If you haven’t devoured the two seasons of The Crown that are currently on Netflix then you should absolutely drop everything you’re doing and start binging now. The drama about Britain’s royal family is riveting, and the details of Queen Elizabeth II’s life will have your jaw on the floor.
While the show definitely hypes up the drama, the real-life royals haven’t been without their fair share of drama. There have been sex scandals, Nazi uniforms, rehab stints, and so much more. We’ve rounded up 16 royal family scandals that will have your jaw on the floor, proving once and for all that even the Windsors aren’t immune to a little bit of embarrassment and impropriety.
16. Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend
If you’ve spent any time watching The Crown on Netflix, then you know at least a little something about the relationship between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend. Princess Margaret is Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister, and was, at one point, second in line to the throne. She had a torrid affair with Townsend when she was a teenager and he was in his 30s, married, and essentially an assistant to the King.
After she turned 25, and Townsend’s divorce was official, they technically could have been free to marry without permission from the Queen. However, when Princess Margaret learned that she’d lose her royal title and income, she decided to publicly end the relationship in 1955.
15. The Nazi Costume
Talk about poor judgment! Back in 2005, when Prince Harry was a 20-year-old university student, he showed up to a fancy dress party (the British term for a costume party) in bona fide Nazi regalia. The prince was photographed wearing a white button-up shirt, and infamous red armband emblazoned with a swastika and holding a cup of what was almost certainly liquor. Unsurprisingly, his poor choice of Halloween costume caused a huge stir, with some calling for his removal from the Royal Military Academy and plenty of others demanding a public apology. We all make dumb mistakes sometimes, but this one seems particularly bad, especially coming from a royal!
14. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
This one happened so long ago, way back in 1936, that it may not seem like such a big deal now, but it was arguably the biggest royal scandal in the history of the modern British monarchy. Edward VIII was a year into his reign as king when he chose to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. Unfortunately for the both of them, the Church of England forbade marriage between a royal and a divorcee. Which meant that Edward had to choose: Wallis or the crown. He chose Wallis, abdicated the throne, and the pair was given the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The rest of the royal family essentially cut them off, but it seems to have been worth it — Edward and Wallis remained married until his death in 1972.
13. VE Day
When you’re a member of the royal family, you can count on the fact that your every move is monitored. It’s partially for your own safety (there are a lot of crazy people out there who would willingly do unspeakable things), but also partially so that you don’t slip up and bring shame to the family name (à la Prince Harry the Nazi). Well, on VE day in 1945, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth were given permission to leave Buckingham Palace in order to join their subjects in celebrating. At some point in the night, the two girls slipped away from their handlers and ended up doing the conga in the Ritz, getting buzzed, and walking arm in arm with “the commoners” down the streets. Reportedly, the now well-behaved Queen still regards it as one of the most memorable nights of her life, and a movie was recently made based off the events of the night entitled A Royal Night Out.
12. The Love Child
Princess Anne is Queen Elizabeth’s only daughter. In 1973, she married Lieutenant Mark Phillips in a highly-anticipated wedding. Twelve years later, Mark fathered a love child with an art teacher in New Zealand after a one-night stand. Princess Anne and Mark separated and finally divorced in 1992 — theirs was the first royal divorce in 400 years! To make the scandal even more outrageous, it became known that Anne had been having an affair with an employee of the Queen, Timothy Laurence while still married to Mark. In the end, after the news broke and once her mega-publicized divorce was finalized, Anne and Timothy got married in a tiny ceremony that took place in 1992 and remain married to this day.
In 1992, Princess Diana and Prince Charles were still married. Also, in 1992, the transcript of a private phone call between Diana and her alleged lover James Gilbey was leaked. Throughout the course of the couple’s conversation, Gilbey called Diana by his pet name for her, “Squidgy,” a total of 53 times, which earned the scandal it’s mortifying moniker: Squidgygate. Diana eventually confirmed that the call was real, but denied the affair and the fact that her relationship with Gilbey was adulterous in nature. But still, the damage was done and the palace was reportedly mortified.
Princess Diana wasn’t the only one with an embarrassing phone call leaked. Her then-husband Prince Charles had been having a years-long affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles and had made no secret of it. In 1992, he also had a flirty and very private phone call with his mistress leaked, in which he essentially said he wouldn’t mind coming back as a Kotex because it would enable him to be in her pants a lot more frequently. Awk! We’re blushing just reading this. The secret recording lead to some serious embarrassment for the royal family, and eventually lead Diana to confront both her husband and Camilla about their affair, which we can’t imagine was all that pleasant.
9. What happens in Vegas…
… definitely doesn’t stay in Vegas. At least not if you’re a royal. When Prince Harry was there with friends in August 2012 a paparazzi snapped a picture of the naked prince partying. He was reportedly playing strip billiards with his friends, and, from the looks of it, was down a few rounds. The photo of the heir to the throne with his pants down (and an equally naked girl standing behind him) made the internet and tabloid rounds for weeks. Harry eventually apologized for the photo, saying “I let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down.” He also maintained that the photo was an extreme violation of his privacy (which we totally agree with). Hopefully, from now on he’ll keep the blinds drawn while he’s partying!
8. Sarah Ferguson and the toes
Once upon a time, Sarah Ferguson was married to Prince Andrew (the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip). No one in the royal family was very excited about the match, and it ended up being short-lived as they separated after only six years of marriage. In 1992, right after their separation, Sarah was photographed on vacation with her financial advisor John Bryan. There were titters behind the scenes about the appropriateness of their relationship, but the fact that she was topless and that John was sucking on her toes really got the people going. The royal family ended up shunning her after the photo was taken and her public image took a major hit.
7. Kate Middleton’s Awkward Moment
When Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011, it seemed to most people like the perfect match. She was scandal-free, the public loved her, and she had a good handle on the demands of royal life. Unfortunately for the happy couple, things couldn’t just stay that easy. During a romantic getaway at a chateau in France, the paparazzi managed to snap some pictures of the couple sunbathing. In an effort to avoid tan lines, Kate was topless, and even though it’s something we’ve all done a hundred times, it was a big deal because of her status. Unlike Prince Harry, the couple didn’t apologize for the nude pictures but instead blasted the press for crossing so many boundaries and having no respect for their privacy. Good for them!
6. Underage Drinking
Out of all the members of the modern royal family, we’d chose Prince Harry as the most likely to get caught trying to drink underage. But, it was actually his father Prince Charles who got nailed for this back in 1963. The second in line to the throne was just 15 when he walked into a pub on a school trip and ordered a cherry brandy. Granted, the drinking age is 18 in England, but still, being three years younger his behavior ignited an international scandal. We’re sure the Queen had some strong words for her son when he got home.
Prince Harry definitely seems to have inherited his wild-child party-boy ways from his father, Prince Charles. While Charles was getting caught underage drinking, Harry seemed to have more of a liking for marijuana. After getting caught smoking by dad, and being forced to admit that it wasn’t his first time, Charles concocted an extreme punishment that ignited a huge scandal. He sent him to rehab. Harry only spent a day in the rehab facility before heading home — apparently, that’s all it took for the 17-year-old to realize the error of his ways. But those 24 hours were enough to get rumors swirling that the young prince had been dealing with addiction for years. Whoops!
4. The Bribe
If you thought that Fergie would be a lot more careful with her ways after getting caught in such a compromising position with her rumored beau then you would definitely be wrong. In 2010, she offered a reporter access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew in exchange for 500,000 pounds. After News of the World caught her offer to “open doors” on tape, the duchess had to come forward and admit that she was in major debt. She apologized for her “lapse in judgment,” but it cut her off from the royal family even more than she had been previously. Apparently, the Royals didn’t take the bribe too lightly.
3. The Intruder
You would think that the Queen would be one of the most protected and guarded people in the world. Even though her position is largely symbolic these days, with most of the real governing power being in the hands of the parliament, she still holds an office that has been around for centuries. She’s definitely one of those figureheads whose death or kidnapping would send shockwaves throughout the world. Well, back in 1982, her security was proven to not quite be up to snuff when an intruder managed to enter her bedroom in the middle of the night. The man, Michael Fagan, scaled Buckingham Palace and talked to the Queen for ten minutes while she tried to calm him down. We can only imagine that a few dozen heads rolled that night after everything was back under control.
2. Diana’s Tell-All Interview
Prince Charles and Princess Diana had a tumultuous marriage. That much is for sure. The princess wasn’t totally sold on being a royal and definitely had her own way of doing things. One example? The exclusive interview she gave to BBC in 1995. Neither the Queen nor anyone else in the royal family knew that she was scheduled to spill her guts and share so many private details about life as a princess and life within the castle’s walls. So her extremely vulnerable, very frank interview caused quite a stir. One of the most memorable parts of the entire thing was her answer to being asked a question about Camilla Parker Bowles — “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Woah!
1. Prince Andrew The Pervert
And finally, the biggest royal family scandal of them all: Prince Andrew was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl. Andrew’s friend, Jeffrey Epstein, an American financier and registered sex offender in the United States, was the one to “set the girl up” with the Prince. The girl has alleged for years that she’s Epstein’s sex slave, and has been forced to travel the world with him offering her “services” whenever he demands. While official charges have yet to have been filed against Prince Andrew, his crime has been included in other (ongoing) cases and it’s hard to deny that the prince’s close association with his friends looks anything other than horrible.