The Royal Family's Most Controversial Friendships

When you're a member of the royal family, every aspect of your life is constantly under a microscope, and this includes the friendships you forge. The saying goes that you are the company you keep, and when you're constantly in the spotlight, you have to choose your friends carefully. That doesn't mean that you don't make a bad judgment call every once in a while, and some members of the royal family can attest that you can be judged pretty harshly for the company you keep.

Take Prince Andrew, for instance. His friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein ended up costing him his royal titles, while King Charles III had to put out fires when it was revealed that his friend Jimmy Savile was a serial sexual predator. These friendships did not reflect well on the royal family, providing tabloids with plenty of stories and setting tongues wagging across the globe. Despite some of their more controversial friendships, some members of the royal family are known to be friends with some respectable celebrities. Kate Middleton is known to be friendly with Reese Witherspoon, and Prince William is friends with Academy award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne. Prince Harry served in the military with renowned British singer and songwriter James Blunt, and Meghan Markle is close friends with multiple celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey and tennis star Serena Williams.

It might be safe to say that the royals are extra careful about who they call their friends these days. Read on to discover some of the royal family's most controversial friendships over the years.

A friend of Meghan Markle was accused of white privilege

Fans of Meghan Markle before she joined the royal family know that she used to be super close with stylist Jessica Mulroney. Per the Daily Mail, the two were frequently spotted together in snaps on social media, and Meghan and Prince Harry's new Netflix docuseries reveals that Mulroney was one of the first people Meghan called when Harry proposed. But things went sideways when Jessica messaged influencer Sasha Exeter about a video she posted on her Instagram Stories about the Black Lives Matter movement. In the video, Exeter called upon her followers and other influencers to speak up about the movement. Mulroney responded to Exeter's post and was apparently none too impressed with it. Exeter took to Instagram again to speak about Mulroney's response, calling her behavior "problematic."

"I'm by no means calling Jess a racist but what I will say is this: She is very well aware of her wealth, perceived power, and privilege because of the color of her skin, and that, my friends, gave her the momentary confidence to come for my livelihood in writing. Textbook white privilege really, in my personal opinion," Exeter said. The fallout caused a ton of bad publicity, with CTV removing Mulroney's reality TV show "I Do Redo" from its platform. Meghan never commented on what happened, and it's unclear whether the two are still friends. A source told the Daily Mail that Meghan and Mulroney had "just grown apart."

Prince William's friendship with Rose Hanbury made some uncomfortable waves

In 2019, rumors swirled that Prince William was having an affair with Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley. The fact that Hanbury is a family friend made these rumors all the more scandalous and damaging. Celebrity gossip magazine In Touch (via Cosmopolitan) first ran with the story, alleging that it was likely that William had an affair with Hanbury and that there was enough substance to the rumor that Princess Catherine confronted him about it. William reportedly brushed it off, saying that it was nonsense, but since an official statement was never released, the rumors have still not been put to rest.

The gossip account @deuxmoi posted a message it received from an anonymous source who claimed that William's affair is common knowledge in London's higher circles and that Catherine was well aware of it. Of course, anonymous sources can't always be trusted. In an article Richard Kay wrote for the Daily Mail, he insists that it was all fake news and that reports about Catherine, William, and Hanbury having a falling out were nothing but nonsense. He added that all parties involved contemplated taking legal action against tabloids publishing stories about the rumored affair but decided against it because, even though the articles were pretty damaging, none of them cited substantial evidence to support their claims. The damage is done, however, and the royals will likely not be seen getting too cozy with Hanbury in the near future.

Prince Andrew was friends with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

If you're even slightly interested in the royal family, you would know that Prince Andrew used to be friends with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. This was not a good look for Andrew, and it certainly did not reflect well on the royal family. Andrew was even implicated in some of the allegations that were made against Epstein, even though he denied all of them. In 2022, after failing to make the sex abuse lawsuit against him go away, the palace announced that the prince had been stripped of his royal and military titles, NPR reports.

What followed was a disastrous interview with BBC, where Andrew discussed his lengthy friendship with Epstein, which began in 1999 and saw the two men attending several high-profile events together. It wasn't all business, however, and in the early 2000s, Epstein and Andrew were spotted holidaying on a yacht, surrounded by several young, topless women (via The Guardian).

The Los Angeles Times reports that, during the infamous BBC interview, the presenter, Emily Maitlis, asked Andrew if he was regretful of his friendship with Epstein, to which Andrew replied, "No, still not." He also said that Epstein "conducted himself in a manner unbecoming," instead of admitting that the man was a sex offender. His lack of obvious concern for Epstein's victims was incredibly damaging. The interview evoked a slew of bad publicity that was so overwhelming that Andrew stepped back from his public duties four days after it aired.

Prince Andrew is also associated with a convicted gun smuggler and alleged fraudster

As if his controversial friendship with Jeffrey Epstein wasn't bad enough, Prince Andrew has also been associated with convicted gun smuggler Tarek Kaituni. The two were close enough for Andrew to invite Kaituni to his daughter Princess Eugenie's wedding and his former wife Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson, Duchess of York's 60th birthday bash, Geo News reports.

It gets worse. Kaituni introduced Andrew to Selman Turk, an alleged fraudster who ended up funneling more than £1 million to Andrew. Of this substantial amount, £750,000 was given to Princess Beatrice as a wedding gift, while another £25,000 was deposited into Princess Eugenie's bank account. She used some of it to fund her mother's 60th birthday celebrations. This money was reportedly stolen from a Turkish millionaire. Yikes!

There's an ongoing investigation to determine whether Turk's dealings are above board, and Turk has denied all the allegations made against him, the Daily Mail reports, adding that the royals who received money from Turk don't appear to be implicated in the case. Still, this association doesn't reflect too well on Andrew or the rest of the royal family.

Prince Andrew was friends with Harvey Weinstein and Ghislaine Maxwell

From convicted sex offenders to gun smugglers and money fraudsters, Prince Andrew sure has an, erm, interesting circle of friends. When it came to light in 2019 that he invited convicted sex offenders Harvey Weinstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, and Jeffrey Epstein to his daughter Princess Beatrice's 18th birthday party in 2006, he came under fire once again for his poor choice of friends. 

Ghislaine Maxwell was besties with Jeffrey Epstein and was found guilty of sex trafficking in 2022. Harvey Weinstein is serving time in prison for similar crimes. The former Hollywood film mogul was found guilty on multiple accounts of rape and sexual assault. Needless to say, the photograph of the three sex offenders at Beatrice's party making a comeback wasn't a good look for Andrew. Even though it was taken years ago, it was proof that he was good friends with these people, and it appears that Maxwell is still fond of him.

In an interview that Maxwell granted to TalkTV (via People) from jail, she tried to defend Andrew against the sexual abuse allegations Virginia Roberts Giuffre made against him, saying that the photograph featuring the prince with his arm around Giuffre is doctored. Andrew has repeatedly denied Giuffre's allegations, and it appears Maxwell is trying to help him clear his name. You know what they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed, but in this case, it's only hurting Andrew's image more.

King Charles III used to be friends with convicted sex offender Jimmy Savile

Like Prince Andrew, King Charles III was also friends with a sex offender. Jimmy Savile, described as "one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders," was close friends with Charles, GB News reports. While we're pretty sure that Jimmy Savile is a name Charles would now rather forget, the Netflix documentary "Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story" again brought up the subject of their friendship.

Speaking to Times Radio (via GB News), Rowan Deacon, who directed the documentary, explained that they used the project to better understand the relationship that Charles had with Savile. The two friends wrote each other letters throughout their 20-year friendship, the contents of which usually consisted of discussions on how Charles should handle tricky family or public situations. According to The Guardian, Charles put so much faith in Savile that he eventually became somewhat of an unofficial adviser to the Prince. In one letter Charles wrote to Savile, he praised him for being "so good at understanding what makes people operate," adding that Savile was "wonderfully sceptical and practical."

"Charles trusted and respected Jimmy Savile," Deacon says, adding that many others felt the same about the famous TV and radio personality. This is likely the reason he was never convicted. Deacon insists that the documentary is "not suggesting for one moment" that Charles knew of Savile's heinous crimes while they were friends.

Edward VIII once paid a friendly visit to Hitler

It's not every day you hear Adolf Hitler and a royal's name spoken in the same sentence, but here we are.

Way back in 1937, while King Edward VIII (who was by then demoted to the Duke of Windsor) and his wife Wallis Simpson were paying a visit to Germany, Edward wrote a letter to Hitler to thank him for his hospitality and the "beautiful hours" he and Wallis spent with him at his Berghof vacation home. This letter was unearthed from the royal archives by historian Alexander Larman, who told the Mirror that its contents prove that Edward was a fascist. "If he hadn't been the king, I am sure he would have gone to prison," Larman told the outlet, adding, "He was a Nazi sympathizer to the extent that it complicated his loyalties. His actions, at worst, were purely treasonous." What's even worse is that Edward reportedly fraternized with various senior Nazis and even visited one of their concentration camps, according to the Daily Mail. He also reportedly once said that Hitler was "not a bad chap." Sheesh.

Even though Edward seemed to be a fan of Hitler, the rest of the royal family wasn't. Larman says that they didn't agree with Edward's visit to the country, especially not within the first year of Edward's brother King George VI's reign.

Queen Victoria's friendship with Abdul Karim was seen as very controversial

When Queen Victoria was alive, the world was a very different place, and a friendship that would now be seen as pretty ordinary, even wonderful, was seen as quite controversial at the time. Abdul Karim, who was of Indian descent, was Victoria's attendant and friend. The royal family disapproved so much of this acquaintance that they tried to completely erase him from royal history after Victoria's death, according to Vanity Fair.

According to The Telegraph, Victoria first met Karim when he served as a waiter during her Golden Jubilee. The queen took an interest in his welfare, and before he knew it, he was her attendant. He had a big impact on the royal household. He taught Victoria how to speak Urdu and worked his magic in the royal kitchen, introducing curry to the family's menu. Eventually, accompanied the queen to important meetings with prime ministers and royals from across the globe. He was also seen at her side while she toured Europe.

After her death, the queen's son, Edward, ordered palace guards to destroy any evidence that the queen and Karim were ever in contact with each other. Karim was removed from the home the queen gave him, and the royal family saw to it that he was deported. All this information only came to light a century later when old letters, photographs, and Karim's handwritten biography were unearthed.