The most shocking royal scandals of all time

·7-min read

When we think of royalty, we think of dignified aristocrats living a sophisticated life in stately homes with worldwide travel and exclusive access to experiences we couldn't dream of having.

What we don't expect is a family with just as many skeletons in their closet, airing their dirty laundry for all and sundry to see. 

The royals on the Buckingham Palace balcony
The royal family have had their fair share of scandals over the years. Photo: Getty Images

And with teams of advisers, courtiers and aides helping them to make their decisions, you'd think that they'd have learnt by now to listen to them. 


Here we look at the top five scandals that have rocked the British royal family and knocked some shine off their high-class facade. 

It's A Royal Knockout

Back in 1987, Prince Edward was trying to make a name for himself in TV and theatre and thought it would be a good idea for the royal family to do a game show and let the public see just how down with the people they were. It's A Knockout was a popular TV show at the time and Edward decided that it was perfect to be given the royal treatment. 

It's A Royal Knockout on YouTube
What were they thinking! Prince Andrew and wife Sarah Ferguson appeared to have fun on It's A Royal Knockout back in1987. Photo: YouTube

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh of course did not take part and the Prince and Princess of Wales also declined to be involved. 

Heading the teams were Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, his wife at the time Sarah Ferguson and Prince Edward. They were joined on their teams by a variety of well-known celebrities including Meatloaf, Christopher Reeve, Tom Jones, John Travolta, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and our very own Debbie Flintoff. 

 It's A Royal Knockout in 1987
Princess Anne and Prince Edward on the 1987 It's A Royal Knockout. Photo: YouTube

It took part at Alton Towers theme park and raised over £1 million (approximately $1,860,000) for the charities that each team represented but it was seen as a disaster for the reputation of the royal family.

"It was a terrible mistake," one of the Monarch's acquaintances told author Ben Pimlott for his book The Queen. "She was against it. But one of her faults is that she can't say no."

"There was not a single courtier who did not think it was a mistake," another recalled for Pimlott's book.

The British public expected a certain sense of decorum and civility from their royal family and having them scream, yell and compete in a silly game show was not what they expected from a head of state.

Fergie toe-sucking

The Duke of York Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson
Prince Andrew, The Duke of York and wife Sarah, Duchess of York pictured in 1988 during their marriage. Photo: AP Photo/Terry O’Neill

The Duke and Duchess of York announced their separation in March 1992 but just five months later, the Duchess, better known as Fergie, was caught out with her financial advisor John Bryan on holiday at her villa in Saint Tropez. The couple were relaxing by the pool, kissing and cuddling with two-year-old Eugenie close by. 

What really shocked people however was pictures of the Texan millionaire sucking Fergie's toes! No member of the royal family had ever been caught on camera in such an intimate and unguarded way.

"Bryan promised her everything would be fine, but I could see in his face that he didn’t really believe it," The Mirror's royal writer Richard Kay recalled in his Daily Mail column later.

"In a few short hours, those pictures were going to be on the breakfast room sideboard in the Queen’s castle. They would also be winging around the world to be pored over by millions." 

Charles cheats on Diana with Camilla

Charles and Camilla in 1972
Prince Charles chats to Camilla Parker-Bowles at a polo match, circa 1972. Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Charles affair with his former girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles, was first revealed in Andrew Morton's biography Diana, Her True Story in 1992, the same year as the Prince and Princess separated, in what is probably the closest to an autobiography that there was of the Princess.  

But what really shocked the world was the steamy bedtime chats between Charles and Camilla which were leaked to the press in 1993.

In what is referred to as 'Tampongate', the newly separated Prince Charles had proclaimed to Camilla, who was also still married, over the phone that he wished he was her tampon to be closer to her.

Camilla and Diana at the racecourse
Camilla Parker-Bowles (left) and Lady Diana Spencer (later the Princess of Wales) at Ludlow racecourse to watch the Steeplechase in which the Prince was competing. Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

The conversation was peppered with how they missed each other and what they wanted to do when they next met up. Here is just a snippet so you get the idea:

CHARLES: "I want to feel my way along you, all over you and up and down you and in and out..."


CHARLES: "Particularly in and out."

CAMILLA: "Oh, that's just what I need at the moment."

Reading it felt like you'd overheard your mum and dad talk dirty and you just wanted to scrub your eyes to remove what you'd just read.

"The backlash was savage," Diana's protection officer, Ken Wharfe, revealed in his autobiography Guarding Diana: Protecting The Princess Around The World. "Establishment figures normally loyal to the future King and country were appalled, and some questioned the Prince’s suitability to rule."

When Diana sat down for a tell-all BBC chat with Martin Bashir about her marriage in 1995, she seemed to confirm that the affair had been going on throughout Charles and Diana's marriage saying: "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

Prince Andrew's friendship with Jeffery Epstein

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew's relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein has been one of the biggest scandals in the royal family in recent years. Photo: Getty Images

Prince Andrew's relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein has been one of the biggest scandals in the royal family in recent years.   

The prince resigned from all public duties after he gave an ill-advised TV interview, which went over poorly both with the media and public.

Responding to allegations made against him by Virginia Giuffre that he had been "profusely sweating", the royal said he could not have been sweaty due to a media condition following the Falklands War. 

"I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War when I was shot at, and I simply—it was almost impossible for me to sweat," he said during the TV interview. 

Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kissing on their wedding day
Newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kiss on the steps of St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. Photo: Ben Birchhall/pool photo via AP

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided to step back from royal duties after their marriage, no one could have predicted just how badly things would go for the couple. However, if Harry had looked closely at his family history, he may have got a bit of an inkling.

His own great grandfather King Edward's decision to forgo the crown and marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson had left the couple in obscurity. And if that is what Meghan and Harry had wanted, stepping down from royal life was the perfect decision.

However, Harry and Meghan courted the American media after their departure from their roles as senior royals, offering access to what royal life was really like.

The couple gave a bombshell interview to talk show queen Oprah Winfrey levelling a number of accusations against the royal family and even accusing one member, who they did not name, of being racist.

While the royal family typically do not address rumours about their family, the fallout is said to run deep, with Charles and William both being incredibly hurt by what he said about them, their wives and most of all the Queen. 

And while Prince Harry said in the interview his biggest fear is "history repeating itself", that may be exactly what could happen as, according to Princess Diana's former private secretary Patrick Jephson, she "deeply regretted" her tell-all interview with Martin Bashir.

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