Royal Scandals That Had The World's Attention

Oh, the royal family ... For an institution that has stood the test of time, the British monarchy has had its fair share of drama, from paparazzi-related pictures, to bombshell interviews, to truly disturbing illegal activity. If you've been paying attention to the firm, of course, then you know that the drama isn't going anywhere any time soon, despite the family's best attempts to keep the scandals behind closed doors. But, you know what they say: No matter how hard you try to keep the façade alive, the truth will always come out in the end.

Queen Elizabeth has now been on the throne for 70 years, celebrating her Platinum Jubilee in June, and her reign has overseen a plethora of prime ministers, royal marriages, deaths within the family, divorces, and more. For a structured system that is arguably obsessed with public image, the royal family has been hit with blow after blow as of late, from the scandals surrounding Prince Andrew to the departure of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for a quieter life in California. But recent events aside, you might be surprised to know that royal scandals have been occurring for decades, with some demanding attention from the international community. So strap in and get ready for us to spill the (English breakfast) tea, because these are the royal family scandals that had the world's attention.

Prince Andrew's ongoing scandals have gained international attention

We can't talk about royal scandals without talking about Prince Andrew. The queen's third child, Andrew is nowhere near the throne. As such, he's always run with an elite crowd while avoiding the royal work that sibling Prince Charles is known for. But that socializing allegedly took him down a dark and illegal path. As noted by The New York Times, Andrew came under fire when he was accused of raping a minor, who had been trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein, in 2001. As it turns out, Epstein was a friend of the prince's, and the two men had spent time together in the 2000s.

As the accusations against Andrew became more severe and legal proceedings ramped up, Queen Elizabeth stripped him of his military titles, as well as his patronages. Andrew addressed his relationship with Epstein in a 2019 sit-down with the BBC, sparking even further outrage over his behavior.

"[Associating with Epstein] was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family and we try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that," Andrew said in 2019. He has since settled the case against him lodged by Virginia Giuffre.

Harry and Meghan stepping down from royal life had everyone talking

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped out into the world as a couple, every person's head turned, whether they considered themselves fans of the royals or not. Meghan was not your typical royal spouse — she was a divorcee, an American, of mixed race, and had an established career and education under her belt, all due to her own hard work and name recognition. To put it simply, she shook the royal family — and the establishment — to its core. When she and Harry announced that they were stepping back from their roles as senior royals, everyone was simply speechless.

As reported by the BBC at the time, Meghan and Harry released a statement expressing the basis of their decision, announcing, "We intend to step back as 'senior' members of the royal family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen." The BBC further reported that the couple didn't consult the palace before the announcement was made, leaving Queen Elizabeth and Prince William "disappointed." To say that it was the beginning of the end for the couple and their relationship with the firm is a significant understatement.

Diana Spencer's recorded conversation with James Gilbey was quite the scandal

As a young Diana Spencer came onto the royal scene, not many would have predicted that such scandal would surround the soft spoken princess. One of the most salacious pieces of royal news came when a private phone call — between Diana and rumored lover James Gilbey — was leaked to the press. As noted by, the phone call in question was passed to publication The Sun, and its editors knew that they had stumbled upon something truly wild.

So what was so wrong about the phone call? It started off with Diana airing grievances about the royal family, and the pair moved on to discussing clothing, society, mutual friends — your usual chat among friends. But then things started to get a little questionable. Gilbey kept calling Diana "darling" and "Squidgy" over and over again, and at one point, the two made "kissing noises" towards each other. The man on the other end of the phone even said to the princess, "Kiss me, please," among other explicit references.

Stuart Higgins, The Sun's royal correspondent, revealed that he and his team listened to the recording "mesmerized," and knew they had a scoop on their hands. The recording was later dubbed "Squidgygate."

Similarly, Charles' recorded phone call with Camilla got so much attention

Not too long after "Squidgygate" entered the royal ether, "Camillagate" came hurtling into the press' line of sight. As noted by Express, a similarly recorded phone call — this time between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles — was released to the public, and many tuned in to hear the heir to the throne say sexually explicit things to his then-mistress, as he and Diana Spencer were still married at the time. Saying things like, "I can't start the week without you," and expressing he wanted to "fill" Camilla's "tank" (we'll let you interpret that on your own), the recorded conversation was less than flattering.

In retrospect, Charles is said to regret the phone call, with royal biographer Howard Hodgson telling Express that the prince still sees the conversation through a negative lens.

"[Charles] remains deeply ashamed of the embarrassment that he caused his mother, deeply sorry for the pain it caused both his and Camilla's children," Hodgson asserted. "He knows that people not sympathetic to him or the monarchy will recall it at the time of his coronation and at all other meaningful moments in his life." Word to the wise — triple check that your phone calls aren't being tapped into if you're a member of the royal family.

Sarah Ferguson's toe-licking scandal was all over the front page

Speaking of royal scandals that were captured on tape, or in this case, on camera, we couldn't put a salacious list together without mentioning Sarah Ferguson's toe-sucking scandal. As noted by Metro, Fergie and Prince Andrew were recently separated when the duchess ventured to St. Tropez, accompanied by John Bryan. The duo were vacationing at the Villa Le Mas de Pignerol and getting some much needed relaxation when paparazzi captured a truly shocking (at least then) moment between the two of them. Bryan, who worked as a financial advisor, was photographed sucking on Fergie's toes, and if you thought that was a little wild, just wait until we tell you what happened in the aftermath.

Metro noted that the photos were later released when Fergie was back at Balmoral Castle, staying with Queen Elizabeth and other royals when the pics hit the circuit. According to royal biographer Penny Junor, "The family came down for breakfast and there was Fergie in this shocking scene and that was the end." The end, you might ask? Junor — and pretty much everyone who was aware of the scandal — asserted that the photos marked the beginning of the end for Fergie, who was later ousted by the family following her divorce from Andrew. To this day, there is said to be unresolved tension due to the toe-sucking scandal.

Diana Spencer's infamous BBC interview is still talked about today

Though she tragically died in 1997, Diana Spencer's influence on the royal family is very much alive and well today as it was all those years ago. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, are determined to keep her memory alive, and have even defended her in the news when such allegations, investigations, and conclusions have been made. Perhaps no example of this is more potent than the fallout regarding Diana's 1995 interview with the BBC's Martin Bashir — a truly scandalous sit-down that severed the princess and Prince Charles' already-fractured relationship. During the interview, Diana famously admitted, "There were three of us in this marriage," alluding to Charles' long-standing affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. At the time, it was truly remarkable for a member of the royal family to be so transparent on camera, and the interview has been seen as a benchmark of royal scandal ever since.

However, in recent years, the sit-down has been at the center of growing controversy, as it was discovered that Bashir used falsified documents to convince Diana to be interviewed in the first place. The BBC admitted that the interview did not live up to the "high standards of integrity and transparency" the news organization sets for itself, and both William and Harry released statements bashing the network.

The lead up to Meghan Markle's wedding to Prince Harry was full of drama

There's truly nothing more cringe-worthy than a celebrity's estranged family coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of the spotlight, and that's arguably what happened in the scandalous lead up to Meghan Markle's wedding to Prince Harry. As noted by Harper's Bazaar, Meghan's father, Thomas Markle — with whom she has a very distant relationship — reportedly arranged for paparazzi pictures to be taken of him shortly before the wedding was set to take place. Despite Thomas telling the press that he didn't want to be in the spotlight, his actions confirmed a much different story. All in all, Thomas was photographed trying on suits, as well as reading a book about England in what looked to be a coffee shop (talk about staged).

There was a slew of familial drama surrounding the big day (and don't even get us started on Meghan's half-sister, Samantha Markle), and the entire façade came crashing down. Harper's Bazaar further noted that Thomas quickly pulled out of the wedding due to "medical reasons," and Prince Charles eventually stepped in to walk Meghan down the aisle. Talk about a look of sheer desperation.

Prince Harry's Nazi-costume scandal was not a good look

Not all royal scandals have to do with relationships — in fact, some of them have everything to do with optics. As for Prince Harry, the young royal's life back in the day was not scandal-free, and perhaps one of the worst looks he sported was a Nazi uniform. No, we're not kidding. As noted by The New York Times, Harry sported the look to a costume party — along with a cigarette and a beverage — at 20 years old, and Jewish groups in the U.K. were not pleased.

The New York Times noted that Harry released a statement shortly after the incident, apologizing for the offensive look, but some lawmakers thought that wasn't enough, and one action group encouraged him to take a trip to Auschwitz to learn about the history of the Holocaust. Of the incident, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair weighed in, with his office remarking, "Clearly an error was made. That has been recognized by Harry, and I think it is better that this matter continues to be dealt with by (Buckingham) Palace." While we could go on, this royal scandal pretty much speaks for itself.

King Edward's abdication from the throne in the 1930s is still talked about today

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth's familial line wasn't technically supposed to be monarchs in the first place? Perhaps the true, original royal scandal centers around King Edward VIII, King George's eldest brother who gave up his royal status.

So what happened, exactly? As noted by History, Edward fell in love with an American divorcée named Wallis Simpson, and wanted to marry her. As you may have guessed, the British public, government, Church of England, and royal familial structure did not allow him to do so, and in a shocking turn of events, he abdicated the throne. Giving an address to the British public on December 11, 1936, Edward remarked, "I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love." As such, his younger brother George became king, and King George's daughter just happened to be Elizabeth. Is this all making sense? We hope so.

Prince William's rumored affair did not bode well for the prince

It seems as though extramarital affairs are a dime a dozen in the royal family, and when rumors started to circulate about Prince William's dedication to his marriage, things got messy. As noted by Yahoo! News, whispers surrounding William's love life popped up on people's radars when it was alleged that he had been sleeping with Rose Hanbury, a friend of his and Kate Middleton's. What made the rumors even worse was that William allegedly conducted said-affair while Kate was pregnant with their third child, Prince Louis. So was there any truth to the rumors? Yahoo! News noted that a "falling out" between Kate and Rose which apparently led William and Kate to phase Rose and her husband out of their lives definitely raised eyebrows, as they had been friends for some time and ran in the same elite social circle. Further adding fuel to the fire, William sprang into action to bury the story before it turned into a full blown tabloid scandal.

Despite his efforts, and his legal threats to British publications, the rumors about William's affair hit the United States and, of course, the internet. While the news of the relationship has never been confirmed, it should be worth mentioning that Rose's family has been connected to the royals ever since the 1940s, so it definitely would've taken something big to ostracize the Hanburys in such a severe way.

Queen Elizabeth's 'annus horribilis' speech was shocking

The saying goes that the Brits — and especially the members of the royal family — operate with the stiff upper lip mentality. Even when things are sinking to the deep end, the royal family pretty much always keeps it together, at least on the outside. With that in mind, it certainly took the world by surprise when Queen Elizabeth admitted just how horrible the year 1992 was for her during a formal address, calling it her "annus horribilis," Latin for "horrible year."

"1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure," the queen said, as noted by the official royal website. "In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis'. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so."

So what happened to make that year so awful for the queen, so much so that she publicly admitted its difficulty? As noted by Reuters, three out of her four children experienced marital separations, and to make matters worse, Windsor Castle caught on fire. Not exactly the best turn of events.

Harry's partying in Vegas didn't bode well for the prince

To say that Prince Harry's younger years were a bit tough for the royal is an understatement, and in addition to some very questionable costume decisions, the prince was the subject of some scandalous photos taken while partying in Las Vegas. While appearing on the "Armchair Expert" podcast with host Dax Shepard, Harry addressed the photos — taken of him in the nude — as well as his mental state when the scandal hit the headlines.

"Rule number one is, when you actually want or feel as though someone needs help, telling them to their face, 'You need help,' is probably the best way for them to go, 'Uh, no I don't!' Object, run away, delay, all these kinds of things, or go and drink or take drugs or whatever," Harry explained, revealing that the salacious photos were taken at a time in his life when he had a serious problem with substances.

Adding another layer to the mix, Harry revealed to Shepard that a huge part of him simply didn't want to engage with royal life as a young 20-something, saying, "I was thinking, 'I don't want this job; I don't want to be here. I don't want to be doing this.'"

Princess Margaret's illicit romance with Peter Townsend was heartbreaking

It's not just the current members of the royal family who have been at the center of scandal, lest we forget Princess Margaret and the controversial era that was her relationship with Captain Peter Townsend. As per People, Margaret and Peter met when he was still a married man, adding of course a very salacious element to their love affair. He eventually got divorced, and the pair had intentions to tie the knot, but it was far more complicated than that. People noted that due to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, Margaret had to obtain Queen Elizabeth's permission to marry a divorced man. Adding a further layer of complication, Margaret was under the age of 25, a threshold that had to be surpassed. Evidently, the cards were not in her favor.

By 1955, however, the engagement was on, and Margaret and Peter were ready to head down the aisle. Or were they? As the BBC announced, the princess eventually called off her wedding due to the pressures she faced from the institution, saying, "Mindful of the Church's teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before any others."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah Winfrey was mind-blowing

We started with scandal, we're ending with scandal: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey was not only reminiscent of Diana Spencer's bombshell admissions to the BBC, but revealed some shocking information. Having already moved to California, Harry and Meghan pulled back the curtain and exposed the ugly underbelly of the firm, telling Winfrey that they faced media scrutiny, a lack of support within the family, racism, and more.

Of the shocking elements of the interview, The New York Times noted that one of the most consequential was Meghan's admission that she was suicidal while a senior royal. "I was ashamed to have to admit it to Harry," she explained. "I knew that if I didn't say it, I would do it. I just didn't want to be alive anymore."

Adding additional layers of unbelievable confessions, Harry and Meghan revealed that the color of Archie's skin was questioned by an unnamed royal family member, sparking intense debate about institutionalized racism amid the royals. "We have in tandem the conversation of, 'He won't be given security, he's not going to be given a title' and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born," Meghan revealed to a shocked Oprah (and world).