Top 10 Scandals that Rocked Royal Families
VOICE OVER: Lisa Yang
Just because they're royalty doesn't mean they're above controversy. In this countdown we take a look at the Top 10 Scandals that Rocked Royal Families. We've included Prince Harry's party photos, Edward VIII's Abdication, Infanta Cristina of Spain on Trial, the Nepalese Royal Massacre, Princess Margaret & Peter Townsend's affair, Juan Carlos I of Spain's Sex Scandals, Camillagate and Princess Stephanie of Monaco wild child days.
Top 10 Scandals That Rocked Royal Families
They may be noble, but they’re not above controversy. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Scandals That Rocked Royal Families.
For this list, we’re looking at particularly noteworthy scandals that affected royal families, including but limited to, the British royal family.
#10: Prince Harry’s Photos
Along with his brother Prince William, Prince Harry is one of today’s most popular young royals. The two are very close, and dedicated humanitarians. Harry’s partying, however, has put him in hot water. In 2005, Harry was photographed wearing a Nazi costume while attending a friend’s dress-up party, just weeks before Holocaust Memorial Day. He was quick to apologize, but became tabloid fodder again in 2012. During a trip to Vegas, photos of Harry and his friends’ naked escapades were published, leading to more embarrassment. Harry has called out the paparazzi for invading his privacy, but he’s also focused his energy on military service and charity work. He’s no longer the “Party Prince,” but still knows how to have fun.
#9: Prince George, Duke of Kent
This uncle of Queen Elizabeth II was a seasoned pilot and admiral. Prince George was the first British royal to fly over the Atlantic, and the first to work as a civil servant. But behind these accomplishments lay his scandalous personal life. He reportedly had affairs with both men and women, and was said to be addicted to morphine and cocaine. His most notorious affair was with American socialite Kiki Preston, nicknamed “the girl with the silver syringe.” In 1942, 39-year-old George died in a plane crash, leaving behind a wife and three small children. He also left behind questions about the cause of the crash, with some suspecting he was murdered and others that he was drunk at the time.
#8: Edward VIII’s Abdication
The Duke of Kent’s older brother had his own scandal and it was one that would cost him the crown. In 1936, the notorious playboy decided to settle down with American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration. However, the Church of England forbade divorced people to remarry if the ex-spouse wasn’t deceased, and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin argued that the people would oppose Simpson as queen. As the head of the Church, King Edward was given three choices: call off the wedding; marry anyway, causing a constitutional crisis; or abdicate. In December 1936, Edward gave up the crown for the woman he loved. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor married six months later, staying together until his death in 1972.
#7: Infanta Cristina of Spain on Trial
In 2016, while the Spanish royal family was implicated in the infamous Panama Papers, one of their own was on trial. King Felipe VI’s sister Princess Cristina was charged with tax fraud, along with her husband Iñaki Urdangarin. While he was accused of embezzling around $7 million in public funds for sporting events through his charity, she was charged with 2 counts of tax fraud. King Felipe has since stripped them of their royal titles, and according to Forbes, Cristina is not part of formal or informal events involving the royal family. As of the beginning of 2017, she remained sixth in line to the Spanish throne, with the verdict still pending until March of that year.
#6: Carl XVI Gustaf’s Sex Scandal
The Swedish royal family has mostly avoided scandal, but this all changed in 2010. A book called “The Reluctant Monarch” claimed that King Carl Gustaf had a penchant for prostitutes and strip clubs. If you think that’s pretty shocking, it’s only scratching the surface. The book also accused the Swedish secret police of covering up the allegations. To top it off, despite being a country that has long supported free speech, one of the book’s authors was supposedly harassed and fired from her job in public broadcasting. The king hasn’t denied or confirmed the allegations, but told the press, “We choose to turn the page and move forward because, as I understand, these are things that happened a long time ago.”
#5: Nepalese Royal Massacre
Sadly, this scandal became a national tragedy. On June 1, 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra allegedly killed nine of his relatives, including his parents, King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya. Dipendra died three days later from gunshot wounds he had given himself at the scene of the crime. His motives are still unclear, but a family dispute over his chosen fiancée is a rumored cause. The murders left Nepal in a state of shock and disbelief. To this day, some Nepalese believe that Dipendra wasn’t the culprit, contrary to eyewitness testimony and the official investigation. King Birendra’s brother Gyanendra succeeded his brother, ruling for seven years. The Nepalese monarchy was abolished in 2008, but its tragic demise will never be forgotten.
#4: Princess Margaret & Peter Townsend
For fans of “The Crown,” this story is all too familiar. Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister, fell in love with family associate Captain Peter Townsend. However, Townsend was much older than Margaret, and was recently divorced. The press and the public were convinced that the two were an item, especially after seeing them together at Elizabeth’s coronation. The sisters thus faced a dilemma. Elizabeth loved them both, but she was the head of the Church of England, which still forbade divorced people to remarry. If Margaret married Townsend, she would also have to renounce her title. Ultimately, Princess Margaret announced that she would not marry Captain Townsend, placing tradition over a passionate romance.
#3: Juan Carlos I of Spain’s Sex Scandals
This former King of Spain ushered Spain into the age of democracy, but has gained infamy for his alleged womanizing. According to a book titled “The Solitude of the Queen,” King Juan Carlos has supposedly cheated throughout his marriage to Queen Sofía. In 2012, he made headlines for going on a hunting trip to Botswana while the Spanish economy was in recession. Not only that, he went with Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a close friend and German businesswoman who was rumoured to be his mistress. The king has even been hit with a paternity suit, though it never went through because of his sovereign immunity. After almost forty years on the throne, Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014, but his controversial personal life threatens to tarnish his royal legacy.
#2: Fergie & Cash for Access
Born Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York is the ex-wife of Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. She first made headlines in 1992, when paparazzi photos of her sunbathing topless and getting her toes sucked – not by Prince Andrew - were published. Understandably, this was humiliating for Fergie and her in-laws since they were still married, though technically separated. The Duke and Duchess of York divorced in 1996, and Fergie eventually found herself struggling financially. In May 2010, she was secretly filmed selling access to her former in-laws to an undercover journalist. Fergie was therefore not invited to Will and Kate’s wedding, but she has since focused on rebuilding herself and her writing career…with a little help from Oprah, of course!
Before we get to our #1royal family scandal, here are some dishonourable mentions:
Prince Ernst August of Hanover Caught Cheating
Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, the ‘Wild Child’
Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld & the Lockheed Bribery Scandal
Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage was a fairytale; their divorce was a national nightmare. Diana’s admission of a five-year affair with her former riding instructor James Hewitt, damaged her reputation. But the exposure of Charles’ affair with married ex-girlfriend Camilla Parker-Bowles proved far more humiliating. In an early ‘90s phone call, Charles joked to Camilla that he wanted to be her tampon. The call was secretly recorded and transcripts were published in the tabloids. This embarrassed the couple and the royal family, who would be hounded by paparazzi even after Diana’s death in 1997. Charles and Camilla married in 2005. Now a seemingly happy couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall are putting the royal pain of Tampongate behind them.