Affair Rumors That Have Haunted The Royal Family Over The Years

There's nothing like whispered romantic dalliances to get people's ears perked up. And if the said rumors prevail in the conservative vicinity of the British royal family, to say that audience attention will be piqued would be an understatement. Adherence to protocol and disciplined convention is the way of the British monarchy; in fact, it's probably one of the reasons for their widespread popularity. "It's comforting to see a structure where that structure seems to create a semblance of order," clinical psychologist Dr. Donna Rockwell explained to Glamour on the subject of royal fandoms. 


The public knowledge of royal affairs lifts the curtains on that facade of order the monarchy keeps eternally guarded. Though the royals' PR cover-ups and deliberate amnesia may suggest they believe otherwise, love is neither easy nor flawless — and the masses at large are familiar with that truth. So while broken marriages or secret flings carry possible shock value, disrupting the "neurological response of relaxation" that Rockwell says the royals inspire in fans, they help in putting the British monarchy at par with the rest of the common kingdom where relationships aren't ever picture-perfect. Take a look at the affair rumors that have haunted the royal family over the years. 

An earl has long been named as a paramour of Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I may be known by the rather descriptive epithet of the "Virgin Queen," but over time, historical suggestions seem to have established Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, as a love interest of the 16th-century monarch. Though she ultimately remained single, the Tudor queen's life was mired in questions over her marital status, with Dudley emerging at the top as a favored choice of Elizabeth herself. Certain accounts, as quoted by History Extra, alleged that the queen called on Dudley "in his chamber day and night," though neither hard evidence nor the queen ever confirmed the existence of a physical relationship between them. 


Dudley was a childhood friend, whom Elizabeth endeared as Robin and elevated to high positions in her court after becoming monarch in 1558. English Heritage observes that Dudley pursued the queen seriously, even proposing to her in the years after the death of his wife Amy Robsart, feeding the conspiracy that he had orchestrated Robsart's murder to be with the foremost woman in his life. Expert commentary also indicates that a stepson of Dudley carried the legacy forward and remained in the queen's ambit as a trusted companion during her older years. 

Prince Harry was supposedly pursuing someone when he met Meghan Markle

There are no perfect fairytales. The storybook romance of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle developed a chink when the presence of a third person in their relationship became public knowledge. According to "Harry: Conversations with the Prince," a book penned by journalist and royal biographer Angela Levin, the British prince was quite smitten by a woman named Sarah Ann Macklin around the same time that he linked up with Meghan. "They met at a private party, he took her number and bombarded her with texts, too," wrote Levin. 


Macklin — a model for Burberry and registered nutritionist — reportedly went on multiple dates with Harry in 2016 after sparks had already flown between him and Meghan, whom he had met on a blind date. Evidently, the prince only saw one of those two relationships through to the end. His brief affair with Macklin fizzled out rather quickly, as they apparently were not so compatible. A friend told Levin, "She is very clean-living and barely drinks, and in that respect they were on a different wavelength." And with that, Harry moved on with Meghan, and the rest is history.

Princess Diana's supposed lover met a tragic end

Though Queen Camilla is generally dubbed as the main act, she was not the only third-party player in King Charles III and Princess Diana's ill-fated marriage. After their 1977 union began the downward spiral, it is believed the people's princess took refuge in the care of her bodyguard Barry Mannakee. A Scotland Yard cop assigned to Diana's security detail in 1985, he apparently expanded his role to incorporate their mutual romantic interests and console the unhappy princess. As journalist and royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith claimed in the Daily Mail, "[Mannakee] was straying beyond the usual line between guard and guarded."


Diana and Mannakee's growing closeness didn't go unnoticed and set in motion a number of events. According to ex-royal staff, Diana's relationship with her bodyguard was a major catalyst in furthering Charles' pursuit of Camilla. By 1986, Mannakee was transferred out of Diana's security team and, more tragically, died in a road accident. Mannakee's death stirred suspicion of foul play in Diana, who expressed as much during a conversation with her voice coach in 1992, per the BBC. The exchange, broadcast in 2004, also included Diana's confessions about an unnamed flame — "I was only happy when he was around" — that are widely believed to have pointed toward Mannakee. 

Prince Philip was rumored to be romantic with an actor

Even the seniormost royals aren't immune to rumors surrounding their guarded love lives. Prince Philip, the ever-steadfast consort to Queen Elizabeth II for 70 years, was long haunted by claims of a supposed affair with British screen and stage star Pat Kirkwood. Though the yesteryear actor had a short but notable filmography through the 1930s and into the 50s, her public image was dominated by her alleged romance with the British prince. According to the BBC, Kirkwood and Philip met in 1948, just a year after the latter's marriage to the future monarch of the United Kingdom. "He was so full of life and energy. I suspect he felt trapped and rarely got a chance to be himself. I think I got off on the right foot because I made him laugh," Kirkwood was quoted saying.


Though her tales of dancing and dining with Philip made for enduring public gossip, Kirkwood defiantly challenged these affair rumors all her life. Behind the curtains, a storm brewed. The Telegraph reported on the existence of letters exchanged between Kirkwood and Philip, in which the "Flight from Folly" actor made her displeasure known over how things played out. "If there had been some support from your direction," she reportedly wrote, "the matter could have been squashed years ago, instead of (my) having to battle a sea of sharks single-handed." She died in 2007 at the age of 86. 

Princess Michael of Kent strongly defended her husband against affair rumors

Though a largely peripheral presence in the storm of scrutiny the British royal family often finds itself in, Prince Michael of Kent is hardly a predictable figure. A first cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth II, he was allegedly engaged in romantic liaisons outside of his marriage back in 2008, nearly three decades on from when he wed Princess Michael of Kent. There was much ado at the time when reports surfaced of Prince Michael being spotted out and about in London with one Marianne Krex. According to the Daily Mail, she went with the prince to a ballet in the absence of his wife, markedly shielding herself from the press while leaving the venue later. 


The relationship was discreetly guarded by both parties, though friends of Krex defended her romantic agency to the publication. "She's a single woman so is perfectly entitled to hang around with anyone she chooses," a source said, adding that she was "definitely not a show-off." But Prince Michael's Danish friend apparently wasn't the only extra in this royal marriage. The princess too, by this time, had racked up a history of rumored flings with the who's who of the business world, most notably linked to oil tycoon Ward Hunt and Russian businessman Mikhail Kravchenko. 

It was allegedly more than friendship for Queen Elizabeth II and a nobleman

For the most part of her protracted 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II managed to keep a clean record vis-a-vis affairs of the heart. The name that headlined her love story in bold belonged to Prince Philip, who had been her partner longer than she had been monarch. But the tale possibly had another suitor, whose name only exists as a footnote in the chapter on Elizabeth's personal life: the Earl of Carnarvon, Lord Porchester. Known popularly as Porchie, the nobleman was a close friend of the queen and, with his deep equestrian interests, served as her racing manager. 


Shedding light on their long-standing companionship, Porchie's son George Herbert said in The Telegraph, "It was a very equal friendship ranging over many interests. ... They shared a great love of the countryside and wildlife as well as horses." Talk of there being something more than friendship between Elizabeth and Porchie exploded after Netflix's "The Crown" hinted at the romantic theory through its initial seasons. Though the royal family foreseeably remained mum on the matter, an ex-staff member of the monarch said in The Times, "This is very distasteful and totally unfounded."

Princess Margaret was apparently involved with this iconic singer

The social interactions of Princess Margaret, the original royal rebel and the only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II, were as radically polar to her sister's convention-compliant life as could be. She partied hard, romanced harder, and cavorted with other rule breakers like herself — including with one of England's most notorious counterculture icons, Mick Jagger. Her long friendship with the Rolling Stones frontman, after their initial meeting in the 1960s, was supposedly flecked with a forbidden affair the queen was dead set against. While a romantic relationship between the two has never been confirmed, it has been cited as one of the many reasons behind Jagger's delayed knighthood.


"Princess Margaret had always been a free spirit and caused more than her share of scandal," an unnamed source told Mick Jagger biographer Christopher Anderson for the Baltimore Sun. "The last thing the Queen wanted was her sister running off with Mick Jagger!" The Countess of Snowdon, meanwhile, remained friendly with Jagger through his string of highly-publicized affairs, with sources testifying to her interest in the widely sought-after singer. The pair attended many a rager in each other's company where A-lister friends and drugs were never in short supply. They remained in contact for over 40 years.

Prince William has been linked to one of Princess Catherine's friends

Prince William and Princess Catherine have been on the British public's list of favorite couples since they tied the knot in 2011. That said, it's not like the beloved royal pair is immune to marital difficulties. For one, their apparently picture-perfect romance has long been clouded by rumors of an affair between William and his wife's ex-friend, Rose Hanbury. The gossip, which first made press headlines in 2019, reportedly stemmed from the locales of Norfolk, where the Kensington royals have a country home and spent considerable time with Hanbury, who was a neighbor. 


Catherine and Hanbury eventually had a falling out, for reasons unverified, with the Windsor princess allegedly ordering her husband to distance himself from the Marchioness of Cholmondeley. Suggestions of the crown prince's extramarital affair sparked chaotic gossip among Norfolk locals, per Grazia, but it was only after the news made it to the front-page press that the royal family broke their silence and initiated a pushback against the rumors. "The use of a legal letter by William as a future king is very much a move of last resort," a royal commentator told Daily Beast. Notwithstanding the speculation, Hanbury is far from a royal outsider, even scoring an exclusive invite to King Charles III's coronation.


And Princess Catherine has been linked to one of Prince William's friends

Long before Prince William was linked to one of Princess Catherine's friends, rumor mills had already taken their story out for a similar but inverse ride. Briefly between 2007 and 2008, the possibility of Catherine joining the royal family turned bleak following an unexpected break in her fairytale with the British prince. During the period that the two lovebirds parted ways, Catherine was rumored to have pursued a fling with not one, but two of William's friends. Henry Ropner, the more prominent of her two supposed partners, was at university with both Catherine and William. 


As photos of Catherine and Ropner out and about during the future princess' untethered days reached the public eye, the shipping heir's mother was quick to deny it. "The story is so, so wrong," she said, per the Evening Standard, adding that the two were just friends. There's a compelling twist in the tale: William is believed to have once dated one of Ropner's exes. Was the Catherine-Ropner alliance just calculated payback? Or a fleeting rekindling of an old flame? Whatever it was, it took a backseat after Catherine married William and, as royal correspondent Katie Nicholl told Grazia, committed to her duty to "make the royal family look good on the world stage." 

Princess Diana's telephone conversations with a friend sparked a scandal

Princess Diana's personal matters inspired many a sensation during her lifetime, but none as bizarre as "Squidgygate." As one of the most popular and controversial members of the British royal family, Diana rarely enjoyed the advantage of privacy, with things coming to a head in the early 1990s when a telephone conversation between the princess and her friend was published by tabloids. "Squidgy, kiss me. Oh, God. It's so wonderful, isn't it, this sort of feeling. Don't you like it?" the man on the line, revealed to be James Gilbey, effused to Diana over the call, per The Washington Post. Gilbey was reportedly a childhood friend of Diana's and, more notably, the heir to Gilbey's Gin. 


The headline-making recording further captured Diana expressing fears of pregnancy to Gilbey, who proceeded to reassure her: "It's not going to happen, darling. You won't get pregnant." The intimate phone call was dated back to the occasion of New Year's Eve in 1989, by which time Diana's marriage to King Charles III was speeding toward its end. According to, an investigation into Diana's death brought forth explosive details of the British intelligence's role in recording and publicizing the late royal's private call. The incident of the rumored affair becoming public knowledge in 1992 precipitated Diana and Charles' separation the same year. 

King Charles had another alleged lover besides Queen Camilla

Though history has reserved the unfortunate label of "the other woman" in King Charles III's life for Queen Camilla, a lesser-known paramour of the future monarch lingers in the shadows. Dale "Kanga" Tryon — her nickname derived from a namesake fashion label she founded — hailed from Australia and after landing in the United Kingdom fast climbed the social ladder as a noted socialite in British high society. Ironically, she became "the other woman" for Camilla, who reportedly had to vie for the royal's divided affections against Tryon. As the Daily Mail put it, "both hated the other with a loathing that bordered on the pathological." 


Charles, then a bachelor, had to do a little vying of his own, given that Tryon was a married woman. In fact, it was through her aristocratic husband Anthony Tryon that she was able to break into Charles' inner circle. She was pictured with the prince on multiple occasions during his marriage to Princess Diana, whose death closely preceded Tryon's own in 1997. While Charles didn't ever make things with Tryon officially public, her son — who shares a first name with the king — is Charles' godson. 

Sarah Ferguson's relationship with Steve Wyatt preceded her royal divorce

Wedged somewhere in the stormy timeline of Sarah Ferguson's romantic escapades is Steve Wyatt, a wealthy businessman from Texas who is widely rumored to have been one of the many men who fancied the Duchess of York. Wyatt's prominence in Ferguson's life emerged at a time when Ferguson was very much a wedded woman but her marriage to the monarch's son Prince Andrew was hurtling toward a divorce. It has been claimed that her alleged affair with Wyatt was a major catalyst in the circumstances of her split with Andrew in 1992. As recounted by Yahoo! News, a set of leaked photos that showed Ferguson and Wyatt holidaying in Morocco precipitated the royal divorce.


Though Ferguson's notorious "toe-sucking" affair with John Bryan takes precedence over all the other headline-making relationships in her life, it was apparently her brief romance with Wyatt that she held in the highest regard. "Steve Wyatt was the love of her life," David Leigh, who co-authored a biography on Ferguson, proclaimed. It is said that Ferguson was devastated upon finding out about Wyatt's betrothal in 1993. Years after parting ways, the former flames reunited in 2017 in Wyatt's hometown where the duchess visited his family, per the Daily Mail

Princess Anne was supposedly romantic with her bodyguard

Between her two highly-publicized marriages, Princess Anne was rumored to have pursued several other romantic engagements. Among them, her alleged affair with Peter Cross was particularly notable, also finding a mention in the fan-loved royal chronicle "The Crown." Cross was a cop with Scotland Yard before coming into the employ of the British monarchy as the Princess Royal's personal bodyguard in the 1970s. At the time, Anne was in a doomed marriage with Mark Phillips, whom she would eventually divorce in 1992. Anne and Cross both remained tight-lipped in public about their supposed romance.


In the 2002 Channel 4 documentary "The Real Princess Anne," late royal journalist James Whitaker noted that there was some behind-the-scenes drama. "When this came to the bosses, of course, at Scotland Yard ... they freaked out and Peter Cross was moved out very fast indeed," he said. The incident is alluded to in the fourth season of "The Crown," capturing the princess' protests of the reshuffle in Cross' royal duties. "He's the one thing that makes me happy," Erin Doherty as Anne pleaded to her mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Following rumors of the affair, Whitaker dished in The Washington Post about another bigger, more scandalous rumor that hinted at Zara Tindall actually being the lovechild of Anne and Cross. 


Prince Philip's close friendship with Penelope Knatchbull was mired in questions

If rumors are to be believed, Prince Philip was apparently hardly a one-woman man. Though his lasting romance with Queen Elizabeth II is legendary, the long-serving consort allegedly had other paramours in his life beyond the monarch. One of them is believed to have been Penelope "Penny" Knatchbull: Philip's relative, friend, and confidante. Though Knatchbull was 30 years younger in age than Philip — and also well-acquainted with his son, King Charles III — the late prince is said to have shared a profound relationship with her. (Fans of "The Crown" may find the theory familiar, having encountered it prominently in the show's fifth season.) While insiders have long shut down the rumors and maintained that the two were only just dear friends, that hasn't put the speculation to rest. 


Author Ingrid Seward claimed in her biography "Prince Philip Revealed" that Philip and Knatchbull kindled a close association during the 1990s following the tragic death of the latter's 5-year-old daughter. "Philip encouraged her to take up carriage driving," Seward wrote, adding that he also stood by her during the rocky phases of her marriage to Norton Knatchbull, Philip's godson and kin on his mother's side. Throughout the timeline of their contested relationship, Philip and Knatchbull were pictured side-by-side on many occasions and, in Seward's words, "neither of them gave a damn who saw them or what anyone might say."