The Biggest British Royal Family Scandals of All Time

The British Royal Family provides constant proof that fame and celebrity is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, these are the movers, shakers, and tastemakers of society, especially in England. But the world is watching everything they do and say, and this shines a spotlight on some major scandals.

There are nearly too many scandals to count. Here, though, are a few of our absolute faves.

King Edward VIII shocks the world

Edward VIII took the throne after his father died in 1936. But he then fell in love with a divorced American woman named Wallis Simpson. His marriage proposal to her violated the Church of England’s doctrines, so Edward gave up the crown to marry the woman he loved.

Princess Margaret takes her shot

Princess Margaret and Royal Air Force Captain Peter Townsend were deeply in love with each other. Unfortunately, he was a married man. He divorced his wife to propose to Margaret, but the Church of England forbid the marriage, forcing these lovers to call off their engagement.

Margaret’s nasty divorce

Princess Margaret soon got over Townsend and married royal photographer Antony Armstrong Jones in the world’s first televised royal wedding. But their relationship eventually crumbled, with the couple fighting in public amid rumors Margaret had taken a much younger lover for an affair.

Margaret and Armstrong eventually divorced in 1978, making this the first royal divorce since Henry VIII many centuries ago!

Princess Diana’s secret lover

Princess Diana and Princess Charles had a very fraught marriage. And in 1992, while they were still married, media outlets published a transcript of a call between Diana and her alleged lover James Gilbey. Diana would later maintain this was not an affair, but the appearance of impropriety and Gilbey’s pet name for her, Squidgy, earned this scandal the nickname “Squidgygate.”

RELATED: 10 Times Princess Diana Broke Royal Protocol

Prince Charles’ not-so-secret lover

The fact that Princess Charles was still in love with Camilla Parker Bowles even while married to Diana was something of an open secret. But it was no secret at all after an Australian magazine published a transcript of an amorous phone call between these two. Charles and Diana would separate later that same year.

Diana’s disastrous television appearance

Long before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s bombshell interview with Oprah, Harry’s mother Princess Diana gave her own jaw-dropping interview to journalist Martin Bashir. She talked openly about Charles’ affair, her own adultery, and her struggles with things like post-partum depression, bulimia, and even self-harm.

Soon after this, Charles and Diana divorced, and they were encouraged by Queen Elizabeth herself!

Princess Anne marries a royal staffer

Princess Anne has the distinction of being Queen Elizabeth’s only daughter. But this didn’t keep Anne from doing her own thing. For example, she was unhappy with her marriage to Mark Phillips and eventually divorced him in 1992 so she could marry British naval officer named Timothy Laurence…but this was three years after a British newspaper reported on the hot-and-heavy letters these two have been writing to each other!

Fergie gets her toes licked

Once upon a time, Sarah Ferguson (better known as Fergie) was deeply in love with her husband, Prince Andrew. But it all fell apart six years after they married when paparazzi published photos of a vacationing Fergie getting her toes by a financial advisor named John Bryan. This led to her separation and eventual divorce from Andrew.

Fergie takes a bribe

You’d think Fergie’s marital scandals would end once her marriage ended. But in 2010, a journalist posed as a businessman and got Fergie to accept a £500,00 bribe for access to Prince Andrew. This was captured on video, forcing Fergie to later apologize for her poor judgment.

RELATED: Princess Diana’s Style Secrets That Made Her A Fashion Icon

Prince Harry goes to rehab

Prince Harry has the dubious honor of saying he only spent one day in rehab. This happened because the 17-year-old Harry admitted to his dad that he had tried marijuana. Dad, in turn, hoped the brief stint in rehab would help Harry learn about how dangerous marijuana could be.

Harry’s Nazi cosplay

You might think “don’t dress like a Nazi” is common sense for most people, especially royals. But Prince Harry rocked a Nazi armband at a costume party in 2005, forcing Harry to publicly apologize for his bad taste.

Harry, naked in the tabloids

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. That’s what Prince Harry learned when a tabloid published nude photos of Harry taken during a game of strip billiards in his hotel suite. Considering that neither Harry nor his guards had a problem with people snapping pictures during this event, it seems the young prince brought this on himself.

Kate Middleton, topless in the tabloids

Kate Middleton has done her best to stay out of the tabloids. But this didn’t keep paparazzi from shooting and publishing photos of Kate sunbathing topless while on a private vacation. Kate would later win her lawsuit over this matter, but the scandalous damage was already done. 

Meghan Markle’s daddy drama

Sadly, Meghan Markle had to walk herself down the aisle at her own wedding. Why? Because her father had previously staged some paparazzi photos and generally tried to take advantage of his connection with Meghan for his own benefit.

RELATED: Meghan Markle’s Father Is Working on a Documentary About Their Family

Prince Andrew steps down as trade envoy

Prince Andrew actually served as the trade envoy for the UK between 2001 and 2011. But his personal relationship with certain people (most notably Jeffrey Epstein) forced him to step down.

Andrew abandons his royal duties

It’s one thing to know Jeffrey Epstein and it’s another to party with him. Once details emerged about Epstein’s sex offenses, the victim Virginia Roberts claimed that Epstein forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew in 2001. Shortly after a BBC Newsnight interview where Andrew discussed his friendship with Epstein, Andrew stepped down from his royal duties amid the growing scandal.

Markle’s lawsuit over a letter

Meghan Markle tried to reconnect with her estranged father by writing him letters. In turn, her father sent the letters to The Mail On Sunday for publication. Markle sued the publisher over this publication and eventually won her lawsuit, but all of this served to air more of her dirty family laundry where the public could see it.

Megxit scandal

In 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made the shocking decision to stay back from royal duties. To this end, they left England to create a new life for themselves in America. While the decision to start over is understandable, this “Megxit” move has created its own ongoing scandals.

Oprah? It’s on!

Just as Diane shocked the world with her TV interview in 1995, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shocked us all when they sat down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey in March of 2021. They discussed how the Royal Family treated them, including raising concerns about their son’s skin color and refusing to provide a title or security for him when he was born.

Most shockingly, Meghan spoke openly and honestly about how the pressures of British tabloids nearly drove her to self-harm. And they both discussed the pain of the rest of the Royal Family not speaking out against how Meghan was being treated.

RELATED: The Biggest Revelations From Harry & Meghan’s Interview With Oprah

Meghan Markle the bully?

Shortly before that Oprah interview, The Times of London reported that Meghan Markle once bullied staff members at Buckingham Palace. The palace promised to investigate the matter, but many critics noted they were taking these bullying allegations far more seriously than they ever took the sex offense allegations against Prince Andrew.