The British royal family is known for owning weird and wonderful things, like exotic animals and hundreds of handbags. They have lavish weddings that millions of people watch on television, and they fly all over the world on private jets.
But along with all the glitz and glamor, there’s always a generous helping of controversy. Here are some of the most shocking scandals to have hit the royals over the years.
Prince Harry’s Nazi costume
In 2005, Prince Harry was photographed at a friend’s costume party wearing a Nazi armband, leading to a huge public outcry and criticism from politicians, advocacy groups and religious leaders. Clarence House was quick to release a statement, stating, “Prince Harry has apologised for any offence or embarrassment he has caused. He realises it was a poor choice of costume.”
King Edward VIII Gave Up The Throne For His Wife
Edward VIII (uncle of the current Queen Elizabeth II) became King in 1936, but his reign was short-lived. The following year, he renounced it so that he could marry Wallis Simpson. Their relationship was a huge scandal at the time because American socialite Simpson was a two-time divorcee, and the Church of England forbade them from getting wed. Love prevailed, Edward abdicated, and they remained married until Edward’s death in 1972.
Edward VIII Was Supposedly Friends With Adolf Hitler
Another scandal involving Edward VIII and his wife Wallis Simpson was their supposed “friendship” with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Edward and Simpson visited Hitler in Berchtesgaden in 1937, not long after Edward abdicated the throne to marry Simpson. A trove of German intelligence documents found after the war revealed that the Nazis viewed the former king as sympathetic, and that they’d even planned a friendly “kidnapping” of George so they could install him as England’s leader once they’d invaded Britain. While the U.K. government tried their hardest to keep their association with Hitler under wraps, it was confirmed by a document published in 1957.
Prince Charles Drank A Cherry Brandy
What’s the big deal about this one? Well, Prince Charles was only 14 years old when he ordered a cherry brandy at a pub in the village of Stornoway Harbor. It became public knowledge — and made the headlines — thanks to a tabloid reporter who happened to be in the same pub. Prince Charles later told Vanity Fair, “I said the first drink that came into my head, because I’d drunk it before, when it was cold, out shooting.”
Prince Harry Went To Rehab (For One Day)
Prince Charles didn’t take kindly to Prince Harry’s admission that he’d taken part in underage drinking and tried marijuana on several occasions. As a result, 17-year-old Harry was sent to a drug rehabilitation clinic for one day. According to a St. James’s Palace official, the purpose of the visit was “to learn about the possible consequences of starting to take cannabis.”
Prince Harry Got Caught Naked
During a trip to Las Vegas before serving in Afghanistan for the British Army, 27-year-old Prince Harry was photographed completely naked while playing a game of strip billiards. He said, “At the end of the day I probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down. But it was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince. It’s a simple case of that.”
Princess Margaret Fell In Love With A Married Man
When Princess Margaret fell in love with Royal Air Force Officer Captain Peter Townsend, there was one big problem: Townsend was already married. In 1953, he divorced his wife and immediately proposed to Princess Margaret. But it was never meant to be — they ended their engagement two years later.
Princess Margaret Had A Very Public Divorce
After Princess Margaret split from former fiance Peter Townsend, she married a photographer named Antony Armstrong-Jones. Their separation was made public in 1976, when Buckingham Palace put out an announcement stating, “HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and the Earl of Snowdon have mutually agreed to live apart. The Princess will carry out her public duties and functions unaccompanied by Lord Snowdon. There are no plans for divorce proceedings.” However, they did get divorced in 1978, making Princess Margaret the first royal to get a divorce since King Henry VIII in the 1500s.
Captain Mark Phillips Had A Lovechild
Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II’s only daughter, married Captain Mark Phillips in 1973. During their marriage, Phillips had a one-night stand with Heather Tonkin, an art teacher from New Zealand. Tonkin got pregnant and later gave birth to a daughter, Felicity. After a 1991 paternity suit, Phillips was confirmed to be Felicity’s father.
Princess Diana Revealed She Had Self-Harmed
Princess Diana reportedly threw herself down the stairs when she was four months pregnant with Prince William, according to journalist Andrew Morton’s book “Diana: Her True Story.” Diana allegedly recorded the account on tape and sent it to Morton, revealing that she did it to try to get Prince Charles’ attention. “I threw myself down the stairs,” she said. “The Queen comes out, absolutely horrified, shaking – she was so frightened.”
Princess Diana’s ‘Squidgygate’ Phone Call Was Leaked
In 1992, The Sun released the transcript of a recorded phone call between Princess Diana and her alleged lover, James Gilbey. At the time, Diana was still married to Prince Charles. During the phone call, Gilbey called Princess Diana by the pet name “Squidgy” a whopping 53 times, and declared his love for her. And so the affair became known as Squidgygate.
Prince Charles’ Bedtime Call With Camilla Parker Bowles
Princess Diana wasn’t the only one having extra-marital phone calls. Shortly after Squidgygate went public, an Australian magazine printed the transcript of a conversation between Prince Charles and his lifelong friend, Camilla Parker Bowles. This call left no doubt that they were having an affair, thanks to the stream of dirty jokes they exchanged, and Camillagate became the latest scandal.
Princess Diana And Prince Charles Got Divorced
Princess Diana and Prince Charles were far from the first royal couple to get divorce, but never before had the intimate details of a failing royal relationship been so public. In 1995, Princess Diana revealed in an interview with Martin Bashir that she knew about her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. She also spoke about her bulimia and postpartum depression and admitted an affair with her riding instructor, James Hewitt. The following year, the couple divorced.
Princess Diana’s Tragic Death
Princess Diana’s death in 1997, following a car accident in Paris, caused heartbreak around the world. But there was more scandal to come involving “The People’s Princess.” Conspiracy theories circulated that her death was planned by none other than her ex-husband Prince Charles. It was also reported later that Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, who was also killed in the accident, was engaged to his former partner Kelly Fisher at the same time as he was dating Diana.
Sarah Ferguson’s ‘Toe-licking’ Photo Was Released
Sarah Ferguson, aka Fergie, married Prince Andrew in 1986. They separated in 1991, and the following year Fergie was photographed in a compromising position with an American financial advisor named John Bryan. The paparazzi images show Bryan seemingly licking and nibbling a topless Fergie’s toes on vacation in southern France.
Fergie Took A Massive Bribe
It turns out 2010 was a bad year for Fergie. She was tricked by an undercover reporter posing as a businessman, who offered her £500,00 (about $770,000 at the time) for information about her ex-husband Prince Andrew. According to The Guardian, Fergie said to the reporter, “That opens up everything you would ever wish for. I can open any door you want, and I will for you. Look after me and he’ll look after you… you’ll get it back tenfold.” The duchess later apologized, claiming she had “a serious lapse in judgement.”
Prince William Was Caught Dancing With A Model
His younger brother Harry may be more closely associated with scandal, but it was Prince William who got into hot water in 2017 when he was caught dancing with a woman, believed to be Australian model Sophie Taylor, at a nightclub. He was on a boys’ ski trip, so wife Kate Middleton was back home with the children. There’s video proof of the encounter, so it’s likely Prince William had some explaining to do when he got home. However, William later laughed it off during a radio interview with BBC.
Prince Andrew Had A Girlfriend Who Made Adult Films
In 1982, four years before he married Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew dated American-born Kathleen “Koo” Stark. When the British tabloid press found out Stark was an adult film actress, they published several suggestive images of her. Rumor has it that the Queen was introduced to Stark with no knowledge of her acting career.
Prince Andrew Was Accused Of Rape
Scandal rocked Buckingham Palace in 2014 when Virginia Guiffre (née Roberts) claimed she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17 years old. Roberts accused the prince and his billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein of using her as a “sex slave.” Buckingham Palace denied all allegations and a judge later ordered that they be struck from court records. In 2019, Epstein killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges for abusing women and girls in Manhattan and Florida from 2002 to 2005. As of August 2020, the FBI are said to be keen to talk to Prince Andrew about Roberts’ allegations.
Prince John Was The Hidden Royal Son
George V (Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather) was King from 1910 until his death in 1936. He and his wife Queen Mary had six children, one of whom was kept hidden away in York Cottage at the Sandringham estate due to his epileptic seizures. It’s reported that the royal family believed these seizures couldn’t be revealed to the public because this would show weakness. At the age of 13, Prince John died in the cottage after a seizure.
Princess Michael Wore A Racist Brooch To The Queen’s Luncheon
Princess Michael of Kent has a history of racial indiscretions; her latest occurred in 2018, when she donned a racist brooch to the Queen’s Christmas luncheon at Buckingham Palace. The offensive item fetishizes images of slavery and is widely considered racist. The fact that Meghan Markle, then newly engaged to Prince Harry, was a fellow guest at the luncheon added fuel to the fire. Princess Michael apologized, adding that she’s worn the brooch “many times before, without controversy.”
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Step Back From Royal Duties
In January 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced that they were taking a step back from being “senior” royals in order to become financially independent and launch their own charity, a step that would involve splitting their time between the U.K. and the U.S. According to the BBC, no other royal — not even the Queen — was consulted before the statement was made, and Buckingham Palace was reportedly “disappointed.” In August 2020, Harry and Meghan bought a house in Montecito, California.
Prince Andrew Mixed In Dubious Circles
In 2011, Prince Andrew stepped down as the U.K.’s trade envoy, a role he held for 10 years, due to rising criticism over some of his personal relationships. Of particular concern was his friendship with financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender. Prince Andrew also held meetings with Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi’s son Saif and entertained the son-in-law of Tunisia’s ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at Buckingham Palace.
Meghan Markle Sued A British Tabloid
In April 2020, it was revealed that the Duchess of Sussex had filed a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, the owner of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline. In 2019, the Mail on Sunday published a private handwritten letter the duchess wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. The Duchess claimed it breached her privacy, copyright and data protection. A five- to seven-day trial is expected to take place sometime between January and April 2021.
The Duke Of Kent Had Affairs And Took Drugs
Queen Elizabeth’s uncle Prince George, the Duke of Kent, married his second cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, in 1934. However, he wasn’t a faithful husband, reportedly having many affairs (with both men and women) behind her back and fathering several illegitimate children. It was also reported that the Duke had a problem with morphine and cocaine abuse. When he died in a plane crash in 1942, many speculated that his embarrassed family was behind it.