Will 2014 be another year of weddings for British royals?

2013-12-20 05:00
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London - With the birth of Prince George, the long awaited first child of Prince William and his wife Kate, and the 60th coronation anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II, the British royals enjoyed a landmark year in 2013.

But the coming year promises to be no less exciting, with rumours of more royal weddings, another baby expected and an ageing Elizabeth handing over more of the limelight to younger members of the House of Windsor. Since the royals guard their privacy fiercely, there has been no official comment on Prince Harry's relationship with Cressida Bonas, a 24-year-old society beauty.

Wedding rumours

The couple have reportedly been going out for more than a year and a half and there are increasing signs, say royal watchers, that William's 29-year-old younger brother might soon propose.

The pair were spotted kissing on the Swiss ski slopes of Verbier earlier this year, spent a romantic holiday in Botswana in the summer and Bonas has been invited several times to the queen's private residence at Sandringham, in Norfolk. She has also reportedly given up her dream of becoming a dancer in favour of becoming a personal assistant, a job considered more seemly for a potential princess.

But last month Bonas' brother, Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, poured cold water on the idea of another royal wedding so soon after Kate and William's, telling the Evening Standard newspaper it was "ludicrous."

There are also rumours that another royal wedding - that of Princess Beatrice - might take place in 2014 and delay that of Harry, since two royal weddings in one year would be too much, say royal watchers. Beatrice, the 25-year-old daughter of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah, duchess of York, has been dating her boyfriend Dave Clark for six years.

Last month the duchess was invited to the queen's estate at Balmoral, Scotland, for the first time since she divorced Andrew in 1996 and was scandalously pictured in a newspaper having her toe sucked by her financial advisor while on holiday in France. The rapprochement could indicate an engagement is imminent, say observers.

A baby on the way

While wedding bells are only the subject of speculation, the royals have at least confirmed one major life event for the coming year - Zara Phillips, one of the queen's granddaughters and an Olympic equestrian medallist, is expected to give birth to her first child early in the new year.

Meanwhile, the health of the 87-year-old queen and her husband Prince Philip has been much under discussion this year with questions raised about how the royal family will deal with their advancing age.

Philip, 92, has been admitted to hospital several times over the past two years, suffering from complaints relating to his heart, bladder and abdomen, while the queen spent a night in hospital in March with gastroenteritis.

Prince Charles a pensioner

Elizabeth is generally in good health and carries out hundreds of engagements every year, but she has begun to slow down. She missed her first Commonwealth heads of government meeting since 1973 this year, and was represented in Sri Lanka instead by her son Prince Charles, who turned 65 and officially became a pensioner while on the trip.

The oldest heir to the throne in almost 300 years also took her place at the funeral of former South African president Nelson Mandela. After George's birth, her grandson William left his job as an RAF search-and-rescue pilot to carry out more royal duties, hosting his first investiture - the awarding of an honour from the queen - in October.

"What the queen is good at is giving things up before she has to so that people don't say 'actually she cannot do this anymore'," royal biographer Hugo Vickers told dpa. "For example when she was about 60 she gave up riding at the Trooping the Colour and she was perfectly capable of doing it," he added. "She still rides today at the age of 87." But royal experts resolutely dismiss speculation that the queen might consider abdication in favour of Charles.

"It's absolutely not done," said Sarah Bradford, another royal biographer. "There's only one person who voluntarily abdicated and you know who that is," she added, referring to Edward VIII. His abdication in 1936 in order to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson caused a scandal and meant his brother, the queen's father, rather unwillingly had to take the throne, becoming George VI. However the experts suggest that Charles could become regent - acting head of state - if Elizabeth fell seriously ill.

"If the queen just came out on the balcony at Buckingham Palace once a year, I don't think that would matter at all," said Vickers, adding that George III spent most of his last decade "locked up in the print room at Windsor Castle" while his son, later George IV, acted as regent.

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