Death of Britain's Prince Philip latest hammer blow for Queen Elizabeth amid recent crises

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, walking among ceramic red poppies in London on Oct 16, 2014. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (AFP) - The death of husband Prince Philip is the latest and heaviest blow to hit Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, with family disputes and scandal rocking the monarch as her record-breaking reign draws to a close.

Here are the crises faced by the 94-year-old monarch in recent months.

Prince Harry and wife Meghan quit as frontline royals

The 2018 wedding of Prince Harry, the Queen's grandson, and US actress Meghan Markle marked a high point for the family, following his brother William's marriage and the birth of great-grandchildren for the monarch.

The arrival of a telegenic celebrity of mixed race into the royal fold was hailed as a sign that the family was moving with the times and equipped to deal with a changing society.

But the honeymoon period did not last long and rumblings of a family rift exploded into full view last year when the couple announced they were quitting frontline duties and moved to California.

Harry and Meghan's bombshell Oprah interview

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

Sadness at their departure turned into a full-blown crisis for the Queen last month when the couple rained bombshells down on the family during an interview with US television icon Oprah Winfrey.

Meghan accused an unnamed family member of speculating about the potential skin colour of their son-to-be Archie, and said that the family had ignored her pleas for help over mental health issues.

The interview caused a firestorm on both sides of the Atlantic, damaging the family's carefully curated brand and its appeal to younger Britons.

The Queen responded by saying that Harry and Meghan were still "much-loved" members of the family and that the race accusations would be investigated, but added that recollections of the event "may vary".

Prince Andrew's Epstein scandal

In a much-criticised television interview, Prince Andrew denied having sex with a 17-year-old girl allegedly procured by the disgraced millionaire financier. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Queen's second-eldest son Prince Andrew stepped back from frontline royal life in 2019 amid an outcry over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

In a much-criticised television interview, Prince Andrew denied having sex with a 17-year-old girl allegedly procured by the disgraced millionaire financier.

The royal was lambasted from all quarters for his lack of judgement and empathy with Epstein's victims, while his claims that he never sweated and only stayed at the disgraced financier's home because he was "honourable" drew derision.

The unprecedented interview was the first time Queen Elizabeth II's second son has answered questions from the media about Ms Virginia Robert's allegations.

Ms Roberts, now Giuffre, claims she was forced to have sex with the prince on three occasions - in London in 2001 when she was 17, in New York and on Epstein's private Caribbean island.

Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Mr Peter Hunt, a former royal correspondent for the BBC, said the ill-advised interview was "the latest indication of a malaise afflicting the Royal Household".

Death of Prince Philip

But it is the death of husband Philip, her "rock" for 73 years, that will be the hardest blow to bear.

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Prince Philip stepped down from public engagements in 2017, but had been by the Queen's side throughout the recent tribulations, although he was languishing in hospital with an infection during Harry's interview.

The couple had performed thousands of engagements together, and led the family through decades of unprecedented change.

Royal biographer Christopher Wilson called him "the guiding hand, the disciplinarian" keeping family members in check.

The Queen, not known for airing her inner feelings in public, said in 1997 he had "quite simply been my strength and stay all these years".

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