Craziest Scandals In British Royal Family History

The British royal family is known for its class, elegance and grace. But being a royal also means having your life constantly under a microscope and in the news. It's no surpise that the British monarchy is also known for its long history of insane scandals, ranging from affairs, bribery, and royal feuds. Here are some of craziest scandals in royal history.

King Edward VIII shacked up with a married woman

As the royal family has proved time and time again, they have a knack for falling in love at all the wrong times. No one demonstrated that fact better than King Edward VIII, whose scandalous love affair with married American socialite Wallis Simpson almost derailed the British monarchy in the mid-1930s, as Biography details. As their love quickly blossomed, Edward expressed a desire to marry Simpson, which would have conceivably made her a member of the royal family. Given that Simpson was still married at the time, not to mention divorced once before, the response from England was pretty much, "Yeah, no."

Left with few other options, Edward ultimately chose love over family and abdicated the throne at the end of 1936. "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love," Edward said in a radio speech. They married the following year, after Simpson's divorce was finalized, and remained together until Edward's death in 1972. Their love affair was depicted in a number of movies and miniseries over the years, including "The King's Speech," which was great, and Madonna's "W.E.," which was not great.

Prince Harry dressed up as a Nazi...

There are good costumes and there are bad costumes. And then there are downright stupid ones. As The Guardian details, Prince Harry learned this the hard way in 2005 when he attended a costume party for a friend's birthday dressed up like a Nazi soldier, complete with a Swastika band on his left arm. A photograph of Harry in costume quickly leaked to the British tabloid The Sun, which published the photo under the headline "Harry the Nazi." 

The photo caused outrage throughout England for a number of reasons, not limited to the fact that it was published just two weeks before the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. As the backlash continued to grow, Harry released an apology in a statement through Buckingham Palace. "I am very sorry if I caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone," he said. "It was a poor choice of costume and I apologize."

...And got naked in Vegas

If you thought the Nazi costume scandal would be enough to straighten Prince Harry out, think again. About seven years later, the young Prince put the royal family through yet another scandal after TMZ obtained nude photos of Harry during his wild and raucous trip to Las Vegas. According to the Mirror, Harry and his friends met a group of girls at his hotel bar and proceeded to invite them up to Harry's VIP suite, where they played a game of strip billiards. A fully nude Harry was subsequently photographed getting up close and personal with two different women, both of whom were nude as well. 

Months after the photos leaked, Harry finally addressed the scandal while serving out his military duty in Afghanistan. "At the end of the day I probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down," he said, according to BBC News. Ya think?

Sarah Ferguson unknowingly tried to bribe a reporter

Of all the members of the royal family, arguably no one has embarrassed the family more than Sarah Ferguson. Both during and after her marriage to Prince Andrew, the duchess of York was riddled with one jaw-dropping scandal after the next, from criticisms of her weight, to the time she got her toes sucked on by an American billionaire and when she amassed millions and millions of dollars in debt. Still, nothing quite topped the time she got involved in a bizarre bribery scandal in 2010. 

That year, Ferguson was videotaped offering a man access to her ex-husband in exchange for over $700,000, according to BBC News. As Ferguson later learned, that man turned out to be working for the British tabloid News of the World, which later released video footage, as well as a full account, of the exchange to a shocked public. Naturally, she and the entire royal family were mortified by the scandal. "There aren't ... many words to describe an act of such gross stupidity," Ferguson later said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Funny. We can think of a few.

Prince Charles wanted to be reincarnated as Camilla's tampon

In retrospect, the marriage of Prince Charles to Princess Diana in 1981 was an embarrassment of epic proportions, filled with scandals, affairs, and ultimately a divorce. Case in point: the time Charles and Diana were individually recorded having intimate conversations with their respective and alleged lovers. The first recording to hit the press was a conversation between Diana and her admirer, James Gilbey, during which Gilbey lovingly referred to Diana as "Squidgy" 14 times, according to The scandal allegedly catalyzed Diana and Charles' separation, announced in the summer of 1992. 

The following year, Charles was hit by a similar scandal when a tape surfaced featuring an insanely intimate conversation between himself and his mistress, Camilla. The most quoted line from the transcript was the part when Charles jokingly discusses being reincarnated as Camilla's tampon. "My luck to be chucked down the lavatory and go on and on, forever swirling round on the top, never going down ...Until the next one arrives," Charles reportedly said (via Huffpost). The scandal obviously rocked Buckingham Palace but not enough to destroy Charles and Camilla's relationship. In fact, the two were finally married in 2005 and remain married to this day. Talk about getting the last laugh.

Pretty much anything Prince Andrew has ever done

Every family has a troublemaker. For the royal family, that troublemaker has to be Prince Andrew. Over the years, Andrew has dragged his family's name through the mud through his questionable friendships, sex scandals, and alleged relationships with controversial foreign leaders, just to name a few.

He's also said to have formed relationships with people ranging from Colonel Gaddafi to Tarek Kaituni, a known gun smuggler, according to the Telegraph. And that doesn't even include all the times he took a helicopter on taxpayers' dime, to places where he could have easily taken a car, instead, notes The Independent; or his disastrous marriage to the aforementioned Sarah Ferguson. Ironically, Andrew and Sarah have said to have remained close friends throughout all of their scandals. Which, if you think about it, makes total sense.

Prince Andrew was close with Jeffrey Epstein

According to the Associated Press, wealthy and well connected American financier Jeffrey Epstein was first charged and investigated by the FBI in the mid-2000s for soliciting young women under the age of 18 into sex work. In 2019, he was again arrested on sex trafficking charges — serious federal crimes — but died in his prison cell before his trial. Prosecutors focused their attention instead on Ghislaine Maxwell, charged with recruiting teenage girls for abuse by Epstein. The duo also may have arranged illegal, salacious encounters between underage girls and very wealthy and powerful people, per Insider, including Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom's royal family.

One woman caught up in Epstein and Maxwell's ring, Virginia Giuffre, accused Prince Andrew of sexual assault, which took place during those meetings, and filed a civil lawsuit against the royal, Queen Elizabeth's third oldest son and the duke of York. According to the BBC, Giuffre and Prince Andrew settled the lawsuit out of court in March 2022. The terms weren't publicly disclosed, but the settlement was finalized around the time that the duke of York sold a Swiss ski chalet, and the U.K.'s Treasury assured the public that no British tax dollars would be used.

Before the case was even decided, many of Prince Andrew's official titles and patronages were revoked by the royal organization and the U.K. armed forces. As of January 2022, the prince is no longer allowed to officially be addressed as "His Royal Highness" or acknowledge his eight British military honors.

The kidnapping of Princess Anne

On the evening of March 20, 1974, according to Smithsonian, Princess Anne and her husband were in a limousine about 600 feet from Buckingham Palace when a white Ford Escort zoomed up and blocked the vehicle. Ian Ball, an unemployed north London man with a documented history of mental illness, emerged; his plan was to kidnap Princess Anne. Bodyguard James Wallace Beaton got out first; Ball shot him in the shoulder. The princess's lady-in-waiting escaped the vehicle on the other side, and Beaton got back in the car and positioned himself between the royal couple and Ball, who fired again, hitting Beaton's hand. Chauffeur Alexander Calendar then tried to subdue Ball, who shot him in the torso. Ball was able to partially get into the car and grab Princess Anne's arm while her husband pulled her back.

Patrolling police constable Michael Hills arrived on the scene, and Ball shot him in the stomach. Passing Daily Mail writer John Brian McConnell tried to reason with Ball, who shot the journalist. Ball resumed his pursuit of Princess Anne but was subdued when passing driver Ronald Russell punched him in the back of the head. As Princess Anne got out of the car and confronted Ball, daring him to make another move, and with more police arriving, the assailant took off. He was captured and arrested moments later, eventually sentenced to life in a mental health facility. In Ball's car, police found a ransom letter meant for the queen, demanding £2 million.

Princess Michael of Kent's racially insensitive behavior

According to her official crown website, Princess Michael married into the U.K,'s royal family in 1978 when she wed His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent, the first cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth II. In May 2004, the princess dined at Da Silvano, a restaurant in Manhattan. After being upset by noisy patrons at another table, Princess Michael asked restaurant staff to ask them to quiet down. The group repeatedly kept up the noise, but then according to witnesses as reported by The Independent, the royal told the group — all African-Americans — "You need to go back to the colonies." The princess later told the New York Post (via The Independent) that she'd been misquoted. "I did not say 'back to the colonie.' I said 'you should remember the colonies.' Back in the days of the colonies, there were rules that were very good."

Princess Michael would again make news in 2017 for wearing an insensitive piece of jewelry. The princess was invited to a Christmas banquet at Buckingham Palace, as was Prince Harry and his fiancée, American actor Meghan Markle, who is of a mixed-race background. Princess Michael wore on her shoulder a very large "Blackamoor" brooch, an item popular in the British imperialist era that depicts a black-skinned man. "The brooch was a gift and has been worn many times before," the princess's spokesman, Simon Astaire told the BBC, in addition to apologizing on Princess Michael's behalf.

Princess Margaret's complicated and controversial love life

In the early 1950s, according to the Evening Standard, Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, struck up a romance with decorated air force Capt. Peter Townsend, the royal family's equerry. The two made plans to marry, but the queen mother was against it, as it simply wasn't proper or permissible for the queen's sister to marry a divorced commoner. Elizabeth advised Margaret to wait a year, to see if she still wished to marry Townsend by then. They did, but then the queen's cabinet ruled that if the marriage were to occur, they'd have to put a bill in front of Parliament to approve it, which would deny Margaret of all her royal rights and privileges. She summarily broke it off.

In 1960, according to Biography, Princess Margaret found love again and married photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, another commoner but not one who had been previously married. Given the title of Lord Snowdon, he fathered Margaret's two children, but the marriage would be complicated by adulterous affairs by both parties. Princess Margaret took several lovers, including Robin Douglas-Home (who died by suicide 18 months after the end of the affair) and the much younger Roddy Llewellyn. In 1976, Margaret and Armstrong-Jones announced their separation. They divorced in 1978, the first British royals to do so since Henry VIII broke it off with one of his wives in 1533.

Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex left the royal family behind

When Prince Harry, second son of King Charles III, married in 2018, he didn't go the traditional route and wed a never-hitched lady from a prominent English  family, but rather Meghan Markle, a married-before American actor. A lot of internal strife from the royal family and its institutional cohort posed a serious threat to the couple's happily ever after.

The duchess gave birth to royal baby Archie in May 2019, and according to the couple's interview with Oprah Winfrey (via People), Harry and Meghan learned that he wouldn't receive an official title nor security. An even more egregious affront: She divulged that someone in the royal family (whom he refuses to identity) had reservations about the color of Archie's skin, on account of how Markle is of mixed-race heritage. 

Markle went on to tell Winfrey that she found life among the royals so utterly miserable (via CNN) and experienced suicidal thoughts. "I went to one of the most senior people to get help. ... [saying ]'I am concerned for my mental welfare,'" Markle said (via Town and Country). "I was told that I couldn't [get help], that it wouldn't be good for the institution."

It's these experiences and emotions that led Harry and Meghan to announce on Instagram in 2020 that they would take a break from the royal family in advance of a move thousands of miles away to North America, per People.