Photos Of The Royal Family That Aren't What They Seem

No family may be quite as picture-perfect as the British royals. After all, appearances are a major part of the family's job description. And, a huge part of representing the crown is maintaining elements of traditional dress — like gloves for women and military dress for men. 

That being said, there may be another reason why the British royal family tends to look so polished, and it all has to do with the press. Unlike other old-school elite families, the Windsors have found themselves constantly dodging the paparazzi. As Prince Harry shared in a written statement that he submitted to the British court system in a lawsuit against the Mirror Group Newspapers, he was stalked mercilessly by cameramen throughout his youth. Harry explained, "But, if the next day [after an official visit], I want to go out and take my dog for a walk, I would expect some level of privacy, which unfortunately does and never has existed for me" (via The New York Times). This means that royals likely feel undue pressure to be camera-ready all of the time.

Perhaps because the royals prepare so extensively to be photographed, they often present an all-too-perfect image of their family life. Indeed, when everyone is photographed on the balcony, wearing fashionable attire and waving to the crowds, it is difficult to imagine that there is trouble bubbling underneath. Ultimately, though, this doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of drama brewing behind the photos that we see.

Wallis Simpson and King Edward's marriage shoot

When King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to pursue his relationship with the American divorcée, Wallis Simpson, many royal fans found the story terribly romantic. After all, not just anyone would walk away from a high-profile position in the name of love — and yet Edward traded in his crown for a wedding ring. In many ways, Edward and Wallis' wedding photos reflect this romantic vision. The two are pictured in relatively simple garb, celebrating their marriage far from British upper-crust society, but smiling all the same.

Unfortunately, however, photos are not always what they seem. According to Andrew Lownie, a history professor at the University of Tulsa, Wallis might not have been thrilled about walking down the aisle on Edward's arm. As Lownie explained in an interview with the Express, "Even before the king abdicated, Diana Cooper had noted in her diary, after accompanying the couple on an Adriatic cruise in August 1936 that Wallis 'didn't want to go about with the King ... The truth is she's bored stiff by him." 

To make things even worse, it is also said that Edward was unhappy on his wedding day. Although he was, naturally, quite pleased to be tying the knot with Wallis, he was still battling feelings of disappointment. As royal expert Anna Pasternak told the Express, "It was agonizing to him that no member of his family would be present."

Then-Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip cradling their kids

King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson are far from being the only royals to appear in photographs that aren't quite what they seem. Queen Elizabeth II — then still a princess — and Prince Philip posed for a photograph with their two young children: Princess Anne and then-Prince Charles. To look at this picture, Elizabeth and Philip were the two most doting parents in the world. As they cradle their two young toddlers, the couple seems hands-on and ready to care for their growing family.

The reality, of course, was altogether different. Indeed, by modern standards, Elizabeth and Philip would not have been considered for many parenting awards. In 1953, the couple famously left Charles and Anne in England for six months during their worldwide tour. At this time, the two young children were left with nannies who took on the major responsibility of their emotional well-being.

Interestingly, even when Elizabeth and Philip were in the same country as their kids, this dynamic did not change much. It is rumored that Elizabeth would only see Charles by appointment. The rest of the time, he was with his royal nannies and governesses. Speaking in the documentary, "Charles & Harry: Father & Son Divided," royal expert Tom Quinn explained, "Charles didn't receive any parenting. His parents were away when he was very young, he was left with nannies in that very Victorian way" (via Daily Mail).

Queen Elizabeth's coronation photo

On June 2, 1953, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned the queen of England. Following a dramatic coronation ceremony, the newly-minted monarch headed to the balcony at Buckingham Palace where she greeted the adoring crowds alongside her family. Smiling and posing for photographs, Elizabeth looked absolutely regal. In many ways, this image of a young, fresh leader was exactly what the monarchy needed — it showed that the crown had maintained its draw, even after the abdication crisis of 1936.

That being said, beneath the wide smiles and crown jewels, there was another crisis brewing. Behind the scenes, Princess Margaret was already developing a secret romance with Captain Peter Townsend, a man who was hardly considered suitable for a young woman of her status. As a military man with no titles, Townsend stood well below Margaret's rank. What's more, like Wallis Simpson, he was recently divorced — meaning that he could pose a risk to a monarchy that had just come out from under threat.

Unfortunately, the fragility of the situation began to play out during the coronation itself when a journalist spotted the princess plucking a piece of lint off of the captain's suit. This gesture, while seemingly innocuous, was actually a huge revelation. As royal expert Dickie Arbiter explained in the documentary, "Scandals at the Palace" (via Women & Home), "Royals don't brush fluff off the hired help's tunic. So [the journalist] thought 'Aha! there's something here.'"

King Charles and Princess Diana's engagement shoot

When King Charles III and Princess Diana first announced their engagement on February 24, 1981, most royal fans were pleased. After all, from an outside perspective, it seemed that the couple was truly in love. Upon sharing the news with the public, the pair even posed for a number of photos together. Smiling — although somewhat bashfully — the duo seemed happy to be tying the knot. In one photo, Charles has placed both of his hands on Diana's shoulders in a sign of intimacy. 

Unfortunately, however, these adorable pictures hid the reality that Charles and Diana's union was already heading for disaster — despite the fact that the marriage had not even begun. In fact, due to the somewhat rushed nature of the whole affair, Diana had already begun to doubt that Charles was her ideal match. Speaking in some private tapes, which she had recorded for her biographer, Andrew Morton, the princess later explained, "He sat me down and he said, 'Will you marry me?' And I laughed. I remember thinking, 'This is a joke.' So, I said, 'Yeah, okay.'"

Charles, meanwhile, seemed to hold a totally different view of his bride-to-be. Perhaps he even saw her as a future member of the royal family but not as a lover. As Diana told Morton, just following the engagement, "And I said, 'I love you so much. I love you so much.' And he said, 'Whatever love means.'"

Charles and Diana's wedding kiss

King Charles III and Princess Diana's wedding kiss might be one of the most iconic smooches in British history. During this unforgettable moment, the newlyweds stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, leaned in passionately toward each other, and locked lips. Diana, of course, looked stunning in a long billowy gown designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel. Charles, meanwhile, was dashing in his military regalia. For many onlookers, this smooch represented the perfect ending to a fairy tale wedding — one which granted the prince and princess a true happily ever after. 

In the end, though, Charles and Diana did not get their happy ending. And in reality, their kiss was not the romantic exchange that it was cracked up to be. The truth is that during the ceremony itself, Charles forgot to kiss Diana — an oversight that was significant enough to be hugely embarrassing. As a result, Prince Andrew helped cook up a plan to smooth things over and give the public the smooch they were looking for. 

In his book, "Andrew: The Playboy Prince," royal expert Andrew Morton explained that Charles only planted one on his bride after receiving some encouragement from his younger brother. The biographer wrote, "As bride and groom waved happily to the hundreds of thousands thronging outside the Palace, Andrew urged Charles: 'Give her a kiss!' Big brother obliged, to the delight of the nation" (via Express). The gesture was so successful that it become a palace tradition.

Princess Diana and King Charles' honeymoon photos

If King Charles III and Princess Diana's wedding photos were already complicated, that was perhaps even more true for their honeymoon photos. Indeed, following their wedding, the couple headed off to a number of locations, including Balmoral, where they posed for some romantic pictures. Fascinatingly, Charles and Diana both appeared comfortable and relaxed in these shots. Dressed in more casual clothing and surrounded by nature, the newlyweds kind of leaned into each other as a way to signal their newfound intimacy. As body language expert Tina Brown would later observe in a conversation with Today, "This [photo] is very unusual, compared to the rest of the relationship. She's relaxing into him, in to merge with him, which is quite lovely."

However, beneath the adorable veneer of Diana and Charles' honeymoon pictures, the couple was struggling with several other issues. Indeed, during this time, Diana, in particular, was battling mental health challenges — especially those involving bulimia and self-harm. As the princess would later recall in some tapes that she privately recorded for her biographer, Andrew Morton, "My dreams were appalling at night. I dreamt of Camilla the whole time. Everybody always thought I'm getting thinner and thinner and thinner. And I was being sicker and sicker and sicker." Ultimately, the royal family called in a psychologist to work with Diana and provide her with some support. Even so, this episode demonstrates the reality that no honeymoon is picture-perfect.

Prince William and Princess Catherine's engagement pictures

In many ways, Princess Catherine and Prince William's engagement photos are a nod to tradition. When the couple announced their intention to wed on November 16, 2010, they tried to reference King Charles and Princess Diana's engagement from decades before. Dressed in a navy blue dress, Catherine's get-up could not help but bring to mind the suit of the same color that her late mother-in-law had once worn. Meanwhile, William's choice of a tie and handkerchief mirrored his father's attire on his own big day. To perfect the moment, William and Catherine linked arms and displayed the ring — replicating the exact pose we had once seen from Charles and Di.

Despite the old-fashioned nature of their engagement photos, however, there was nothing traditional about their relationship. In fact, the couple's decision to wed, in many ways, broke tradition by bringing a middle-class girl into the royal fold. Catherine, after all, was not born into an upper-crust family, meaning that some members of the British aristocracy believed her totally unfit to someday become queen. 

As James Whitaker once wrote for the Mirror, "Neither he, nor we, should ever forget the importance of William meeting somebody suitable, marrying her and having children ... What we all have to consider is exactly who this person might be. I am on record as saying that Kate, delightful as she might be, was not from suitable stock to be our future queen."  

When Prince William and Princess Catherine presented their firstborn to the public

On July 22, 2013, the British royal family changed forever. On this day, Prince William and Princess Catherine welcomed their eldest son, Prince George, at St. Mary's Hospital in London. Interestingly, the couple chose to share this momentous occasion with people across the world — just moments after George was born, his proud parents carried him out onto the hospital steps for the public to see. And, of course, the paparazzi went wild.

To look at the resulting photographs, both William and Catherine were completely at ease. Dressed to the nines in matching baby blue attire, the couple seemed ready to celebrate the arrival of their son. And while Catherine did appear a tad exhausted, she also looked radiant as she held that tiny bundle in her arms. At one moment, the wind brushed the princess' hair away from her face, as if she were some sort of postpartum supermodel. 

At the end of the day, though, looking good and feeling good are two different things. And, if Catherine has had anything to say about it, she didn't exactly feel great in the hours after giving birth. Speaking on the podcast, "Happy Mum, Happy Baby," the princess remembered what it was like to step out in front of all the crowds: "It's slightly terrifying. I'm not going to lie." Even so, Catherine said that the enthusiasm of the public made the experience worth it (via Acast).

Princess Charlotte looking adorable at the Sussex wedding

When Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex tied the knot, there was one small person who added a whole lot of charm to their ceremony. Princess Charlotte absolutely glowed throughout the Sussex wedding. Wearing a crown of white roses and an adorable white bridesmaids' dress, the little royal was as cute as a button. Photos show her clutching her bouquet with her head held high — a sure sign that she understood her place in the festivities. 

Unfortunately, though, Harry and Meghan's wedding photos did not show the full story. While Charlotte did look adorable in her Givenchy ensemble, the truth is that it took a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get the princess to that point. According to Prince Harry's controversial memoir, "Spare," the trouble started when Princess Catherine shot Meghan a text message before the ceremony. Apparently, the mother of three was worried that Charlotte would not like her bridesmaids' dress, writing, "Charlotte's dress is too big. Too long, too baggy. She cried when she tried it on at home" (via NZ Herald). 

This news was supposedly quite concerning for Meghan, who Harry wrote "texted Kate that our tailor was standing by" in case Charlotte needed the dress to be altered. However, per the prince's account, Catherine insisted that "all the dresses need to be remade." Ultimately, it is believed that this exchange threw a huge wrench into Meghan and Kate's now-icy relationship.

Queen Elizabeth's funeral

When Queen Elizabeth II passed away, people from across the U.K., the Commonwealth, and the entire world mourned the death of a remarkable woman. It is safe to assume, however, that the queen's family suffered the most from her passing — a reality which was particularly apparent at her funeral. King Charles III famously broke his stiff upper lip attitude and shed a tear as he lay his mother to rest. And, perhaps even more moving, the queen's grandchildren seemed to put their royal rifts aside for a day. Indeed, photos of the ceremony revealed that Prince William and Princess Catherine walked to Westminster Abbey alongside Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. 

Sadly, though, the sense of unity demonstrated in these photos was not much more than a bit of posing for the cameras. Throughout Elizabeth's funeral, the body language between the Waleses and the Sussexes divulged all the negativity brewing between the two couples. Speaking to Fox News, human behavior specialist Robi Ludwig shared her opinion that Meghan and Harry seemed particularly isolated from the other attendees. The expert explained, "Meghan is using the hat to hide, a very different presentation style than she's exhibited in the past. She is looking down because she feels the disapproval [of the royal family] and is out of her element." Meanwhile, Ludwig hinted that Harry seemed regretful, "I don't think Harry ever anticipated that his actions would cause this type of lasting strife."