The royal family are, of course, a very British institution. But it’s hard to deny that they’re also something of a scandal factory. That’s probably why the gossip magazines and the tabloid newspapers love them so much – they’re like the world’s longest-running reality TV show. Keeping Up With the Windsors?. Hey, it could work pretty well if they ever found themselves short of cash. So here are 20 of the scandals and secrets that the Crown and its public relations machine would have preferred to keep under wraps – and they’re mostly worse than anything the Kardashians have ever gotten up to.
20. Wallis Simpson was a Nazi sympathizer
If you’re a British history buff, you’ll already know that Wallis Simpson won the heart of King Edward VIII and triggered a 1936 abdication crisis in the process. What you may not be aware of, though, is that Simpson had some very unsavory personal opinions. During World War II, for example, the FBI uncovered that she’d been a lover to the Nazis’ foreign minister and was “pro-German in her sympathies.” Edward VIII, too, reportedly shared at least some of her views.
19. Prince Charles “wanted to be Camilla’s Tampax”
Before Camilla Parker Bowles became Prince Charles’ wife and the Duchess of Cornwall, she was his mistress. And they participated in oddly hilarious dirty talk on the sly. In fact, a phone conversation leaked in 1992 revealed Charles expressing a wish to “live inside [Camilla’s] trousers” as “a pair of knickers” or “a Tampax”. The press dubbed this incident “tampongate,” and – naturally – it was embarrassing for everyone.
18. Prince Philip is prone to making racist comments
No matter how much his PR agents must cringe, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, can’t seem to stop making insensitive gaffes. In 1986, for example, the Duke of Edinburgh “joked” to British students in China, “If you stay here much longer, you’ll go slit-eyed.” Then in 2002 he asked an Australian Aboriginal leader, “Do you still throw spears at each other?” And that’s just the half of it…
17. The Queen had two secret cousins
Back in the 1940s mentally disabled people were often sent away somewhere and kept out of sight. And that’s seemingly what happened to two of the Queen’s cousins, Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon. In a 2011 TV documentary, moreover, nurses claimed that the family never even visited them or saw them; another of Her Majesty’s cousins, however, said that this was definitely untrue.
16. Diana threw herself down stairs while pregnant
Throughout her marriage to Prince Charles, Diana, Princes of Wales, was often desperately unhappy, and mental illness soon took a toll on her. Certainly this was demonstrated by at least one disturbing incident: in 1982, while she was pregnant with Prince William, she threw herself down the stairs. “The Queen came out and saw me and was horrified,” she was reported as saying in a phone conversation with biographer Andrew Morton.
15. Princess Beatrice dated a criminal
In 2006, aged just 17, Princess Beatrice began dating American playboy Paolo Liuzzo. Unfortunately, he’d been involved in the death of a teenager after a drunken fight and was eventually convicted of assault and battery. Then in 2009 – after splitting up from Beatrice – he was caught with cocaine and arrested again. Yikes.
14. The Duchess of York was caught in the act
In 1992 the Duchess of York was caught in a very compromising position indeed. Just a few months after Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson had separated, in fact, she was photographed topless on a beach frolicking with financial manager John Bryan. Worse still, Bryan was even snapped sucking the Duchess’ toes. Prince Philip was allegedly amused at this state of affairs; the Queen, though, wasn’t and banned her from Balmoral.
13. Prince Harry once wore a Nazi uniform
In 2005 the 20-year-old Prince Harry made the rather ill-advised decision to wear a Nazi outfit to a costume party. And outrage at the move was high in the U.K. at the time – not least among British tabloids. Consequently, royal officers had to release a statement that read, “Prince Harry has apologized for any offense or embarrassment he has caused. He realizes it was a poor choice of costume.” Pity he didn’t realize his mistake, though, before he made it.
12. Diana claimed Charles triggered her eating disorder
Being a royal bride was a nightmare for Diana, seemingly. And on top of everything else, there was also the pressure to keep thin – something she attempted to maintain by vomiting after eating. “[The] bulimia started the week after we got engaged. Charles said, you’re getting a bit chubby, and that triggered something off,” she said in a conversation with Andrew Morton.
11. Princess Anne was fined after her dog attacked children
No matter how much the royal family love dogs, that doesn’t always mean their canines are well-behaved. In 2002, for example, Charles’ younger sister Princess Anne pleaded guilty in court after her dog Dotty attacked two children. And as a result, the Princess had to pay a small fine and compensation. But to the anger of the victims’ families – who felt that the dog was a menace to the public – Dotty wasn’t destroyed.
10. Prince Andrew was friends with a convicted pedophile
The “Controversy” section on Prince Andrew, Duke of York’s Wikipedia page is longer than most people’s, but the standout scandal is probably his friendship with Jeffery Epstein, a convicted pedophile. Epstein even reportedly paid off some of Sarah Ferguson’s debts. And while the media duly inquired as to the Duke’s other dealings with a man who was found guilty of pimping out an underage girl, no other information was forthcoming. In 2011, though, the Duke claimed to have cut off contact with him.
9. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were cousins
While the relationship of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria wasn’t a scandal back in their day, these days it could cause quite a few raised eyebrows. That’s because Victoria and Albert – the great-great-grandparents of Queen Elizabeth II – were in fact first cousins. Regardless, though, their relationship was very loving, and after Albert died Victoria never recovered from her grief.
8. Mike Tindall spent a drunken night in a “dwarf-tossing” club
While rugby player Mike Tindall doesn’t have a royal title, he’s the husband of Zara Phillips and, consequently, the son-in-law of Princess Anne. So it was all the more embarrassing when he was pictured at a “dwarf tossing” event in a seedy bar with a woman who wasn’t his wife. And even with the possible infidelity put to one side, many people – including Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage – were very much unimpressed.
7. Diana claimed her father was abusive
In one of the tape recordings broadcast after her death, Princess Diana also revealed yet another disturbing snippet about her past. In particular, she noted, “I remember seeing my father slap my mother across the face and I was crying on the floor… Mummy was crying an awful lot.” In addition, and rather heartbreakingly, she would go on to describe her childhood as “very unhappy.”
6. Prince Harry was caught using racial slurs
In 2009 a tape emerged of Prince Harry three years prior using racial slurs to refer to members of his army platoon. And while the Palace quickly jumped in to say that Harry had intended them “without malice,” the damage was already done. As a result, moreover, his reputation took a considerable blow.
5. Princess Margaret had an affair with a man 17 years her junior
The Queen’s sister, the late Princess Margaret, was no stranger to scandal herself – not least through her sometimes scurrilous romantic entanglements. In 1973, for example, and while still married to her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones, she embarked on an eight-year affair with Roddy Llewellyn. Even more controversially, Llewellyn was a gardener 17 years younger than her. And that liaison was the final nail in the coffin for her marriage.
4. Prince Andrew went on vacation with a gun smuggler
It certainly seems that Prince Andrew really doesn’t care who he’s seen with – in 2008 he even went on vacation to Tunisia with Tarek Kaituni, a convicted gun smuggler. And that fact has naturally seen him castigated by the press. “Prince Andrew dazzles easily when confronted with immense wealth and apparent power,” wrote The Times in 2015. “He has fallen for ‘friendships’ with bad, corrupt and clever men.”
3. Diana’s private conversations were leaked to the press
In 1992 – the Royal Family’s “annus horribilis,” as the Queen put it – transcripts of Princess Diana’s private phone calls were released to the press. And in them, she speaks to her friend and rumored lover James Gilbey, who refers to her by the affectionate nickname “Squidgy.” Consequently, the media gleefully nicknamed the embarrassing reveal “Squidgygate.”
2. The Duchess of York was caught in a bribery scandal
Sarah Ferguson had already had a few scandals to her name by 2010; that year, however, saw perhaps her most damaging one yet. To wit, an undercover reporter filmed her selling access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew for $700,000. And the resulting expose certainly didn’t keep her in the Palace’s good books. As punishment for her behavior, in fact, she wasn’t invited to the Prince William-Kate Middleton wedding in 2011.
1. Prince Harry was once sent to drug rehab
When Prince Harry was in his teens, he was considered something of a party animal. In 2002, however, news broke that he had been sent to rehab for a day. It turned out that his father Charles had gotten wind of his son’s drug-taking so decided to scare him straight – and it worked. What’s more, Charles was actually praised by the media for his intervention.