Queen Elizabeth may be the longest reigning monarch and the owner of many a color-coordinated outfit, but not even she is immune to tough times.
In 1992, three of her children—Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne—divorced their respective spouses, Princess Diana, Sarah Ferguson and Captain Mark Phillips, and Windsor Castle erupted in flames.
Aside from the £36.5 million required to repair the castle, there was unquantifiable damage done to the royal family’s traditions and reputation. Characteristically reserved and private, Queen Elizabeth responded in a surprising way—she got personal.
As historian Adrian Tinniswood writes in his new book, Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household, the queen delivered a speech four days after the fire in honor of the 40th anniversary of her ascension to the throne and said, “Nineteen ninety-two is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.” She went on to famously refer to it as her “annus horribilis” (Latin for horrible year).
Then, several weeks later, after Prince Charles and Princess Diana announced their formal separation, she infused her annual Christmas address with more candid comments. “Like many other families, we have lived through some difficult days this year,” she admitted. “As some of you may have heard me observe, it has, indeed, been a somber year.”