Where there’s royalty, there’s bound to be a scandal. Over the last century, the British royal family has generated scandals at an alarming rate. In no particular order, here are some of the biggest royal scandals of the last century.
Prince Andrew Steps Down
There is no royal in recent memory who brought more shame to the royal family than Prince Andrew. Commonly regarded as Queen Elizabeth’s favorite son, Andrew stepped down from royal duties in 2019 after details came out about his connection to Jeffrey Epstein. There is strong evidence that Andrew was a close confidant of Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.
His downfall is an unending public spectacle. Andrew nearly had to head to the United States after a court case came against him over pedophilia. The royal family may have taken his titles away, but Andrew still lives on its grounds. There’s no mitigating the crimes Andrew stands accused of, and he’s brought humiliation to himself and his family.
Prince Harry And Meghan Markle Skirt Royal Duties
You probably know this story well. After marrying in 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle faced undue scrutiny from within palace walls. Markle got depressed, and the intense media attention became too much to bear. Racist overtones took precedence over just about everything, with senior royals pondering what skin tone a then-unborn Archie would have. The whole situation reminded Harry of what happened to his mother, so the couple decided they would leave the United Kingdom and make a life for themselves away from the rest of the royal family.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, the split wasn’t totally amicable. Once close brothers Harry and William turned frosty, Prince Charles stopped taking Harry’s phone calls. Not a week goes by without another new story revolving around this tension. The scandal has eclipsed just about everything else involving the royal family for two years running.
The Woes of Princess Diana
There was no royal figure more popular than Princess Diana. The people’s princess saw her life turn to hell as details of affairs became public. It turned out both she and Charles were seeing other people. Their divorce was a landmark moment in 20th century Britain, but the worst was yet to come.
Just a year after her divorce was finalized, Diana tragically died in a car crash while her driver was evading the paparazzi. Her death left a hole in the collective heart of Britain, and the world mourned. Her funeral became one of the United Kingdom’s most viewed events, and her legacy is still felt to this day. Many have placed blame on Charles and Camila Parker Bowles for what happened to Diana, and for some, that grudge still stands.
Princess Margaret’s Public Divorce
Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, was unlucky in love. She fell in love with Peter Townsend, a longtime equerry to the royal family. There was one very big problem: he was a married man. After years of cheating, Townsend divorced his wife and proposed the Margaret on the spot. This gesture unsurprisingly did not go over well with the royal family and Parliament, so the wedding never happened.
Margaret’s next partner was photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones. She posed for him in some rather salacious photographs, and the couple wed in 1960. The marriage was bad from the outset. Years of infighting and affairs finally came to a head in 1978 with a long-anticipated and sensationalized divorce.
King Edward VIII Abdicates
The constitutional crisis in 1936 rocked the Commonwealth. Edward VIII became the monarch when King George V died in 1936. Edward had fallen madly in love with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée twice over. Parliament would not allow the two to wed, but Edward would not leave her. Faced with the choice between the throne and Simpson, he chose Simpson.
The throne was handed to his brother Albert who became King George VI, and Edward would live abroad for the rest of his days. While his legacy could be as a great romantic, many are more focused on Edward and Simpson’s status as Nazi sympathizers. He would deny being pro-Nazi but did lend legitimacy to its regime by touring the country in 1937.
Princess Anne’s Affair
Princess Anne’s run-of-the-mill affair still managed to make waves. As chronicled on The Crown, Anne had an affair with her bodyguard Sergeant Peter Cross. While this managed to get snuffed before becoming too big of a deal, Anne would generate headlines in 1992 for a divorce.
After decades with equestrian Mark Phillips, Anne left him in 1992. Within a year, she married the man she had been seeing for years: Timothy Laurence. The two are still married to this day.
Sarah Ferguson’s Affair
Andrew’s marriage to Sarah Ferguson fell apart on the front pages of the papers. An infamous photograph surfaced of Ferguson getting her toes kissed by American financial manager John Bryan. Margaret reportedly wrote to Ferguson, “You have done more to bring shame on the family than could ever have been imagined.”
With details of her affairs now public, Ferguson and Andrew got divorced in 1996. She’s still very close to her ex-husband and has backed him to the hilt amid his Epstein scandal.