in Windsor in June.
Philip's absence may not mean much to Americans but for the British it's hard to imagine seeing the queen without her husband of 71 years, who has played the role of subordinate to his wife in public for the 66 years she's been on the throne.
Harry and Meghan to move from Kensington Palace to Windsor
Goodbye, cramped, two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage. Goodbye, paparazzi lurking outside the palace gates. Goodbye the never-blinking eye of the media everywhere in noisy, sprawling London.
Hello, five-bedroom Frogmore Cottage. Hello, quiet, suburban Windsor Home Park. Hello, security cordon around Windsor Castle. Hello, gardens and picnics and the glamour of nearby Frogmore House, the longtime royal residence where Prince Charles hosted Harry and Meghan's sit-down dinner reception after their wedding.
On one level it should be easy to understand why the new royal couple would want to strike out on their own and seek a little more of the privacy they're entitled to as two royals who are not going to sit on thrones.
On the other hand, their announcement on Nov. 24 that they intend to move to Windsor when their baby is born in the spring (and after a good deal of renovation of the somewhat ramshackle "cottage") was instantly pounced on as "evidence" that the Sussexes wanted to escape the Cambridges because they allegedly don't "get on."
This sparked a tabloid frenzy of stories exploring such breaking news as Meghan's alleged "difficult" demands on staff and Kate's alleged tears after a dress fitting for Princess Charlotte.
But maybe all Harry and Meghan really want is more privacy, and less noise. Maybe they want to be closer to where they married and to the queen, who spends most weekends at Windsor Castle and loves hosting her grand kids for tea.
Or maybe they just want to be closer to Heathrow.