Royal rumpus: The Windsors' eight biggest scandals to date 

We prep for Harry and Meghan's sit down with Oprah by going over the most scandalous moments for the British royal family in recent history
Royal rumpus: The Windsors' eight biggest scandals to date 

Few members of the royal family have managed to avoid bad press.

There are around 26 active monarchies across the world, yet there’s only one that gets our undivided and devout attention.

From their humble perch at Buckingham Palace, the British royal family has brought us endless entertainment over the last number of decades, inspiring documentaries, books, rolling tabloid coverage, and one of Netflix’s biggest series to date.

In honour of all the headlines the Windsor’s have inspired over the past year, we’ve rounded up the biggest scandals that Lizzie has had to put down her teacup for to date.

King Edward VIII abdicates 

King Edward VIII became the first British king to abdicate the throne for his American divorcée bride Wallace Simpson. Picture: Getty Images

King Edward VIII became the first British king to abdicate the throne for his American divorcée bride Wallace Simpson. Picture: Getty Images

As it turns out, Queen Elizabeth II was never really meant to be queen at all, as it was her uncle Edward rather than her father who proceeded to the throne in 1936.

However, within a year Edward was making a public address to the nation to say he couldn’t carry out his duties without the woman he loved, a divorced American named Wallis Simpson.

He became the first member of the family to voluntarily abdicate the throne, making himself a controversial figure both within his family and with the public. The couple spent much of their life in France, far from the duties his niece was carrying out following the death of his brother in 1952.

It’s probable that Elizabeth would have ended up as queen either way, as Edward never had any children. The move was uncalled for all the same, especially since the former king found it hard to stay out of the spotlight, later being photographed with Adolf Hitler.

Poor Elizabeth.

Princess Margaret’s divorce and Mustique forays 

Princess Margaret was known for her carefree ways. Picture: Getty Images

Princess Margaret was known for her carefree ways. Picture: Getty Images

Before there were Diana and Charles, there was Margaret. Anyone who has watched The Crown has probably fallen in love with the queen’s little sister, who died in 2002.

Princess Margaret was known for glamour, humour, and extravagant party throwing skills, but it was more often matters of the heart that made her the first royal family member to really be attacked by the media.

She caused many headaches for her older sis, who had to turn down the request for Margaret to marry her first love, the divorced Peter Townshend. She later proceeded to get divorced herself, but not before photos of her frolicking the beaches of Mustique with a man 17 years her junior hit the shelves in 1976.

Both Margaret and Roddy Llewellyn, the man photographed, were married at the time, though Margaret’s marriage had been on the rocks for years. The public was still outraged, however, with some members of parliament even having a say on the private snaps.

The affair eventually fizzled out and Margaret and her husband, the Earl of Snowden, officially split two years later, making the princess the first member of the modern royal family to get divorced. A trend that would be seen to continue for her juniors.

Charles and Diana 

Charles and Diana on their last official trip together. Picture: Getty Images

Charles and Diana on their last official trip together. Picture: Getty Images

Seeing as the family’s most famous scandals came from just one of its members and his young wife, it’s hard to package these two in any space smaller than a book.

The world quickly fell in love with Diana Spencer, who was only 20 when she married Prince Charles. However, it’s argued that her husband never really did - and the cracks in their marriage gained unprecedented coverage in the media.

Diana's interview with Martin Bashir for the BBC is one of the most-watched programmes in the history of British television.

Diana's interview with Martin Bashir for the BBC is one of the most-watched programmes in the history of British television.

Between Camilla Parker Bowles, 'Squidgygate' (the releasing of a private phone call between Diana and a reported lover), and the Panorama interview, there was an endless amount of gossip swirling around the future king and queen, so much so that Charles’ grandmother reportedly called the couple to officially split.

Shortly after Diana’s famous BBC interview, where she revealed struggles with bulimia, depression, and confirmed both of their affairs, the divorce was finalised in 1996.

Diana’s death and the missing flag

The queen came under fire following Diana's death. Picture: John Shelley Collection/Getty Images

The queen came under fire following Diana's death. Picture: John Shelley Collection/Getty Images

Like few women who have affairs or divorce in the public eye, Diana remained mostly unscathed and the world continued to crave pictures of her life. The paparazzi followed her every move, putting incomparable pressure on the mother of two.

A year after her divorce, the same photographers were blamed by many for forcing the car she was in to crash in a tunnel in Paris, killing Diana and two others.

Shrouded in grief, the public began to turn its attention to the queen, more specifically the empty flagpole at Buckingham Palace.

Though flags were lowered at half-mast all over London, the practice at the time that the Royal Standard flag only flew over the palace when the queen was in residence. Since she was at her home in Balmoral, there was no flag present, and news outlets soon zoomed in.

The queen’s officials’ argument was that the flag represents the continuity of the monarchy and couldn’t be lowered. Eventually, once she left for the funeral upon returning to London, a Union flag was strung up at half-mast in compromise.

Fergie’s famous foot 

The Duchess of York made multiple headlines during and after her marriage to Prince Andrew. Picture: Keerle/Getty Images

The Duchess of York made multiple headlines during and after her marriage to Prince Andrew. Picture: Keerle/Getty Images

Few could forget the infamous Sarah Ferguson toe-licking incident. Six years after she married Prince Andrew, the princess was photographed on holidays with another man, who was pictured apparently licking her foot.

It only went downhill for Fergie after that. The couple divorced the same year as Diana and Charles and Ferguson was later accused of accepting a £500,000 bribe to get access to her husband from an undercover journalist.

Prince Andrew 

The Duke of York gave up official royal duties in 2019. Picture: Tim Goode.

The Duke of York gave up official royal duties in 2019. Picture: Tim Goode.

Of course, her ex-husband was no saint in the media either, having to step down from his role as the UK’s trade envoy in 2011 because of some sketchy friendships, namely with the disgraced Jeffrey Epstein.

His ties to the convicted sex trafficker continued to land him in hot water and after he was accused of sexual assault in 2014 and defended his friendship with Epstein in a 2019 interview, he stepped down from official royal duties.

When Harry met Meghan 

Meghan Markle was the first real outsider to join the family.

Meghan Markle was the first real outsider to join the family.

As Diana’s son, poor Prince Harry didn’t stand a chance to live a life of privacy. With his older brother in line for the throne, Harry went off to try to lead a normal life and was skewed in the media.

He was soon apologising for an endless stream of unthoughtful activity, like attending a Halloween party in a Nazi costume at age 20, spending one day in rehab at the order of his father to learn about the dangers of cannabis at 17, and being pictured playing strip poker at a private party in Las Vegas before being deployed to Afghanistan.

The world never fell out of love with Harry, however, and many were thrilled when he finally found the love of his life - a divorced American woman. Ring any bells?

While many thought Diana to be the 'people’s princess', Meghan Markle was really the first outsider to join the family. Before she was a star on the hit television series Suits, Markle was brought up in a humble California home and worked odd acting jobs such as on Deal or No Deal before landing her break.

Soon, she would become the first US-born royal, much to the delight of Americans. Unlike his great-uncle, Harry was given his family’s blessing to marry a divorced woman and proposed to Markle in 2017. 

The world became obsessed with the young couple and tried to find scandal everywhere they could, often focusing on Markle’s strained relationship with her father. The endless hounding would eventually lead to the family’s most recent PR nightmare to date.

Harry and Meghan jump ship 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arriving at the Royal Albert Hall in London to attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music, one of their final appearances as official royals.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arriving at the Royal Albert Hall in London to attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music, one of their final appearances as official royals.

At the start of 2020, it all became too much for the young couple and the Duke and Duchess announced that they would be stepping back as senior members of the royal family and would become financially independent.

The announcement was huge news all over the world, with reports saying that Buckingham Palace has been blindsided by the decision. One year on, the couple is starting to give interviews again from their new home in California where they have another baby on the way.  Their long-awaited sit down with Oprah is airing in the US on March 7.

Oh to be the queen’s PR team next Monday.

Watch Oprah with Meghan and Harry on Monday, March 8: UTV at 9pm; RTÉ2, 9.30pm

The Duchess of Sussex during her interview with Oprah Winfrey. Picture: Harpo Productions /Joe Pugliese/PA Wire

The Duchess of Sussex during her interview with Oprah Winfrey. Picture: Harpo Productions /Joe Pugliese/PA Wire

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up