Royal drama: The biggest scandals during Queen Elizabeth II's reign

From the divorce of Prince Charles and Diana to the stepping down of Harry and Meghan as royals, Queen Elizabeth weathered many a scandal during her 70-year reign

FP Explainers September 09, 2022 10:00:04 IST
Royal drama: The biggest scandals during Queen Elizabeth II's reign

In her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II had to weather many scandals and controversies. AFP

Queen Elizabeth II passed away at the age of 96 at Balmoral in Scotland on 8 September, plunging Britain into deep mourning.

Before her death, the United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch was cherished for a stoic calm that exemplified her nation’s wartime slogan, “Keep calm and carry on.”

Also read: Queen Elizabeth is dead: Here’s what happens for the next 10 days until her funeral

However, it’s not not been all rainbows and sunshine for Queen Elizabeth II. Controversies involving Prince Charles, Meghan Markle and more brought extra attention during the Queen’s record-long monarchy, which lasted from 1952 until her death on Thursday at age 96.

Royal drama The biggest scandals during Queen Elizabeth IIs reign

It was supposed to be a fairy tale, but the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana turned out to be anything but that. AP

Diana and Charles and the ‘third’ in their marriage

The royal marriage of Prince Charles and Diana attracted worldwide attention; it was going to be a fairy tale. The most eligible bachelor, Prince Charles, the royalty, was about to marry a young, beautiful Diana.

But the bubble quickly burst. In 1992, Charles and Diana officially announced their separation.

In 1995, Diana sat down for a tell-all solo interview with journalist Martin Bashir to talk about the immense pressures of public life and her struggles with self-harm, postpartum depression, and bulimia.

She famously quipped that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”, alluding to Charles’ affair with Camilla.

Diana even admitted that she’d been unfaithful to Charles, saying that she had been “in love” with James Hewitt, her riding instructor.

The ugliness ended abruptly in 1997 when Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris.

Princess Anne’s love story

Princess Anne, the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was married to Olympic equestrian Mark Phillips for nearly 20 years before they got divorced in 1992.

The couple spent large swaths of time apart and didn’t appear to be happy — People magazine described the marriage as a “joyless sham.”

What prompted their divorce was when a British tabloid reported of ‘extremely intimate’ and ‘too hot to handle’ letters between Anne and one of her equerries — a British naval officer named Timothy Laurence.

Royal drama The biggest scandals during Queen Elizabeth IIs reign

File image of a man reading the British tabloid The Sun featuring Harry wearing a khaki uniform with an armband emblazoned with a swastika, emblem of the German WWII Nazi Party. AFP

The Nazi thing

In 2005, Prince Harry sparked outrage when he went to a costume party dressed as a Nazi.

The prince, who was 20 at the time, quickly released a statement of apology that read: “Prince Harry has apologised for any offence or embarrassment he has caused. He realises it was a poor choice of costume.”

Harry’s Vegas adventure

Whatever happens in Vegas, doesn’t really stay in Vegas. Not when it comes to the Royal family.

In 2012, naked images of the 27-year-old British prince, who was on a break before his Afghanistan tour of duty, were splashed everywhere.

He said after the incident, “At the end of the day I probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down. But it was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince. It’s a simple case of that.”

Royal drama The biggest scandals during Queen Elizabeth IIs reign

An arrangement of UK daily newspapers report on the story of the interview given by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wife of Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, to Oprah Winfrey. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s explosive tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey went much further than expected. AFP


When Prince Harry announced his engagement to Meghan Markle, the world applauded the British monarchy for transforming and becoming modern — she was non-British, of mixed race and an actor.

However, things went very awry and in 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan announced they will be “stepping back” from senior royal duties.

What followed was what the British tabloids termed as Megxit and the couple with their child — Archie had just been born — moved to California in America.

In March 2021, Meghan and Harry gave a tell-all interview to Oprah Winfrey about their rift with the royal family, revealing one bombshell after another.

The two revealed in that interview that members of the royal family had “concerns and conversations” about how dark Archie’s skin would be before he was born. Meghan also opened up about having suicidal thoughts amid constant tabloid criticism and racism, and said a senior member of the royal institution wouldn’t let her seek help.

Harry also revealed how his family cut him off financially in the first quarter of 2020, and that Prince Charles stopped taking his phone calls before they announced they were stepping back from the royal family.

The explosive revelations made the headlines of every newspaper and media channel, prompting Buckingham Palace to put out a statement, acknowledging the tough times the couple had had and that the recollections would be taken very seriously and addressed by the family privately.

Andrew stripped of title and military titles

One of the biggest scandals in the history of the royal family involves Prince Andrew, who was allegedly accused of sexual assault by Virginia Guiffre, nee Roberts, a minor during the time of the incident.

Virigina claimed she “was forced to have sexual relations with this prince when she was a minor in three separate geographical locations.” She accused the prince and his billionaire friend, Jeffrey Epstein of keeping her as a “sex slave.”

In a BBC interview with Emily Maitlis, Andrew said that he had no regrets about his association with Epstein. Predictably, this statement received enormous public backlash.
In early 2022, amid the civil suit against him, Andrew was stripped of his honorary military roles as well as his royal patronages.

The British media had then reported that he would also no longer use the title “his royal highness″ in official settings.

These scandals clearly show that while living the royal life seems like a dream, it is, in fact, quite nightmarish.

With inputs from agencies

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