1992 will remain the worst year of the reign of Elizabeth II, who died at the age of 96 on Thursday, September 8, 2022. For her 40th year on the British throne, the queen finds herself in turmoil that year. On November 24, 1992, she gave a historic speech at the Guildhall in London that will forever be remembered as that of “The annus horribilis”. “1992 is not a year that I will look back on with undivided pleasure, it will remain as an annus horribilis”, declared the British sovereign.

A Latin term meaning “horrible year” and is a play on words explicitly referring to the “Annus Mirabilis”, the miraculous year of 1666 celebrated in a poem by John Dryden published in 1667. Divorce from his children, fire Windsor Castle, Sarah Ferguson’s escapades, Lady Diana’s scandalous book… The British crown and Elizabeth II will be undermined in this terrible year 1992 for the royal family.

1992 will go down as the year of a series of separations and divorces of the Queen’s children. If Princess Anne actually separates from Mark Phillips in 1989, their divorce will be officially pronounced on April 23, 1992. On August 20, 1992, the “Fergie” scandal undermines the entire reputation of the royal family. The Daily Mirror is republishing photos from a French magazine showing Sarah Ferguson, wife of Prince Andrew, frolicking on a deckchair in the Var with her financial adviser. The princely couple had been separated since March.

Luck will do the trick as Sarah Ferguson was with the Queen at Balmoral on the day these outrageous photos were released. The Duchess will fall from this date in disgrace throughout the British aristocracy. On December 9, 1992, it was the coup de grace since Prime Minister John Mayor announced the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana before the House of Commons. “Buckingham Palace announces with regret that the Prince and Princess of Wales have decided to separate,” he announced.

In June 1992, Princess Diana had already created a scandal and damaged the reputation of the royal family with the publication of a biography entitled Diana: true story which reveals in particular the infidelity of Prince Charles and the malaise and the princess eating disorder. The book tarnishes the image of the royal family a little more and delights the tabloids for months.

On November 20, 1992, four days before the Queen’s speech, a huge fire broke out in Windsor Castle. “A fire, caused by a lamp which set fire to the curtains of the Queen’s private chapel, threatens to destroy the castle which Samuel Pepys described as ‘the most romantic in the world'”, specifies in the biography Majesty: The reign of Elisabeth II, Bertrand Meyer-Stabley, long-time press correspondent in London, then journalist at Elle. Prince Andrew, on a weekend in Windsor, then rushes to save his mother’s treasures by joining the chains of employees who are evacuating furniture and other paintings from the castle. “The queen is devastated, absolutely devastated. She helps get things out of the castle, works of art…”, Andrew replied to the CNN reporter at the time.

“The images, this November 20, 1992 of the queen wandering in the middle of the smoking rubble of the castle, in the courtyard, in boots and oilskins, symbolize in the eyes of the public the drama of a distraught dynasty. And this speech by the Queen, at the Guildhall, comes only 4 days after the castle fire, her voice is hoarse because she breathed in the fumes”, analysis with France Culture Isabelle Rivère, journalist, specialist in royal families .

Bertrand Meyer-Stabley reveals in his biography the main cause of the Queen’s distress in this cursed year. “The journalist Tina Brown gives one of the reasons for the melancholy of the queen in this sinister year 1992”, specifies the author of the work. “One of the Queen’s closest advisers at the time told me that her greatest distress during this annus horribilis had been caused neither by the fire in the castle, nor by the marital disappointments of her son, but by the publication in the Sun of the full text of the Queen’s Christmas speech two days before its broadcast”, confided the journalist. A dark year that will not prevent the queen from restoring the confidence of her people in the royal family. His passing sparked thousands of tributes around the world.