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10 Greatest Scandals That Rocked the British Royal Family

There is no royalty in the world without scandals and the British royals, despite keeping pious appearances on the cameras, have their own dirty laundry. Like any other royal family, they try as much as possible to avoid them which is why they tried to cover up most of these scandals but sadly, they found their way into the public. Many people expect total perfection from the royals which is why even the least of scandals sometimes turn into a bombshell. Some of these scandals got so dirty they threatened the very establishment of the monarchy. From marriages gone wrong to royal fun turned sour, these are the 10 worst scandals the British royal family has ever experienced.

The Abdication of King Edward VIII

British royal family scandals - The Abdication of King Edward VIII

This is still the worst scandal in the royal family in the last 4 centuries. Edward was the son of King George V and the prince of wales which made him the heir of the throne in January 1936. George had carried out most of the roles of the king in his later days so no one expected any surprises when he was crowned king. However, in the 1920s, the British monarch started several affairs with married women and fell in love with Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American woman who became his downfall. Her second husband gave her a divorce in 1936 while she was already involved with King Edward, then the prince of Wales since 1934. The king is also the head of the church of England and he could not be allowed to marry a divorced woman. He was given two options, the throne or the divorced woman, he chose the latter.

The pressure that followed forced him to give up the throne to marry Simpson in a wedding that no royal attended. It allowed his younger brother Albert, Queen Elizabeth‘s dad, to become King George IV. His formal abdication statement said he had made the ultimate sacrifice for love, he said he could not be a King without the woman he loved. After the marriage, he was stripped of the title of king and named the Duke of Windsor. His wife, officially the Duchess of Windsor was however not accepted as a royal and therefore not addressed as her royal highness. His relationship with the family remained strained as he spent the rest of his life in France coming to England just a few times for funerals and weddings. Their love, however, turned sour as Simpson gave up the duke for another man she had loved earlier. He was very lonely when he died from throat cancer in 1972.[1][2]

Prince Harry the Nazi

Prince Harry, third in succession to the throne, had a rough teenage but this scandal almost had him stripped of royalty. He was attending a birthday party in 2005 for the son of Richard Meade, an Olympic medalist when he wore this infamous costume. To match up to the party’s theme, Harry showed up dressed in a full Nazi Uniform complete with a red, black and white swastika armband. The photos hit the media leading to outcries from all over the world especially Israel and Poland. Some people including the leader of the Tory party called for Harry to be stripped of royalty and even wanted him to be kicked out of the royal military academy. Harry and the queen had to offer apologies siting poor choice of a costume.[3]

King Edward VIII, the Nazi Sympathizer

Many people believe WWII would have taken a very different direction had Edward VIII not abdicated. The royal family, however, believes him to be the worst tragedy that ever happened to the monarchy. King Edward VIII’s problems did not end with the abdication. After moving to France, he became friends with many people in Germany including Adolf Hitler himself. He visited Hitler after his marriage to Simpson and allegedly gave him the Nazi salute. He told Hitler that the British and the Germans were one race, so the Nazis believed Britain and Germany would have been allies if he had not abdicated. During the war, Edward was named the governor of the Bahamas taking him far away from the war and the Nazis. It was hard to determine where his real loyalties lay, hope it was not with Hitler![4][5]


British royal family scandals - Squidgygate

This scandal changed the royal family in a big way, it is even linked to Princess Diana’s death by some experts. Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s time as Duke and Duchess of Wales marked one of the most tumultuous times for the crown. The rumors of adultery on both sides were first confirmed by this conversation between Princess Dianna and James Gilbey. Gilbey called Diana by a pet name Squidgy many times in the 30-minute conversation leading to the name of the scandal. Diana also talked about the strain in her marriage and how the queen was angry with her choice of charity which involved helping AIDs patients.

Diana was the most famous royal family member at the time after being the first royal to touch an AIDs patient publicly even though the disease was still believed to be contagious. Diana made it clear that her efforts in the royal family were not appreciated and that she was no longer interested in her marriage to Charles. The conversation was allegedly recorded by GCHQ and MI5 was the first suspect because they allegedly bugged all royal family phone calls in the height of IRA tensions. The queen ordered an official investigation into the leaking that threatened to rip her family apart but no one was officially convicted.[6][7]



The distance between Prince Charles and Princess Diana started in 1984 after the birth of Prince Harry but it became clear to the public in the late 80s. After Squidgygate, many people thought Diana was the only one who cheated in the marriage until 1993 when Prince Charles’ phone conversation with Mrs. Camilla Bowles Parker, the current Duchess of Cornwall, was leaked. In the conversation that caused even more chaos in the royal family.

In the conversation, Prince Charles tells Camilla that he wants to be her tampon. Prince Charles and Princess Diana had officially separated at the time, the tape just confirmed that the heir of the throne was not as innocent as people thought. His dirty statements in the conversation also raised doubts about whether he was really the right person to inherit the throne. The prince later admitted to having committed adultery because Camilla was also married at the time.[8][9]

Foot in the Mouth Scandal

Foot in the Mouth Scandal

Prince Charles was not the only royal having a tough wedding in 1992, Prince Andrew also had his own share of scandals. Sarah Fergusson, then the Duchess of York was having affairs with several men which led to her fallout with the queen. She had separated with her husband for a while because of the strained marriage but this scandal sealed her fate in the royal family.

She was photographed sunbathing on a beach in southern France with her foot in the mouth of John Bryan, a Texan millionaire, and her financial advisor. More photos revealed Fergie kissing him in a pool, the act that the queen could not tolerate. She was immediately banished from the family retaining the status as the Duchess of yoke but ultimately losing the title of her royal highness. She later complained that Andrew was too busy and had no time for her.[10]

Princess Anne’s Affair With a Royal Staff Member

Princess Anne's Affair With a Royal Staff Member

1992 was the worst year in history for royal marriages. Princess Royal married captain Mark Philips in 1973 and had 2 children but the marriage broke apart a few years later because of infidelity from both sides. In the 80s, Anne started an affair with Vice-Admiral Tim Lawrence, now Sir. Tim, while he was working as Queen Elizabeth’s equerry. Love letters between the two found their way into the media in the late 80s after they were stolen from Buckingham Palace, just a short time before the Squidgygate scandal.

The queen was in no mood for more scandals so she prompted Anne to “put her house in order.” Princess Anne then divorced Mark Philips and married Timothy officially almost immediately. He marriage was only possible under the church of Scotland because the church of England does not allow divorcees to remarry while their spouses are still alive.[11][12]

Sarah Ferguson’s Bribery Scandal

Sarah Ferguson's Bribery Scandal

Fergie’s problems did not end with the divorce from the Duke of York. She was cut off from the royal family and the £15,000 a year divorce settlement could not sustain her. She fell into debt with the American tax authorities and in a bid to clear up some of these debts, she decided to “sell her ex-husband.” In a sting operation, News Of The World undercover reporter approached Sarah Ferguson posing as a businessman that wanted access to Prince Andrew.

She went ahead to tell him that she could organize the meeting if he wired £500,000 to her HSBC account. The whole thing was recorded on film becoming the most embarrassing scandal for the Duchess who had since been sidelined from all royal family relations. She later apologized for the “lapse in judgment” but the scandal pushed her even further from the Royals. She later sued the News Of The World for £25 million for damages to her reputation.[13][14]

Prince Harry in Rehab

Prince Harry in Rehab

The Nazi costume scandal was not the first partying scandal for Prince Harry. He was hit hard by his mother’s death and resorted to alcohol and marijuana. His lowest time came when he was 16. He started drinking heavily and even got involved in fights in Rattlebone Inn near his father’s Highgrove home. When Prince Charles learned about his behavior, he immediately sent him to Featherstone lodge in Southern London famously known as a detox center for heroin addicts.

The royal family, however, dismissed allegations of drug addiction. Prince Charles said he just sent his son to the clinic to “see what happens to marijuana smokers.” The news was still damaging to the royal family as they exposed the prince as a spoiled addict presenting the future king as a bad father.[14]

The Panorama Interview

The Panorama Interview

Squidgygate and Camillagate both lit a fire in the royal family so it was not strange when Princess Diana decided to make it clear but it wasn’t as smooth as she expected. She accepted to give an interview with the BBC’s Martin Bashir in 1995 in a show famously known as Panorama. Diana explained everything that had gone wrong in her marriage and the little sympathy she received from the royal family. She went ahead to explain that her marriage had three people in it and so was too crowded for her. This confirmed that she knew about Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla even before the leaked phone conversation.

The interview which was watched by more than 20 million people became the most popular show that year and the royal family’s worst nightmare. The royal family had no knowledge of the interview and the queen got really angry with Diana for shaming her family. The interview turned Diana into a public enemy. The queen wrote letters to both Diana and Prince Charles advising them to divorce, an order they carried out a few months later. Diana them moved on to start a relationship with Dodi Al Fayed after the royal family dismissed her.[16]

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