A Definitive List Of The Most Famous Scandals From The Modern British Royal Family

Scandals always captivate the public, and British royal family scandals are the cream of the crop, proving the family is not exempt from the grip of impropriety and public embarrassment. Until 2022, the modern royal family, the Windsors, was headed by Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning queen England has ever had. Her children, unfortunately, have borne the brunt of numerous scandals over the years: Prince Andrew allegedly slept with a 17-year-old sex slave and was relieved of all his royal duties; Prince Charles had a salacious affair that was highly publicized; and Princess Anne, who was once nearly kidnapped, was besieged by adultery rumors concerning her ex-husband. Of course, scandal is not new to the royal family. Queen Elizabeth's uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated his throne to marry a divorcee, and the story of the love affair between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend, a married man, was huge news during the '50s. 

This list details the most sordid and highly publicized scandals the Windsors have experienced in modern history.

Photo: Peter Rhys Williams / Shutterstock.com

  • Then-Prince Charles Had A Decades-Long Affair With Camilla Parker-Bowles, While They Were Both Married To Other People

    King Charles III made no secret of his love for Camilla Parker-Bowles, before, during, or after his marriage to Diana Spencer. Then-Prince Charles and Camilla met in 1970, but couldn't marry due to Camilla's "promiscuous" history (she had had previous boyfriends). Charles married Diana, and together they had two sons; however, Charles never stopped loving Camilla, and in 1986, they began an affair.

    In an interview, Diana admitted she knew full well of the affair, and had even confronted Camilla about it. Controversially, Charles and Camilla married in 2005, eight years after Diana's death.

  • Sarah Ferguson Tried To Sell Access To Prince Andrew

    Scandal-plagued Sarah Ferguson was once caught accepting a bribe of over £500,000 in exchange for open access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew. In May 2010, the press released footage of Ferguson putting £40,000 in her purse and demanding 500,000 more; in exchange, she said, she could "open doors." 

    Ferguson later went on Oprah to explain herself, claiming she had a drinking problem at the time. Remarkably, Andrew forgave her.

  • Both Charles And Diana Had Private Phone Conversations Leaked

    Charles's affair with Camilla Parker Bowles was no secret to Diana, who had an affair of her own with army captain James Hewitt. Not surprisingly, the Prince and Princess of Wales couldn't hide their extramarital relationships from the public, either, and both had personal and revealing phone calls leaked.

    Charles's conversation was insanely scandalous and dubbed "Tampongate," as the conversation involved Charles telling Camilla he wanted to live in her underpants, perhaps as a tampon. Diana's was a bit more innocent; the conversation, which she insisted was not adulterous in its nature, involved a man named James Gilbey calling her "Squidgy" numerous times.

  • King Edward VIII Abdicated His Throne To Marry The Woman He Loved

    Perhaps the most impactful royal scandal in the history of the modern British monarchy occurred when Edward VIII chose to marry Wallis Simpson instead of being king. The only problem was, he already was king. Less than a year into his reign, in 1936, Edward (who allegedly disliked royal life anyway) chose to abdicate his throne and marry Simpson.

    Since Simpson was divorced (twice), the church forbade their union, forcing Edward's hand. They were given the titles of Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but were shut out from the royal family. They remained married until Edward's death in 1972.

  • Prince Harry Wore A Nazi Costume

    In 2005, when Prince Harry was 20, he made an unfortunate choice when he decided to dress up as a Nazi for a fancy dress costume party. The young prince wore a white shirt with a red armband emblazoned with a swastika.

    The public seemed split over the costume, with many calling for Harry's removal from the Royal Military Academy, and others deeming the stunt a simple "lack of judgment."

  • A Man Snuck Into Queen Elizabeth's Bedroom
    Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 199-1992-089-19A / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

    A Man Snuck Into Queen Elizabeth's Bedroom

    In 1992, Michael Fagan climbed a drain pipe and entered Queen Elizabeth II's private bedroom. She spoke to him for 10 minutes and was able to alert security to his presence when the intruder asked for a cigarette; she enlisted a footman to keep Fagan occupied until security arrived.

    Fagan wasn't charged, but in 2007, it became a criminal offense to trespass on protected sites in the United Kingdom.