The Royal Family has made headlines for decades, long before the fast pace of the internet.
While some of their biggest controversies happened decades ago, others — like Prince Andrew’s sex assault allegations — are more recent.
In no particular order, here are some of the biggest scandals the Royal Family has faced in recent history.
King Edward gives up the throne
One of the biggest moments in recent British royal history, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 so he could marry his lover, American socialite Wallis Simpson.
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Simpson had previously been married and divorced, which put their relationship under scrutiny. The Church of England, which Edward was the head as king, did not allow divorcees to remarry if their ex-spouse was still alive. (These rules only changed in 2002.)
In order for Edward to wed Simpson, he had to step down from his role as king. His brother, George VI, took on the title.
Princess Margaret’s relationship with Peter Townsend
Queen Elizabeth‘s younger sister was romantically linked to Captain Peter Townsend, who was married when they first met.
Townsend was Princess Margaret’s father’s equerry and was close to the Royal Family. In 1952, Townsend divorced his wife and asked Princess Margaret’s hand in marriage.
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In 1953 at the Queen’s Coronation Day, the princess was caught picking off a piece of fluff from Townsend’s jacket, which fueled rumours that the two were romantically involved.
Since Townsend was divorced, if Princess Margaret was to marry him, she would have been stripped of her royal title as parliament and the Church of England would not consent to her marriage. She decided not to wed Townsend and married photographer Antony Armstrong Jones in 1960 instead, whom she later divorced.
Prince Harry wears a Nazi costume
In 2005, the second son of Prince Charles sported a Nazi uniform to a costume party. Prince Harry apologized for his behaviour after a British tabloid printed a photograph of him drinking and smoking in the outfit.
In a statement at the time, the then 20-year-old prince said: “I am very sorry if I caused any offense or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologize.”
Prince Andrew’s sexual assault allegations
Prince Andrew spent much of 2019 in the headlines.
Giuffre says she was sex trafficked by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide in August 2019. She alleges Epstein forced her to have sex with the prince in 2001 at the home of British socialite and friend of Prince Andrew’s Ghislaine Maxwell.
Prince Andrew denies these allegations.
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“It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein [have] become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organizations and charities that I am proud to support,” the 59-year-old said in a statement.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ affairs and subsequent divorce
Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son married Princess Diana in 1981.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles had their two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, in 1982 and 1984, respectively.
Prince Charles reportedly started an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, whom he dated before his marriage, around 1986, according to reports. Princess Diana reportedly had affairs, too, most notably with her bodyguard Barry Mannakee in 1985, and military man James Hewitt the following year.
In 1992, an intimate phone call between Prince Charles and Parker Bowles was leaked to the press, later known as “Camillagate.” Tabloids published transcripts of the deeply personal conversation, causing great embarrassment to the family.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles split in 1992.
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In 1994, Prince Charles admitted he cheated on Princess Diana in a TV documentary. The following year, Princess Diana infamously told the BBC that there were “three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Princess Diana died after being injured in a car accident in Paris in 1997.
Prince Charles and Parker Bowles married in 2005.
Prince Harry spends a day in rehab
After reportedly admitting to experimenting with cannabis and alcohol, a then 16-year-old Prince Harry was sent to drug rehabilitation clinic for a day by his father.
Per reports, Prince Charles arranged for his teen son to visit Featherstone Lodge, a detox centre for people dealing with drug addiction, in south London. The visit was not reportedly for treatment, but instead an attempt to show Prince Harry the dangers of drugs.
Kate Middleton’s topless photos
While vacationing in France, paparazzi took photos of a topless Duchess of Cambridge suntanning in 2012.
In 2017, a judge ordered French magazine Closer to pay 100,000 euros in damages for publishing the photos. Two staff members were fined an additional 90,000 euros to pay to Kate Middleton and Prince William.
Prince Harry naked in Las Vegas
Photos of a naked Prince Harry surfaced in 2012 after a “wild” trip to Las Vegas. Prince Harry, who was then 27, was photographed playing a reported game of “strip billiards” with friends in his VIP suite.
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TMZ published the nude shots, as did British tabloid The Sun.
Sarah Ferguson’s bribery scandal
Sarah Ferguson, the ex-wife of Prince Andrew, was caught demanding money from an undercover journalist posing as a businessman in exchange for access to the prince.
Now-defunct tabloid News of the World secretly filmed Ferguson in 2010 promising access to Prince Andrew after the payment was sent to her bank account. Ferguson and Prince Andrew divorced in 1996.
“That opens up everything you would ever wish for. I can open any door you want, and I will for you,” she told the undercover reporter. “Look after me and he’ll look after you … you’ll get it back tenfold.”
Ferguson, the mother of Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, publicly apologized after the news broke.
“I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused,” she said.
“It is true that my financial situation is under stress, however, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment and I am very sorry that this has happened.”
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