Image: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

There’s already been a lot of drama for the royal family in 2020. Most obviously, Meghan and Harry stepping down as working royals has been a massive story. But after that, Peter Phillips – the man long-rumored to be the favorite grandchild of the Queen – decided to drop something else into the mix. He made a shocking announcement about his marriage.

Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

For over a decade, Phillips has been married to a woman named Autumn Kelly, a management consultant from Canada. He tied the knot with her in 2008 at St. George’s Chapel, the same place Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would have their wedding years later. After that, they had two children named Savannah and Isla.

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Although Philips doesn’t have a title and isn’t a “working royal,” he’s very much still part of the family’s inner circle. His mother is Princess Anne, the singular daughter of the Queen. Allegedly, when Philips and his sister Zara were born, the Queen offered to give them royal titles. Princess Anne, however, said no.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: John Nguyen – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Phillips came into the world as fifth in line to become monarch of the United Kingdom. However, his cousins having kids has ultimately bumped him down to his present position of 15th. He’ll almost certainly never sit on the throne, but he’s had a very successful life anyway. He’s worked for Jaguar and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and he’s currently managing director of a company called SEL UK.

Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Phillips has kept himself out of the public eye to such an extent that Autumn Kelly wasn’t even aware that he was a royal they first crossed paths. She only found out the true identity of her new boyfriend more than a month later. She realized who he was when she and her mother saw him on TV. Naturally, they were utterly shocked.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Kelly herself came from non-aristocratic roots, having lived a normal life in Canada before meeting Phillips. Her parents divorced when she was eight, though their relationship from that point was supposedly amicable. Both of them married other people, and Kelly gained some half-siblings as she got older. When she went to college, she took a job in a bar to help pay the bills.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

The young woman also worked as an actress for a time. While studying at McGill University she won a couple of small roles, one in the 1996 movie Rainbow and another in a TV show called Sirens. But she didn’t pursue acting as a career in the end. After graduating, she became a management consultant.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

Phillips and Kelly met for the first time at the 2003 Montreal Grand Prix, where both of them were working. In May 2008 a supposed associate of the royal told The Telegraph, “Peter couldn’t take his eyes of her. Within five minutes he had managed to engage her in conversation.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

The unnamed source went on, “He had to go off to do some official business. But within half an hour, he was back and had managed to get her mobile telephone number, her email address and invite her and three of her friends to the Formula One post-race party. He certainly wasn’t going to let her disappear.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

And he didn’t. Kelly soon relocated to the U.K., eventually taking a job as an assistant to famed television presenter Sir Michael Parkinson. During this period she met the Queen and other high-ranking members of the royal family. And she even scored an invite for a party thrown in celebration of the Queen turning 80.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

In July 2007 the official announcement of an engagement was made. A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace declared, “The Princess Royal and Captain Mark Phillips are pleased to announce the engagement of their son Peter Phillips to Autumn, daughter of Mr. Brian and Mrs. Kitty Kelly.” This was set to be the first royal union since Prince Charles had wed Camilla.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Getty Images

Apparently, Phillips had proposed to Kelly in an amusingly non-royal way. He’s said to have popped the question while the pair were outside in the rain taking their dog for a stroll. He had already asked her dad for permission, and had arranged for a hot-air balloon he could propose to her on. But when the balloon was cancelled due to bad weather, he popped the question at ground level instead.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Kelly joined the Anglican Church before the wedding took place. When she was younger, she had been baptized into the Catholic Church – but members of the royal family are prohibited from marrying Catholics. If Phillips had opted to wed her before her conversion, he would’ve lost his position in the line of succession.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: IAN MCILGORM/AFP via Getty Images

The wedding took place on May 17, 2008, and it was a joyous occasion. Kelly wore a tiara loaned to her by her husband’s mother, and her new sister-in-law Zara served as one of her bridesmaids. But there was one aspect of the wedding ceremony which caused a lot of controversy.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Sang Tan – Pool/Getty Images

The bride and groom had allowed Hello! magazine to document their wedding, reportedly in exchange for a sum of £500,000. And the royal family was, according to reports, not at all pleased about that decision. When Hello! published their piece, photos of the Queen and other senior royals were in there.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: IAN MCILGORM/AFP via Getty Images

The Queen had not been warned in advance that she would be in the magazine, and such was the furore that some British politicians even got involved. Member of Parliament Ian Gibson declared at the time, “The British public would expect the Queen to rise above being pictured in the pages of Hello!. She is the Queen, not a footballer’s wife.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Two other famous royals – Prince William and Prince Harry – were also reported to be angry. Some “well-placed sources” who spoke to the Daily Mail newspaper claimed that the men were “deeply unhappy” about the situation. And especially so since their partners had also been photographed at the ceremony without their express permission.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: POOL/Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images

As a result, the Queen banned her family members from taking magazine deals in the future, the media reported. A person described as a “senior royal source” told The Telegraph a few days after the ceremony, “It will never ever happen again. In hindsight it should never have happened in the first place.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Indigo/Getty Images

Yet that incident didn’t seem to sour Phillips’ relationship with his grandmother. In 2010 Savannah was born, and she had the distinction of being the Queen’s first great-grandchild. The official statement on the matter was, “The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Princess Royal, Captain Mark Phillips and Autumn’s family have been informed and are delighted with the news.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Isla, the second child of Phillips and Kelly, was born in March 2012. She was the Queen’s second great-grandchild, and her full name was given as Isla Elizabeth Phillips. There was some speculation as to whether the middle name was dedicated to the Queen, but the family neither confirmed nor denied this.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Anwar Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

In 2016 Phillips wrote an article for The Telegraph in which he sang the praises of his grandmother. The piece was to promote an event called The Patron’s Lunch, which was in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday. In the piece’s headline, Phillips was described as “The Queen’s favorite grandson.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

In the Telegraph article, Phillips shared some tidbits about his relationship with Queen Elizabeth. He said, “I’ve always been very close to my grandmother, and we speak often. She has been an inspirational person throughout my life, so to be able to do something like this for her is an honor.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: John Nguyen – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Phillips went on, “As a child, I would attend charity events with my parents in school holidays. But as I’ve grown older the sheer number of causes of which the Queen is patron has become clear. So, too, has her commitment to every one of them – and that’s an extraordinary achievement.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Big special events like The Patron’s Lunch aside, Phillips and Kelly largely remained out of the spotlight as they raised their two children. They were, though, naturally present for the biggest royal event of 2018. For the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, they arrived at the ceremony clasping one another’s hands.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

In 2020 Phillips garnered some attention after he appeared in a Chinese milk commercial for the company Bright Food. This was around the time that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their intention to retreat from royal duties. As such, the advert sparked discussion about what non-working royals could do to generate some cash.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

A month later, however, an unexpected bombshell came. It was suddenly announced on February 11, 2020, that Phillips and Kelly – married for twelve years – would be divorcing. Not only that, they had actually separated as far back as 2019. Reportedly, they had already told the Queen and other royals what was going on.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

The official statement from the palace read, “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. The decision to divorce and share custody came about after many months of discussions and although sad, is an amicable one.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The statement made it clear what the main priority of the divorcing couple was. As phrased in the announcement, it was “the continued well-being and upbringing of their wonderful daughters.” And it went on, “Both families were naturally sad at the announcement, but fully supportive of Peter and Autumn in the joint decision to co-parent their children.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The announcement concluded, “Both Peter and Autumn have remained in Gloucestershire to bring up their two children, where they have been settled for a number of years. Peter and Autumn have requested privacy and compassion for their children while the family continues to adapt to these changes.” However, members of the media raced to speak to insiders.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

British tabloid The Sun spoke to several people apparently in the know. One person told them, “Peter is absolutely devastated by this and just didn’t see it coming. He thought he was happily married and had the perfect family with two lovely daughters. But he is now in total shock.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

The supposed insider went on, “Autumn is a wonderful wife and mother and a very intelligent woman, but she’s been telling her friends for some time that there were issues. She is a favorite of the Queen and I’m sure Her Majesty will be very upset by this as well. It’s the last thing she needs after all her recent troubles and you get the feeling that the royal family is falling apart a little bit.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Another friend of the couple discussed the situation in regards to Harry and Meghan’s exit from royal life. They said, “What worries some of us is that Autumn may want to go back to Canada. Maybe she has been influenced by Harry and Meghan’s departure. Perhaps she thought if that can happen, then I can leave as well? That might be unfair on her, but you have to consider it.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Apparently, there had been no infidelity involved at all, according to the sources The Sun spoke to. Another alleged friend told the newspaper, “Certainly none of us think either Peter or Autumn are involved with anyone else. It just seems they have grown apart, but it’s come as a bolt out of the blue for Peter and he’s very upset.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

And finally, a “senior royal source” told the paper, “The Queen must wonder what she has done to deserve this. Peter Phillips has always been a favorite of hers and Prince Philip, and she will be crestfallen by this. Especially on top of all the other bad news. It makes you wonder what’s going to happen next.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Other insiders claimed to newspapers that despite the split, the couple were determined to remain friends. One person told The Telegraph, “Autumn has no plans to go back to Canada. She is very happy in Gloucestershire and wants their daughters Savannah and Isla to be as close to Peter and his family as possible. They are still living together and intend to remain living nearby.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Another person expressed concern over the family’s finances, telling the newspaper, “They don’t receive any public money so have had to go out and earn a living like anyone else. They have faced some financial pressures. If Peter had a lot of money he wouldn’t have done the milk gig. He needed a good pay day, especially now divorce is on the cards.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

On February 12 royal expert Richard Kay claimed that the Queen had given Kelly some advice before the pair announced they were divorcing. According to Kay, Phillips and Kelly went to Balmoral to inform the Queen that they were separating. While there, the monarch asked Kelly “not to make a hasty decision.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Royal followers have been going over the past year to look for clues that the couple’s marriage was in danger. The last time that the pair were photographed at a royal shindig together, it transpired, was at the Braemar Highland Gathering, which occurred in September. They notably weren’t around for the royal Christmas celebrations.

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

In February, yet another source told Vanity Fair that Phillips and Kelly had been through a “conscious uncoupling.” Apparently, they wouldn’t “get a quickie divorce” and were even still living together at their family home. The rest of the royals, the insider claimed, were “sad but supportive of the situation.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Once the divorce goes through, things will naturally be very different for the Phillips family. But their status as non-working royals protects them from the gaze of the media in some ways. Moreover, the Queen doesn’t have to involve herself in the way she’s had to for other members of her family. Hopefully, then, things will work out for everyone the best way they can.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT