Queen Elizabeth sent shock waves around the globe when she made her bombshell "Annus Horribilis" speech on November 24, 1992, the 40th anniversary of her accession to the throne. Adopting a rare personal tone, she called for a less savage treatment of the royal family by the media while admitting just how bad the year — rife with royal divorces and scandal — had been for her.
“There can be no doubt, of course, that criticism is good for people and institutions that are part of public life,” said the monarch. “But we are all part of the same fabric of our national society and that scrutiny, but one part of another, can be just as effective if it is made with a touch of gentleness, good humor and understanding.”
Speaking at London’s Guildhall, the monarch draped in a sober, dark green dress and suffering from a cold, used the phrase annus horribilis, meaning “horrible year,” “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.”
Here’s what left her reeling...
The royal family was shaken to the core by the publications of Diana: Her True Story — based on six interviews Princess Diana had arranged to have a friend tape and then deliver to author Andrew Morton — about her miserable marriage to King Charles.
The princess denied having anything to do with the confessional; the palace remained mum.
That same month, a secret tape of an intimate phone conversation between Princess Diana (a.ka. "Squidgy") and her friend James Gilbery was made public. (In January 1993, a cringe-worthy recording of an intimate 1989 phone call between Charles and Camilla was also leaked.)
The final blow was the most heartbreaking. Just days before The Queen's "annus horribilis" speech, her Windsor Castle home went up in a blaze of fire when a spotlight ignited a curtain in the private chapel, causing flames to eventually engulf much of the 11th-century castle. Repairs cost $48 million and took five years to complete.