Top 10 Scandals That Rocked Royal Families
We’re all familiar with the scandals surrounding the likes of Princess Diana, her one-time husband, and their youngest son. But they aren’t the only royals with skeletons hidden away in the proverbial closet. Scandals have struck royal families all around the world, and every time, they cause huge sensations, giant headlines, and public outrage.
10 Prince Bernhard And The Lockheed Scandal
In 1959, the Dutch government was looking to build a new fleet of jet fighters. Needless to say, this contract would be worth millions. One company in particular, the Lockheed Corporation, began to pull out in front, and Lockheed officials looked to Prince Bernhard and his “business expertise” to encourage the Dutch government in their direction. Naturally, Bernhard charged a fee for this endorsement, and he was paid $1 million, which was discreetly sent to a Swiss bank account.
In reality, despite his genuine efforts, Bernhard had little influence on the final decision. Nevertheless, the Dutch government decided to back Lockheed, and the company was awarded the contract. Several years later in 1968, Lockheed was again looking to land a similar contract, so they went back to Bernhard for “consultation.” While Lockheed missed out on the contract this time, Bernhard was still paid $100,000 for his “work” during the negotiations.
It wasn’t until the mid-1970s, when Lockheed was on the verge of bankruptcy, that a number of “commission” payments were discovered, including the vast amounts paid to Bernhard. Investigations were launched on both sides of the Atlantic. But things came to a forced conclusion for the Dutch when Queen Juliana threatened to abdicate if Bernhard (her husband) was prosecuted. He was instead forced to resign from his official duties and forbidden from wearing his military uniform. With these punishments, he also lost the ability to charge substantial fees for his so-called “influence.”
9 Edward VIII Abdicates His Throne
When Edward VIII voluntarily renounced his throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson in 1936, it was a surprise to no one but the British public. While the world press reported freely on Edward’s relationship with the twice-divorced Simpson, the British press declined to do so. It was basically self-censorship.
That all changed after the Bishop of Bradford, Dr. Alfred Blunt, took a verbal swipe at the king’s “playboy” lifestyle. Journalists mistook the comment as a public announcement about Edward’s mistress, at which point they ran the story in all its glory in December 1936.
A week later, Edward was no longer king.
As a result, the British public directed their anger at Simpson. Angry citizens smashed the windows of her home, and she received bags full of hate mail. Desperate, she quickly “escaped” to the south of France.
Initially, Edward had hoped that his popularity would eventually permit him to have Simpson as his queen. But in the end, such a marriage wouldn’t be tolerated by the British public or those in positions of power. Edward’s mother, Queen Mary, insisted he put “duty before his heart.” She wanted him to finish his affair with Simpson and choose a more befitting queen. He refused, and on December 10, he abdicated his throne, paving the way for his brother, George, to become the new king.
Edward’s new title was now the Duke of Windsor. He did marry his beloved Wallis Simpson, and they remained together until his death in 1972, at the age of 77.
8 Princess Margaret And Captain Peter Townsend
In the weeks leading up to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, people were whispering about Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret. There were rumors going around about her love life, and Margaret all but confirmed them during the coronation ceremony. The only problem was the man she loved was very much her senior . . . and had already been married and recently divorced.
Captain Peter Townsend was a longtime friend and associate of the royal family. He had also recently been made “Controller of the House of the Queen Mother.” Around this time, people began commenting on how he appeared to be in a relationship with Princess Margaret. After all, they were certainly spending a lot of time together.
During Elizabeth’s coronation, Margaret was speaking passionately with Townsend, and she leaned forward to “affectionately” brush a strand of hair from his uniform. The gesture, as impulsive as it was, was immediately noticed by reporters.
Suddenly, the newly anointed Queen Elizabeth II was facing her first possible crisis of state. She loved her sister and was equally fond of Townsend, and it’s unlikely that she objected to their pairing as a matter of principle. However, as the head of the Church of England, she simply could not endorse their relationship. If they wished to marry, then Margaret would have to give up her title and inheritance.
Unlike the matter of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, the British public was relatively supportive of Margaret and Townsend’s relationship. The press, however, was less than sympathetic. In October 1954, The Times reminded the royal family of its “moral role to the nation and the Commonwealth.”
Ultimately, and perhaps rather sadly, their relationship came to an end. Both eventually married, but while Townsend settled down and raised three children, Margaret’s marriage ended in the late 1970s. Her name was also linked with several other love interests before she passed away in 2002.
7 Sarah Ferguson Sells Access To The Royal Family
In 1992, the British paparazzi discovered a topless Sarah Ferguson lounging with an American financial manager named John Bryan. The photos even showed Bryan sucking her toes. This was all made worse by the fact that Sarah Ferguson—known as “Fergie”—was the Duchess of York and married to Prince Andrew. With her picture in the papers, it appeared as though Fergie had hit her low spot. Perhaps the media storm had blown over.
Four years later, Fergie and Prince Andrew divorced, although she retained her title. Over a decade later, however, she offered access to her former husband, as well as other members of the royal family, in return for £500,000 (about $700,000).
But Fergie wasn’t aware that her buyer was an undercover journalist. The reporter quickly exposed her, and unfortunately for Ferguson, this wasn’t simply a case of his word against hers. The journalist had shared video of Fergie’s exploits, which included footage of her gladly accepting $40,000.
It was known that Fergie was struggling financially, and it was generally accepted that this was the motivation for her actions, as opposed to any maliciousness. (Although her relationship with her in-laws had always been strained, to say the least.)
In a statement after the revelations, Ferguson offered, “I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused. It is true that my financial situation is under stress. However, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment, and I am very sorry that this has happened. I can confirm that the Duke of York was not aware or involved in any of the discussions that occurred. I am sincerely sorry for my actions.”
Although her relationship with her ex-husband and his family deteriorated—she was not invited to William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, for example—Fergie went on to gain a lot of press over the incident. She appeared on shows like Oprah, and she also saw an increase in sales of the children’s books that she’d authored.
6 Princess Stephanie’s ‘Wild Child’ Lifestyle
Princess Stephanie of Monaco is essentially the Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton of the royal world. With her wild antics and rash decisions—including three children out of wedlock, with two different fathers (one of whom she refuses to name)—she makes the aforementioned socialites look like perfect angels.
Ever since the 1980s, Stephanie’s life has been a magazine writer’s dream. In 1982, she was riding with her mother, Grace Kelly, when the actress-turned-princess lost control of the car, sending the vehicle plunging down the mountainside. While Stephanie survived the crash, her mother died from her injuries. The shock and trauma of the accident arguably contributed to Stephanie’s behavior over the coming years.
Stephanie recorded several songs in the 1980s. One song in particular, “Irresistible,” became a huge hit in Europe. The accompanying music video, however, played on her “bad girl” image. Even her father, Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, described the video as “very provocative.”
In 1987, she was photographed topless with her then-boyfriend, Los Angeles nightclub owner Mario Oliver. Unfortunately, Oliver had been charged with the rape of a 19-year-old student several years earlier, a charge which he’d plea bargained his way out of. Stephanie’s father threatened to cut her off from the family if she married the nightclub owner, but by the following year, their fling was over.
After some very public relationships, she married bodyguard Daniel Ducruet, with whom she already had two children. They divorced a year later. In 1998, she gave birth to her third child, but she refused to name the father. General consensus agreed that the dad was a guard at her father’s palace, Jean-Raymond Gottlieb.
In 2000, her wild, unpredictable behavior continued when she briefly married an elephant trainer named Franco Knie. She moved into his caravan with her three children, touring with the circus from one town to the next. She then divorced Franco and quickly married trapeze artist Adans Lopez Perez. As you might’ve guessed, the two divorced less than a year later.
Before her father’s death in 2005, Princess Stephanie stated that she felt it was finally time to settle down and “stop running away from her royal duty.”
5 Prince Laurent Of Belgium And King Albert II
Prince Laurent always had a reputation as a “bad boy,” but by the time he was tried for fraud in 2007, he’d become something of an embarrassment to the people of Belgium.
It all started when a group of Belgian veterans were accused of misusing public money. Prince Laurent was called to testify as a witness, and strangely, King Albert II allowed the prince to appear in court. But once the king did away with Laurent’s royal immunity, the “bad boy” was accused of using navy funding to pay for extensive renovations on his holiday villa. He was ultimately acquitted of the charges, but he was banned from both royal functions and the palace for quite some time.
Several years later, however, King Albert II was involved in his own scandal. Allegations arose that Albert had an illegitimate child that he refused to acknowledge. His alleged daughter, Delphine Boel, released the book Cutting the Umbilical Cord in 2014, in which she angrily accused the king of ignoring her existence.
In her book, she wrote, “You are responsible for the child you produce. You do not abandon it. That is what my father has done.” As for Albert, he admitted to having an affair in the 1960s, but the king stopped short of admitting to fathering a child, saying, “We don’t dwell on this subject, which is a part of our private lives.”
4 King Carl Gustaf’s Sex And Strip Club Scandal
Sweden is a country that’s particularly proud of its royal family. So in 2010, when the book The Reluctant Monarch laid bare King Carl Gustaf’s appetite for sex at strip clubs, it made international headlines. It also didn’t help his image when readers discovered the king was using well-known “gangsters” in an effort to cover his activities.
Even the secret Swedish police force, Sapo, was accused of working to conceal Gustaf’s questionable activities. They allegedly “pressured” women into handing over any material that might’ve been compromising to the king.
Further allegations noted that “regular suburban girls” were often brought to Gustaf. He’d then promise them anything they wanted in an effort to have sex with them. The king also regularly used prostitutes. For example, during the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, he was said to have spent two hours with a stripper in a private room at Atlanta’s Gold Club.
The book also revealed a nasty underbelly of Swedish society. In addition to the human trafficking, one of the book’s authors was harassed and fired from her public broadcasting job. This was all particularly embarrassing for the people of Sweden, especially as the country championed itself as being a leader in human rights and free speech.
For those who might’ve doubted the allegations, Gustaf’s reaction to the book probably changed their minds. Instead of promising legal action or issuing any kind of denial, he offered the following statement to the press: “I have spoken to my family and the queen, and we chose to turn the page and move forward—because, as I understand, these are things that happened a long time ago.”
3 Queen Nothando Dube Caught ‘In The Act’
When Swaziland’s Queen Nothando Dube, one of the 14 wives of King Mswati III, was caught having sex with the king’s justice minister, Ndumiso Mamba, it was just the latest in a long line of scandals. Both were arrested in 2010, and they were kept in jail as officials feared they might attempt to flee the country. After all, it had happened before.
In 2004, two of Mswati’s wives fled Swaziland after news of their respective affairs started to spread. Delisa Magwaza fled to London, while Putsoana Hwala sought sanctuary in Johannesburg.
Mamba would eventually resign for his part in the affair, while Dube was placed under house arrest. In 2011, the queen claimed she’d been evicted from the palace and that she had been prevented from seeing the king or her children. However, a Swazi royal official denied this was true, asserting that Dube had not been kicked out.
2 Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s Adultery Charge
When Princess Marie, the former wife of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, filed a complaint with the court regarding her ex-husband’s infidelity in December 2006, he would become the first person charged with Cambodia’s Monogamy Law. And if he were found guilty, he would face a custodial sentence.
A former prime minister, Ranariddh was the leader of FUNCINPEC, one of Cambodia’s political parties. He was also a man with powerful enemies. Some Cambodian activists believe this adultery law was passed solely with prosecuting the prince in mind. Of course, this wasn’t the first scandal Ranariddh had faced. In November 2006, FUNCINPEC’s secretary-general, Nhiek Bun Chhay, filed a lawsuit against Ranariddh, accusing him of selling the party’s headquarters and pocketing the resulting $3.6 million from the sale.
But as far as the adultery charge goes, Ranariddh was eventually acquitted, after his legal team asserted that he had not legally registered his marriage. In other words, he hadn’t committed adultery. It was largely seen by many observers that the prince had escaped on a technicality.
However, he wasn’t quite as fortunate in regards to his embezzlement charges. In March 2007, he was found guilty and sentenced to prison for 18 months. He escaped the sentence, though, by fleeing to Malaysia. He finally returned to his home country after receiving amnesty, but he’s since left politics for good.
1 George, The Forgotten Son Of The British Monarchy
There’s no doubt that Prince George, the Duke of Kent, led a scandalous life. He conducted numerous affairs with both men and women, all behind the back of his wife, Princess Marina of Greece. Interestingly, his death in 1942 has also sparked a few conspiracy theories.
George’s bisexuality did not sit well with the royal family, and although it was kept out of the press, it was one of London’s worst-kept secrets. Similarly, everyone in high society circles knew that George enjoyed drugs like morphine and cocaine.
His affairs were not always with unknown sorts, either. Among those said to have been involved with the prince are Noel Coward, American cabaret artiste Florence Mills, singer Jessie Matthews, Jorge Ferrara (the bisexual son of the Argentine ambassador), and socialite Kiki Preston. Ms. Preston was also a well-known drug addict, and she was referred to as “the girl with the silver syringe.”
George of Kent died in 1942, in a somewhat mysterious plane crash. The official explanation for the tragedy was that the pilot chose the wrong flight path and accidentally crashed the plane into a mountain he wasn’t expecting. However, numerous conspiracy theories have been voiced. Some claim that 39-year-old George was flying the plane while intoxicated, and others say he was purposely killed to halt his increasingly “embarrassing” behavior.