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21 British Royal Family Scandals Throughout The Years That Are, Honestly, Really Interesting And Messy

If you've been anywhere on the internet over the last few weeks, you've probably noticed the absolute chaos that has erupted over Kate Middleton, aka the Princess of Wales.

Kate Middleton smiling, wearing a blue blazer, holding a bouquet. She's outside, near a brick wall
Anadolu / Getty Images

It all started when Kensington Palace announced that Kate was admitted to a London hospital for surgery in January 2024, after her last public outing on Dec. 25, 2023. The palace noted in their statement that it was a "planned abdominal surgery" and she would not "return to public duties until after Easter."

Prince William, Kate, and their children attending a service on Christmas 2023

Throughout February, William attended a series of high profile events, like the BAFTAs, alone. Then, he had to miss the memorial service for his godfather, King Constantine of Greece, due to a "personal matter." So, yes, he dropped out of a royal engagement.

Prince William in a black tuxedo with a bow tie walks on a red carpet
Jordan Pettitt / POOL / AFP / Getty Images

By the time February ended, the entire internet was wondering where Kate was, with countless memes spreading about her whereabouts. A rep for Kate issued a statement saying that Kensington Palace "made it clear in January the timelines of the princess' recovery."

Kate Middleton in blue coat waves with her right hand, smiling with onlookers in the background

That brings us to just a few days ago, when things got arguably even more chaotic after the official Instagram account for the prince and princess shared a photo of Kate for UK Mother's Day. And, well, the photo appeared to be photoshopped. It was so badly edited that photo agencies refused to run the image.

All of this just fueled the "Where is Kate Middleton really?!" conspiracy theories, memes, and news coverage, with many even more invested in the saga now.

Newspapers from 2024 depicting the PR disaster surrounding Kate Middleton
Paul Ellis / AFP via Getty Images

So, because we seem to be living through yet another British Royal Family scandal — and PR crisis — here are 21 real-life facts about other Royal Family scandals and events throughout the years that you might not know about:

1.First, King William II, who ruled from 1057 to 1100, died after he was shot through the chest with an arrow while out hunting. Walter Tirel, who was reportedly alone with the king at the time of the accident, fled the scene, with the rest of the hunting party not going to William's side. William's body was reportedly found by locals who transported him to Winchester Cathedral.

Illustration of King William II in historical attire within an oval frame

2.Known as the Princes in the Tower, the deaths of King Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York, in 1483 in the Tower of London remains one of the most interesting Royal Family mysteries. Edward V and Richard were entrusted to be protected by the Duke of Gloucester prior to Edward's official coronation, however the Duke reportedly placed both Edward and Richard in the Tower of London. They were never seen alive again. The Duke of Gloucester, aka King Richard III, ultimately ascended the throne.

A drawing of Edward V and his brother Richard sitting on a bed

3.In May 1810, Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, and later King of Hanover, was woken up in his house and was reportedly wounded by a sabre. After calling one of his valets, people in the house quickly found Joseph Sellis, another valet, in his locked room with his throat slashed. Reports surfaced that Ernest might've murdered his valet, after it was believed that Joseph had been blackmailing him.

Historical portrait of a Ernest in uniform with medals, facing right in profile

4.In December 1936, King Edward VIII shockingly announced he was abdicating the throne, thus reshaping the entire future of the monarchy. He voluntarily abdicated the throne in order to marry US socialite Wallis Simpson, who was divorced. The Church of England, the government, and Edward's advisors made it clear that marrying Wallis would be impossible while he was King. He had been reigning King for less than a year at the time.

Edward and Wallis on their wedding day

5.As depicted in The Crown, Princess Margaret and her love affair with Peter Townsend was one of the earliest scandals during Queen Elizabeth II's reign. Margaret reportedly first fell in love with Peter when she was 17, while he was 32, married, and had two children. He'd later divorce his wife with every intention of marrying Margaret. Despite their engagement, the Queen did not grant Margaret permission to marry Peter, and it was called off.

Princess Margaret riding in a car
Princess Margaret riding in a car
Peter Townsend in knit sweater outdoors, with mountains in the background
Peter Townsend in knit sweater outdoors, with mountains in the background

Monty Fresco / Getty Images, Mondadori / Getty Images

The Church of England also had strict rules about remarriage after divorce. Speaking about her early love of Peter, Margaret reportedly said, "We rode together every morning in that wonderful country, in marvelous weather. That's when I really fell in love with him."

6.Princess Margaret would marry Antony Armstrong-Jones, aka Lord Snowdon. Many reported that Antony was having extramarital affairs while they were married, with Margaret reportedly also known for carrying out affairs, too. Their marriage was believed to be in trouble when photos of Margaret with Roddy Llewellyn, a gardener, surfaced. In March 1976, the New York Times reported that they were separating after 16 years of marriage.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon on their wedding day

7.In March 1974, Princess Anne was at the center of an attempted kidnapping when Ian Ball, an unemployed laborer, shot at her car as it was returning to Buckingham Palace. Her chauffeur and private detective were both injured, with Ball climbing in the front seat of the car. Eventually, after fending off Ball herself, Anne was helped by passerby Ronnie Russell.

Princess Anne in 1974
Princess Anne in 1974
Police apprehending the suspect in Princess Anne's attempted kidnapping
Police apprehending the suspect in Princess Anne's attempted kidnapping

Evening Standard / Getty Images, Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Ball was eventually arrested by police officers nearby after fleeing the scene. Queen Elizabeth II later awarded Russell with the George Medal, Britain's highest civilian award for gallantry. At the ceremony, the Queen reportedly said, "The medal is from the Queen, but I want to thank you as Anne's mother."

8.Princess Anne and Mark Phillips were both rumored to have extramarital relationships while they were married to each other from 1973 to 1992. In particular, Anne reportedly began her romance with Timothy Laurence, her current husband, around 1989 when letters between the pair were reportedly stolen and leaked to the press. As for Mark, in 1991 he was at the center of a paternity suit where a 37-year-old woman in New Zealand alleged that he was the father of her child.

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips laughing together
Princess Anne and Mark Phillips laughing together
Princess Anne and Timothy Lawrence attending a formal event
Princess Anne and Timothy Lawrence attending a formal event

Tim Graham / Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images, Dave Benett / Getty Images

A London paper reported at the time, per the LA Times, that Mark had "never accepted that he is the father." According to Tatler, a DNA test later confirmed that Mark was the father.

9.In 1992, months after Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and Prince Andrew separated, photos of Sarah on vacation with John Bryan, her financial advisor, were published in the Daily Mirror. The photos depicted Bryan seemingly sucking Fergie's toes. The photos were published alongside several other paparazzi photos from their vacation in St. Tropez.

Sarah Ferguson in a black blazer, holding a bouquet, smiling at an event

10.Queen Elizabeth II dubbed 1992 as "Annus Horribilis," aka a horrible year. The year proved to be one of the most difficult in her reign. Most notably, three of her four children's marriages were ending, conversations from Princess Diana and Prince Charles to their reported lovers were leaked, a book detailing Princess Diana's mental health struggles was published, and media and public scrutiny was at an all-time high.

Queen Elizabeth II wearing pearls and a decorative brooch

11.In 1993, the British media published transcripts of private conversations between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Known as "Camillagate" or "Tampongate," the phone calls notably included Charles telling Camilla he would like to "live inside [her] trousers," joking that he would like to be a tampon. At the time, both Charles and Camilla were married to other people.

Princess Diana in elegant white gown and Prince Charles in black tuxedo at formal event
Princess Diana in elegant white gown and Prince Charles in black tuxedo at formal event
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles walking together outside
Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles walking together outside

Princess Diana Archive / Getty Images, Tim Graham Photo Library / Getty Images

12.In November 1995, Princess Diana notably sat down for a TV interview with journalist Martin Bashir. The televised interview famously featured Diana confronting the Charles and Camilla rumors by saying, "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." In 2020, a formal investigation was launched which found that Bashir "used fake documents to gain access to Diana."

Princess Diana in a sit-down interview, looking thoughtful. She wears a light blouse

13.Of course, all of this drama ultimately led to one of the biggest British Royal Family media frenzies, which was Prince Charles and Princess Diana's divorce. After separating in 1992, their divorce was finalized in August 1996. After their divorce, Princess Diana was under media attention even more, with her relationship with Dodi Fayed notably taking center stage. In one instance, photos of Diana and Dodi kissing were published on the front page of the Sunday Mirror and reportedly attracted bids of £500,000

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Computer monitor displaying a newspaper titled
Computer monitor displaying a newspaper titled

Dave Hogan / Getty Images, APTV / Via youtu.be

Photographer Mario Brenna reportedly "made about £1.7 million, or $2.1 million, from the photos of the couple." British photographer Jason Fraser, who helped Mario sell the images, said that after they were published, "over 2,000 photographers arrived" hoping to capture photos of Diana and Dodi.

14.Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed in a fatal car crash in Paris in August 1997, with the entire world mourning Diana's passing. Alongside widespread rumors surrounding her death, the royal family was criticized for their strict adherence to protocol, and there was reportedly "angry public response" to the family's initial refusal to lower the flag to half-mast at Buckingham Palace.

Person reads newspaper headline about Princess Diana's death outside a building with steps and columns, conveying the news' impact

15.In 2002, Prince Harry was reportedly taken to a rehab facility for a single day after Prince Charles discovered Harry was "regularly smoking" marijuana. At the time, the Guardian reported that the incident was "highly embarrassing for the royal family," and the incident put a spotlight on Harry, who was still coping with Princess Diana's death.

Young Prince Harry

Prince Charles reportedly requested that Prince William suggest to Harry that he spend some time at Featherstone clinic to "familiarize himself with the dangers of drugs."

Tim Graham Photo Library / Getty Images

16.In 2005, photos of Prince Harry wearing a Nazi costume at a Halloween party were published by British tabloids, with many calling for him to be disqualified from joining the army and calling him out for minimizing the Holocaust. In his 2023 memoir, Spare, Harry wrote about the incident, saying, "I phoned Willy and Kate, asked what they thought. Nazi uniform, they said."

Person holding a copy of The Sun newspaper with headline about Harry dressed as a Nazi for a party

17.In 2010, Sarah Ferguson, aka Fergie, was caught offering access to Prince Andrew, her ex-husband, for a reported £500,000. In a video obtained by an undercover journalist posing as a businessperson, you can reportedly hear Fergie say, "500,000 pounds when you can, to me, open doors." She later issued an apology saying she "deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused."

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew

18.In 2012, photos of a naked Prince Harry from his trip to Las Vegas surfaced. TMZ posted the photos of Harry online, which featured Harry engaging in a game of strip billiards at a "high rollers hotel suite." At the time the Daily Telegraph reportedly said the publication of the photos "risks embarrassing Buckingham Palace and raises questions about the prince’s security arrangements."

Prince Harry laughing alongside Kate Middleton and Prince William

19.In 2019, Prince Andrew spoke to BBC about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, with Vanity Fair viewing the interview as a "clumsy attempt to clear his name." This came after photos of Andrew and Epstein walking together in NYC surfaced in 2010. At the time, Virginia Roberts Giuffre came forward with a photograph of herself and Andrew, and alleged she had sex with him three times. Prince Andrew settled his sexual abuse lawsuit with Giuffre in 2022.

Prince Andrew during a BBC Newsnight interview

20.Also in 2019, rumors began circulating that Prince William was cheating on Kate Middleton with Rose Hanbury, a friend of Kate's. The rumors resurfaced after a new book titled Endgame: Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy's Fight for Survival was published in 2023, which mentioned the rumors. They've now resurfaced again in 2024 following Kate's absence from her royal duties. The rumors have never been directly addressed by the royal family.

Prince William and Kate Middleton walking together
Prince William and Kate Middleton walking together
Rose Hanbruy in a solemn gathering wearing a black coat and hat, holding a service booklet
Rose Hanbruy in a solemn gathering wearing a black coat and hat, holding a service booklet

Max Mumby / Getty Images

Author Omid Scobie spoke about including the rumor in his book, saying, "For legal reasons there are so many things that one can't go into but I thought it was really important, even if a rumor is a rumor. And I really don't see proof that there is more to this than just a tittle-tattle, you know."

21.And finally, in January 2020, Queen Elizabeth II released a statement detailing the royal family's summit in Sandringham to discuss Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's exit from their duties as senior royals. The news came after increased media intrusion, with the toxic dynamic being a catalyst for their departure, according to Harry.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seated during an interview with Oprah, Meghan in a black dress with white patterns

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