Royal Romantic Moments That Caused A Stir

Throughout most of modern history, royal romances were not about love. On the contrary, they were about a combination of social class and suitability. For centuries, British kings and queens wed people based on their titles, rather than on romance. As King Edward VIII wrote in his 1951 memoir "A King's Story," the "grab bag of the Royal marriage market" was essentially an "arranged marriage ... as a means of maintaining the purity of the Royal Line." In other words, royal marriages were more about keeping "blue blooded" aristocrats in power than they were about companionship. 

Although it would be easy for us to write off this tradition as a thing of the past, its repercussions had a major impact on King Charles III and Queen Camilla. Although the pair fell in love in 1972, they were forbidden from pursuing their romance. As a title-less commoner, Camilla was not viewed as classy enough to be with Charles. Worse yet, some members of the royal family allegedly thought that Camilla was too "experienced" to be a royal bride. Instead, Charles was set up in a quasi-arranged marriage with the virginal Diana of the elite Spencer family.

Interestingly, though, not all upper crust romances have always been considered "suitable." Thus, royals have occasionally been spotted out with "inappropriate" matches — catalyzing scandal. From King Edward VIII's Mediterranean trip with Wallis Simpson to Prince Harry's first tennis match with Meghan Markle, these romantic moments caused a stir.

King Edward and Wallis Simpson took an Adriatic cruise

In the summer of 1936, the American socialite Wallis Simpson filed for a divorce from her second husband. Meanwhile, King Edward VIII was just wrapping up his first six months on the British throne. The two were madly in love, but from the perspective of the British royal establishment, this match simply would not do. As a foreigner and a divorcée, Wallis was far from the blue-blooded stock considered fit for a king. 

Despite all of this, when Edward decided to spend his summer months boating in the Adriatic Sea, Wallis accompanied him. Writing about this trip in his memoir "A King's Story," Edward recalled, "The first ten days, we steamed southward, down the Dalmatian Coast, calling at picturesque old towns or island fishing villages, and stopping for a picnic and swim whenever a fine sandy beach was spotted." Unfortunately, however, these lighthearted antics didn't last for long, as photographers trailed Edward and Wallis from town to town. In his book, the king explained, "The American press had become fascinated with my friendship with Wallis and now pursued us everywhere."

Indeed, photographers captured Edward and Wallis in their romantic seaside moments, and the scandalous pictures landed in the papers. As the historian Laura Mayhall shared in the People TV documentary "Scandals At The Palace" (via YouTube), the shots bared the king's nude chest to the world. They also unveiled his secret romance with Wallis, generating immediate controversy.

Queen Elizabeth II put on a theatrical performance for Prince Philip

These days, Prince Philip is remembered as Queen Elizabeth II's beloved husband of almost seven decades. As noted by the British Royal Family website, she once famously declared, "He has, quite simply, been my strength all these years." Back in the 1940s, however, Philip was not necessarily viewed as the most suitable match for the future queen of England. Speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, royal biographer A.N. Wilson revealed: "When she made it quite clear from the age of about 14 that she was in love with Prince Philip, who was a beautiful German Prince with blond hair, all the courtiers said he was entirely the wrong person to choose" (via The Telegraph).

Nonetheless, Elizabeth remained steadfast in her desire to wed Philip. During the early days of their courtship, the prince went to watch Elizabeth put on a theatrical pantomime of "Aladdin." Apparently, the princess was incredibly excited about Philip's attendance. A piece in the Express quotes Elizabeth's governess, Marion Crawford, who recalled the event: "I have never known Lilibet more animated. There was a sparkle about her none of us had ever seen before." When she heard the news, the future queen was even said to have exclaimed, "Who do you think is coming to see us act, Crawfie? Philip!" By the courtship standards of the day, this was a big moment for Elizabeth. Thus, for many courtiers, Philip's presence at the play would have likely been controversial.  

Princess Margaret plucked lint off of Peter Townsend's shirt

In 1953, Princess Margaret and Captain Peter Townsend were in love. Some reports indicate that the two scandalously fell for each other when Margaret was only seventeen years-old. Indeed, when Daily Mail columnist Craig Brown was researching for his biography, "Ma'am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret," he discovered something surprising: on a 1947 trip to Belfast, Townsend had requested the hotel room adjoining Margaret's. At the time, he was just weeks away from his 33rd birthday. 

However, age was not the reason why Townsend would never be considered a suitable match for the princess. The bigger issue was that the captain was married to another woman at the inception of his romance with Margaret. In practice, this meant that Townsend could only be with the princess if he filed for a divorce. In the more conservative days of the 1950s, this was a major no-go. 

Although Margaret and Townsend tried to keep their relationship under wraps, it ultimately came to light at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. At the event, the two shared a romantic moment when Margaret plucked a bit of fluff off her lover's jacket. Unfortunately, a journalist noticed the unusual gesture. Speaking in the documentary "Scandals at the Palace," royal historian Richard Fitzwilliams shared, "That gesture of the bit of fluff went right around the world and was in fact major story which led unquestionably to a crisis" (via Mama Mia).

King Charles and Queen Camilla went to the Mediterranean together

By some accounts, King Charles III and Queen Camilla have grown into something of a power couple. Indeed, one of the duo's close confidants, Grant Harrold, revealed in an interview (via Express) that Charles and Camilla are known among their friends for having a "healthy relationship." However, Charles and Camilla weren't always portrayed by the media as a pair of lovebirds. During the 1990s, Camilla was despised for her role in Charles' divorce from Princess Diana. As Diana shared in her bombshell 1995 interview with the BBC, "There were three of us in this marriage" (via PBS).

One of the moments when this dynamic became most obvious occurred in 1989. Desperate for a little holiday, Charles and Camilla escaped to Turkey, where they wandered through ancient ruins and swam in the sea. At the time, these antics were considered extremely risky for the two, as they were both married to other people. The clandestine couple's romantic moments, however, did not last long. Ultimately, one of their trysts was ruined by a swarm of photographers that took swimsuit photos of them together, sitting awkwardly on a dinghy. 

In the end, these pictures did not end Charles and Diana's marriage. As explained by the Daily Mail, they were just a "close call." Nonetheless, royal experts believe that this romantic moment between Charles and Camilla was the beginning of the end for him and Diana. 

Sarah Ferguson was caught in a toe-sucking scandal

During the 1990s, King Charles III and Princess Diana were not the only royal couple in crisis. The king's younger brother Prince Andrew and his then-wife Sarah Ferguson also struggled in their marriage. The pair officially separated in the spring of 1992.

Shortly after the breakup, Sarah headed off to the South of France with her financial advisor, John Bryan. And from what we can see, it didn't take too long for the unlikely duo to cozy up in Sarah's St. Tropez home. The two frolicked together by the pool, where the Duchess of York caught some rays. Speaking to the Daily Mail years after the fact, Bryan recalled, "We were in a private villa with seven acres of land surrounding us to ensure our absolute privacy. The girls [Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie] were tiny, just four and two. We were out by the pool and I was practicing swimming with the children." In this secluded environment, Bryan leaned over and kissed Sarah's toes.

Unbeknownst to the love birds, however, a photographer was hiding in the garden of the property. Photos were taken. Images hit the press. And soon, the entire world caught a glimpse into what Bryan told the Daily Mail was a "family moment." Sadly, Sarah would pay the price for her unsuitable romance. Rumor has it that Prince Philip was so disgusted by the incident that he stopped speaking to Sarah shortly after.

Princess Diana kissed Dodi Al-Fayed on a boat

Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed are probably most famous for their tragic passing in a 1997 car wreck in Paris. However, in the weeks leading up to this horrible accident, Diana and Dodi were making headlines for their blossoming relationship. This was especially apparent when, less than a month before she died, Diana called the paparazzi to divulge her holiday plans. Indeed, the princess let the press know that she would be aboard Dodi's yacht in the Mediterranean. What ensued was an avalanche of pictures featuring a scantily-clad Diana kissing her new boyfriend, cuddling with him, and even receiving a pat on the backside from him (via Princess Diana Boutique). 

Naturally, these scandalous photos of the Princess of Wales caused quite the uproar. For many fans of the British royal family, it was astonishing to see someone with such a high rank so clearly break protocol. Unfortunately, though, this astonishment gave way to uncensored judgement — some of the press surrounding Diana's romance with Dodi was borderline cruel. As royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith later told USA Today about the media coverage of Diana's new relationship: "There had been a crescendo of salacious headlines in the weeks before she died, three weeks of the wildest tabloid coverage ever seen, tearing Dodi apart, turning on Diana. It was highly unusual." In the end, this negative coverage would only contribute to the overall feeling that the media was responsible for the couple's deaths.

Sophie of Edinburg spent the night with Prince Edward at the palace

As Prince Edward grew up, he noticed his older brothers struggling in their marriages. Their respective brides, Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson, struggled to transition into royal life. Perhaps, then, when it became Edward's turn to fall in love, he decided to proceed with caution. In the early days of his romance with Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh (née Sophie Rhys-Jones), Edward tried his best to slowly introduce Sophie to the intricacies of royal living. Part of his strategy was inviting his girlfriend to spend the night inside palace walls. 

In the documentary "Edward & Sophie: The Reluctant Royals?" (via YouTube), royal expert Rebecca English explained that Sophie was the first royal girlfriend who was allowed to spend copious amounts of time at Buckingham Palace: "She was allowed, pretty much, to come and go as she pleased. She would stay over at Edward's apartment at Buckingham Palace on a regular basis." Apparently, this arrangement was meant to help Sophie decide if she could handle the pressure of palace life. By the time she and Edward were engaged, Sophie was said to know exactly what she was getting herself into.

Unfortunately, though, this arrangement caused a stir when Diana and Sarah found out. After all, the women wondered why they weren't given the same chance to learn about royal life. Per the New York Post, Diana asked Sarah: "Why is she getting such an easy ride?"

Princess Beatrice went skiing with her criminal then-boyfriend

During the winter of 2006, Princess Beatrice invited her then-boyfriend, Paolo Liuzzo, to ski in Switzerland with her family. Liuzzo accepted the princess' proposal and was subsequently whisked away on a luxurious trip to the Verbier ski resort. Accompanied by the likes of Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York, the young New Yorker found himself in the VIP section of the London Heathrow Airport surrounded by royals. For most young men, this sort of romantic holiday moment might have felt like a modern fairy tale. For Liuzzo, however, it meant breaking the rules of his probation.

As reported by the New York Post, in 2002, Luizzo pled guilty to a charge of assault and battery after participating in the attack on Jonathan Duchatellier, who died from his injuries. When Luizzo decided to go to Switzerland with Beatrice, the press did a little digging into his background. It didn't take too long for American and British outlets alike to express outrage that someone who had committed such a brutal crime would be given a taste of palace life, shortly after the fact. 

As the media looked into Luizzo, however, it became clear that the terms of his probation prohibited him from traveling to countries other than the U.S. and the U.K. Thus, when he was caught vacationing in Switzerland, Luizzo had to return stateside, where his probation was extended. Beatrice, of course, broke up with him almost immediately.

Prince William and Princess Catherine's relationship was outed on a ski trip

Prince William and Princess Catherine started dating in 2003, but the pair were initially hesitant to reveal their romance to the world. After all, previous royal girlfriends like Sarah Ferguson and Sophie Rhys-Jones began suffering extreme media harassment as soon as the world found out they were dating royal men. Thus, it made sense when in the winter of 2004, William denied claims that he was seeing Catherine. As mentioned in the documentary "William and Kate: Too Good To Be True?" (via YouTube), the Prince of Wales told reporters that he was out skiing "with some friends, definitely."

Shortly after, though, photos emerged proving that this was not true. The paparazzi caught William and Catherine sitting together as they went up a ski lift. The photographs showed Catherine's arm tucked beneath Williams. Meanwhile, the price gazed down toward his future wife, smiling. Within just a few days, these photographs of William cozying up to Catherine were splashed all over the pages of the tabloids. At the time, the front page of The Sun read: "Finally... Wills Gets A Girl" (via YouTube).

Sadly, this sudden revelation resulted in an explosion of articles scrutinizing everything about Catherine, from her school history to her bloodline. The press was quick to note that, unlike most royal brides, Catherine had a middle-class background. Ultimately, this set the stage for classist opinions towards the Middleton family to circulate in the media. 

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry saw Prince Archie's birth as a private family moment

Many couples view the birth of their firstborn child as an intimate family moment, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were no exception. When Prince Archie was born in 2019, Harry and Meghan hoped to celebrate their baby's arrival privately. Unfortunately, however, when the pair decided to enjoy this romantic moment away from the public, they were attacked by the judgement of the media. After all, historically speaking, royal mothers would head to the steps of St. Mary's Hospital in London and show their babies to the press just hours after giving birth. When the Sussexes opted out of this tradition, they sparked outrage for deviating from what was expected of them. 

As Harry told Meghan in the Netflix documentary series "Harry & Meghan" (via Town & Country), "The amount of abuse that we got, especially you, but both of us, for not wanting to serve our child up on a silver platter, was incredible." Meghan's mom, Doria Ragland, had a similar view. She told the documentary-makers, "It was almost like [people were saying] 'It's not your child. It's the institution's child.'"

Naturally, Harry and Meghan had a number of health-related reasons for wanting to keep this moment from the public. As Meghan revealed in the documentary, she "had been really worried going into that labor" because of her age. Consequently, she was intent on having her son in private.