Annus horribilis

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Annus horribilis is a Latin phrase, meaning "horrible year". It is complementary to annus mirabilis, which means "wonderful year".

Origin of phrase[edit]

The phrase "annus horribilis" was used in 1891 in an Anglican publication to describe 1870, the year in which the Roman Catholic Church defined the dogma of papal infallibility.[1]

Elizabeth II[edit]

The expression was brought to modern prominence by Queen Elizabeth II. In a speech at Guildhall on 24 November 1992, marking her Ruby Jubilee on the throne, she said:[2]

1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.

The "sympathetic correspondent" was later revealed to be her former assistant private secretary, Sir Edward Ford.[3] The unpleasant events which happened to the royal family in this year include:[4]

After her speech, one more event transpired that became notable: the separation of her son Prince Charles from his wife Diana (9 December).

Kofi Annan[edit]

Kofi Annan, then United Nations Secretary-General, used the phrase in his year-end press conference on 21 December 2004. He reflected: "There's no doubt that this has been a particularly difficult year, and I am relieved that this annus horribilis is coming to an end."[5] His remarks were widely interpreted as having alluded to persistent allegations of corruption in the UN's Iraq Oil-for-Food Program.[6] He also spoke of upheaval and violence in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Palestine, and Sudan; the ongoing process of UN internal reform; and "persistent...criticism against the UN" and himself personally.[5][6] Annan's remarks came five days before the deadliest event of the year (and one of the deadliest natural disasters in history), the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26 December.

Juan Carlos I[edit]

In 2007, the Spanish royal family, in particular King Juan Carlos I, faced a difficult year. Family tragedy and a series of controversies led to Spanish newspapers to refer to the year as the king's annus horribilis.[7]


The year 2020 was widely remarked as being an annus horribilis as the world faced several challenges, most notably, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which began in late 2019 and rapidly spread in early 2020.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Möhler, Döllinger and Oxford Anglicanism". London Quarterly and Holborn Review. 75. E.C. Barton. 1891. p. 105.
  2. ^ "Annus horribilis speech, 24 November 1992". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009.
  3. ^ Corby, Tom (28 November 2006). "Obituary: Sir Edward Ford". the Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  4. ^ How the royal family bounced back from its 'annus horribilis', The Guardian, 24 May 2012
  5. ^ a b "New York, 21 December 2004 – Secretary-General's year-end press conference (unofficial transcript)". Off the Cuff. United Nations, Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General. Archived from the original on 4 February 2005. The Secretary-General Off the Cuff
  6. ^ a b "UN chief welcomes end of 'horrible' year". NineMSN. Associated Press. 22 December 2004. Archived from the original on 13 September 2005.
  7. ^ El "annus horribilis" del Rey Juan Carlos. Archived 6 December 2012 at, La Nación, 15 November 2007.
  8. ^ Doebele, Justin (13 December 2020). "Editor's Sidelines, December 2020: Annus Horribilis". Forbes. Retrieved 16 March 2021.

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