The Most Cringeworthy Things Royals Dared To Say In Public

The British royal family is the epitome of decorum, class, and etiquette — at least, most of the time. For centuries, royals have been raised to keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves. After all, staying in the public's good graces is one of the most important things they can do, not just for an easy life, but also for a secure future. So, while it may seem that royals such as King Charles III and the late Prince Philip could do no wrong, unfortunately, even kings, queens, dukes, and duchesses sometimes make mistakes. They may have crowns and palaces, but they're only human, and humans like one to do one thing above all else: talk.

Most of us have the privilege of being able to move on and forget about it when we drop a clanger in public, but when you're a royal, saying something offensive, absurd, or just a little cringe-worthy becomes a part of history that won't be erased. Modern royals have it particularly tough, thanks to how quickly we consume news. Back in Queen Victoria's day, all the sovereign had to worry about was the odd newspaper and word of mouth. These days, bad news travels faster than ever. From Queen Elizabeth II's "annus horribils" to King Charles III's terrible deceleration of love, that is still spoken about over 40 years later, here are the most "ick" things the royals have ever said.

Prince Andrew's comments on sweating

It's no secret that there have been more royal scandals than you can shake a stick at, but Prince Andrew's entanglement with Jeffrey Epstein really took the cake. In 2019, a woman called Virginia Roberts claimed she was trafficked by Epstein and his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell. Roberts said that one night she was instructed by Maxwell to spend time with Andrew after they attended a club (via Daily Mail), stating: "We leave club Tramp and I hop in the car with Ghislaine and Jeffrey. She says, 'He's coming back to the house and I want you to do for him what you do for Epstein.' 'I couldn't believe it."

Many expected Andrew to stay silent on the matter, but he opted to defend himself in an interview on BBC's "Newsnight." When questioned about his relationship with Andrews by the host, Andrew claimed it couldn't be true for one strange reason (via Independent), saying, "I didn't sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War, when I was shot at ... it was almost impossible for me to sweat." Andrews had claimed that the prince was "profusely sweating" during their meet. The strange defense was largely mocked, not least because there was photo evidence to suggest that he does. This scandal marked the beginning of the end for Andrew, who announced he would step down from public duties for the "foreseeable future" shortly after the now-infamous interview aired.

King Charles III insults a reporter

There's no denying that King Charles III has faced his fair share of public scrutiny in the past, thanks largely to his affair with Camilla, Queen Consort, while he was still married to Princess Diana. Charles' trials and tribulations during his first marriage made him even more interesting to the press, and while this relationship with the media has exasperated Charles at times, as a royal, one usually keeps their feelings to themselves. Queen Elizabeth II was a master at this, keeping her game face on no matter the time or place. However, back in 2005, Charles still had a lot to learn.

During a ski trip to Klosters with his sons, Prince Harry and Prince William, Charles stopped to talk to reporters and let them take a few photographs. Things went awry when royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell stepped up to ask how Charles was feeling in the lead-up to his pending second wedding. Though he may have expected some curiosity, the future king wasn't feeling very cordial that day and gave a short reply (via The Guardian): "I'm very glad you heard of it anyway," before continuing to mutter, "Bloody people. I can't bear that man. He's so awful. He really is." Charles likely meant for it to go unheard, but unfortunately, lots of microphones were pointed in his direction. This was a rare slip-up, and a gaffe for the royal history books that won't be forgotten in a hurry.

Queen Elizabeth II's 1992 speech

Queen Elizabeth II didn't often say anything out of turn. Each move she made was considerably measured, including her 1992 speech at the Guildhall to mark 40 years on the throne. At this point in history, the monarchy was becoming an entirely new beast, with the marriages of senior members publicly breaking down. Prior to this, royals rarely divorced or separated, and sovereigns kept private family affairs private. So, when Elizabeth dared to talk about the turbulence going on behind closed doors, many were taken aback by her frankness.

The queen called the last year her "annus horribilis," meaning "horrible year." That year, three out of her four children had called it quits in their marriages and her beloved Windsor Castle had almost burnt to a cinder during a fire. During her speech, Elizabeth declared (via Mirror), "1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis.'" During a year that included the Los Angeles riots, Hurricane Andrew, civil wars in Somalia, and much more, many felt Elizabeth's woes were in poor taste. Though Elizabeth did acknowledge the "worldwide turmoil and uncertainty," she followed it up with, "This generosity and whole-hearted kindness ... to Prince Philip and me would be welcome at any time, but at this particular moment, in the aftermath of Friday's tragic fire at Windsor, it is especially so." 

King Charles III's touching sentiment on love

Two lovers announcing their engagement to the world should be full of joy and looking forward to the future. When King Charles III finally announced his intention to marry Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, royalists were thrilled, not least because she seemed like the perfect match. By this point, the couple had been dating for less than a year, but the press was already infatuated with the young, doe-eyed woman. They followed her everywhere, setting up camp outside her London apartment so they could ask her questions about her relationship with the future monarch.

During their engagement interview, the pair were asked by a reporter if they were in love. Diana replied immediately with, "Of course," but Charles' reply was very different (via Harper's Bazaar), "Whatever in love means." This strange response went down in history and should've been a telling sign that something wasn't quite right. At the time, Diana didn't seem taken aback by it, but later divulged in a private recording with her voice coach that it "threw [her] completely." This simple exchange marked a pivotal moment between the two, foreshadowing just how difficult things would become for them in the future. It also led many to speculate on how authentic the match really was. Given how the marriage ended, the media returned to this statement and have never let it be forgotten, with Netflix's "The Crown" retelling the moment during season 4.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Oprah interview

Members of the royal family have given tell-all interviews in the past, but this is usually an attempt to placate a scandal threatening the integrity of the family. For instance, King Charles III had a televised interview to try and stomp out rumors of an affair when they first arose in 1994. When Prince Harry decided to give his own royal interview alongside his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, the vibe was different. This time, Harry was pointing his finger at the "firm" and telling the world what life was really like for the couple. Nearly 50 million tuned in to watch them spill the tea to Oprah Winfrey.

The entire chat was full of bombshells, from how Meghan was treated by the press to how they felt they were treated by other members of the family. Among other things, Harry discussed how difficult his relationship with his father and brother had become since they stepped back as senior members of the family, lifting the lid on what would usually be a very private royal matter. Perhaps most surprising to royalists, when asked if he had any regrets, Harry said, "No. I am proud of us." The interview caused such a stir in the media that it was talked about for weeks, with pundit Piers Morgan telling Fox News that it was "disingenuous."

The Duchess of York's lapse in judgment

Sarah, Duchess of York, was never quite like the other members of the royal family. She was always somewhat of a live wire, with a louder personality than previous royal spouses had been known to have. When she tied the knot with Prince Andrew in 1986, it was welcomed by the other members of the family. Queen Elizabeth II was reportedly very fond of her daughter-in-law, so much so that Sarah was the only royal ex to attend the monarch's funeral in 2022. Sarah has also stayed remarkably close to Andrew: Despite divorcing in the 1990s, the couple continue to live together at the Royal Lodge in Windsor.

The pair are so close, in fact, that Sarah took a bribe from an undercover reporter to give them access to her famous ex. The now-defunct News of the World set up the sting operation back in 2010, sending a journalist to meet with Sarah under the guise of striking a business deal in exchange for £500,000 wired directly to her bank account. In the recorded meeting, she said (via The Guardian): "That opens up everything you would ever wish for. I can open any door you want, and I will for you. Look after me and he'll look after you ... you'll get it back tenfold." When the story broke, Sarah was understandably embarrassed, blaming her actions on a perilous financial situation and apologizing profusely. For his part, Andrew claimed to have no knowledge of the meeting.

King Charles III talks about his infidelity ... sort of

As evidenced by history, King Charles III is no stranger to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Given his position, Charles has always been held to a higher standard than most: Whenever he slips up, it serves as a constant reminder to him that the world is always watching ... and listening. This was especially true in the early '90s when his first marriage to Princess Diana was publicly breaking down. Andrew Morton's 1992 book, "Diana: Her True Story," dished the dirt on Diana's version of events, painting her husband and the royal family in an unflattering light.

By 1994, it was clear there was no coming back for Charles and Diana. Charles gave his own interview to Jonathan Dimbleby as part of a documentary about his life, skirting around the infidelity accusations. When asked whether he had been faithful and honorable to Diana, Charles replied (via Bustle): "Yes ... until the marriage became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried." He then went on to call Camilla Parker Bowles a "dear friend." Considering the serious and personal nature of the interview, Charles remained poised throughout, but that wasn't the end of it. The day after the interview aired, the future king found himself backtracking, with his private secretary calling a press conference in which it was stated that Camilla wasn't just a friend after all, but his lover.

Prince Harry's frostnipped nether regions

When news first broke that Prince Harry was writing a memoir, the world didn't know what to expect. It was yet another sign that Harry wasn't sticking to the royal rulebook, instead pushing forward and being the master of his own narrative. "Spare" gave the world an insight into many things, from Harry's past relationships to losing his mother and beyond. Given his interesting life thus far, there were plenty of things for him to discuss ... but we didn't think it would include a very strange anecdote relating to Harry's crotch.

In the book, Harry recalls suffering the aftereffects of a trip to the North Pole while attending Princess Catherine and Prince William's wedding (via Harper's Bazaar): "While the ears and cheeks were already healing [from the frostbite], the todger wasn't. It was becoming more of an issue by the day." This revelation was enough to cause a stir, with talk show host Stephen Colbert quizzing Harry during an interview about it. When Colbert asked Harry how the entire situation came to pass, the prince explained (via Independent): "I've got the jacket, I've got the warm stuff, I've got all the things that I need. What I didn't have was a c**k cushion." Needless to say, few ever expected Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, son of King Charles III and Princess Diana of Wales, to ever utter those words on television.

Prince Philip's NHS joke

Of all of the British royal family members, Prince Philip put his foot in his mouth most frequently. Over the years, Queen Elizabeth II's beloved husband found himself in hot water numerous times for his insensitive remarks, usually on race. Philip was so well-known for being problematic that when he died in 2021, many outlets pointed out his long and extensive history of public gaffes and comments. 

One such incident happened in 2013, during a visit to Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, when he said to a Filipino nurse (via Daily Mail), "The Philippines must be half-empty — you're all here running the NHS." Thankfully for Philip, the nurse laughed off the remark, but that didn't stop it from being widely reported on at the time. Outlets turned to Buckingham Palace for an official statement on the exchange, but the palace curtly responded that it wouldn't be commenting on a private conversation. 

Though he wasn't made to apologize this time, Philip had made public amends in the past. In 1999, he was forced to make a statement after saying a fuse box looked "as if it was put in by an Indian" (via The Guardian). The palace had no choice but to comment then, releasing an apology that read: "The Duke of Edinburgh regrets any offense which may have been caused. With hindsight, he accepts that what were intended as light-hearted comments were inappropriate."

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex didn't know anything about the royal family

Much of what Meghan Markle has said over the past few years has made headlines, but this statement, in particular, caused a stir. During her engagement to Prince Harry, Meghan claimed she "didn't know much" about the royal family and didn't have much of an idea who Prince Harry was. During a BBC interview shortly after their engagement became public, Meghan said (via BBC News), "Because I'm from the States, you don't grow up with the same understanding of the royal family and so while now I understand very clearly that there's a global interest there, I didn't know much about him." Meghan reiterated this claim during her infamous Oprah interview, but the public wasn't convinced.

Internet sleuths and reporters alike soon discovered that Meghan may have known more about her future husband than she initially let on. In their Netflix documentary, "Harry & Meghan," the couple watch an old interview that Meghan gave a year prior to their meeting. During the conversation in the video clip, Meghan is asked to pick between Prince William and Prince Harry. She shrugs before choosing Harry. Many claims the duchess has made throughout her marriage to Harry have been disputed, but this one struck a chord with many. With the royal family being a global sensation, is it truly possible to not know much about them?