Why royal split will set off alarm bells

For a man who is not royal, Peter Phillips, Princess Anne's son, has spent an unusual amount of time in the headlines of late.

Last month, it was revealed that the 42-year-old was starring in a bizarre ad for milk for the Chinese market and yesterday, it was revealed that his 12-year marriage to wife Autumn was over.

'Naturally sad': Queen's grandson confirms split

It was news that came out of the blue, the Phillips' having long been seen as one of the royal family's most stable couples. Despite not being royal - Anne chose not to give her children titles and they have never been on the Sovereign Grant - the Queen is clearly close to her grandson and granddaughter-in-law, having been joined by them at last year's Highland Games in Scotland.

The Sun's Dan Wootton reported on Tuesday that Autumn had ended her marriage to Peter, leaving Her Majesty "upset" by the emotional turn of events.

Later the same day the couple confirmed the sad news in a statement, saying: "After informing HM The Queen and members of both families last year, Peter and Autumn jointly agreed to separate. They had reached the conclusion that this was the best course of action for their two children and ongoing friendship."

This is clearly sad news for Peter, Autumn and their two little girls Savannah and Isla.

However, this development may very well be setting off loud alarm bells behind palace gates given this could not have come at a worse time for the beleaguered Windsor clan.

Since October, the royal family has been buffeted by crisis after crisis.

October saw Harry and Meghan star in a TV documentary where he seemingly confirmed he and brother William were on the outs and she gave the impression that the royal family were uninterested in her personal struggles.

Then came November, with Prince Andrew deciding to sit down with the BBC to address his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, which proved so disastrous that he was forced to step down as a working member of the royal family.

December came and Harry and Meghan were back in the headlines with their decision to spend the holidays in Canada and when they did return to the UK in January it was for a speedy, curious visit to the Canadian embassy for their bombshell announcement they were quitting as working royals.

Before that month was out, Harry gave an impassioned, deeply personal speech revealing that he and Meghan had not wanted to fully quit the royal family. Then, the New York prosecutor looking into Epstein's crimes publicly stated that Prince Andrew had offered "zero co operation" to investigators.

Exhausted? You should be.

This ceaseless onslaught of royal brouhahas and downright publicity disasters would be enough to make any battle-scarred Palace courtier fancy a quadruple gin and Dubonnet and a long lie down.

And thus the Phillips' split could not come at a worse moment in recent royal history.

What The Firm needs right now is a jolly injection of feel good vibes, like a pregnancy or three.


What the Queen and co. don't need is another wave of stories and coverage that add a dysfunctional hue to the royal family's already battered image.

More broadly what message does it send about the royal family that first the Sussexes' and now Autumn are jumping ship? To poorly paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "to lose one Windsor wife may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness."

The other issue here is that for a good period in the 90s and early 2000s when the Windsor surname was very much synonymous with divorce.

Then came a good decade and a bit when the Windsors seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of their time going to churches and watching relatives get hitched.

There was Edward and Sophie, Charles and Camilla, William and Kate, Eugenie and Jack, Harry and Meghan and later this year, Beatrice and Edoardo. Love reigned supreme!

The royal brand was suffused with love, all of which injected a certain optimism and verve into everything.

Now, Peter and Autumn's parting of ways could very well, coincidentally, undermine that.

Moreover, this will be the first divorce among the Queen's grandchildren, a sad record that would surely distress the 93-year-old. After all, her marriage has lasted 72 years.



This turn of events brings the royal family back precipitously close to being associated with failing marriages.

In a statement released on Tuesday Peter and Autumn confirmed they were ending their marriage and that they had told both of their families last year however whether they would have chosen this precarious moment PR-wise off their own bat is up for debate.

The royal family, right now, needs a clear cut, shining win. Where that comes from given the

current state of play, I truly don't know.

Last year was widely seen as the Queen's second annus horribilis however the way things are going, 2020 looks set to be far more horribilis still. Gin anyone?

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of

Australia's leading media titles.