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10 Scurrilous Royals and Nobles Who Were Involved in Juicy Scandals

by Jessica Fleming-Montoya
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Prince Harry has become a bit of a disgrace after his recent controversial book. But disgraced royals are nothing new—royal families have been dealing with dissenters for hundreds of years. Here are ten royals throughout history who were royally disgraced.

Related: 10 Of History’s Most Scandalous Women

10 Blanche of Burgundy

What sparked the Hundred Years War? | Medieval history series [Episode 1]

Blanche of Burgundy lived during the 1300s, right before the Hundred Years’ War. Blanche was the wife of King Charles IV of France and the daughter of the powerful Count of Burgundy.

Despite her lofty connections, however, Blanche quickly fell into a scandal. During her time at the king’s court, her sister-in-law decided to gift her with a beautiful coin purse. It seems that Blanche wasn’t a fan of the purse, however, because she promptly turned around and gifted it to her secret lover—a Norman knight in the court.

The gift turned out to be the beginning of her demise, however, as the smitten young knight hung it from his belt at a banquet. Poor Blanche was accused of adultery, thrown in jail, lost her rights to her kids, and had her head shaved.

Although Blanche eventually made her way back into favor, her lover wasn’t so fortunate. The young knight was condemned to death and executed not long after the affair.[1]

9 Princess Sophia Dorothea of Celle

Imprisoned Queen Sophia Dorothea of Celle

Princess Sophia Dorothea of Celle was a Georgian princess who, despite being a royal, never managed to fully become a queen.

This young princess married King George I before he was crowned king and birthed two beautiful children, one of which would go on to become king. Sophia, however, wouldn’t have quite as much luck.

Despite the fact that they had two children together, the marriage wasn’t a happy one, and Sophia quickly decided to look elsewhere for romance. That’s how she started a fateful affair with Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck.

Unfortunately for her, George found out about the scandal, and he wasn’t impressed. The queen had her locked up in a tower, where she spent the rest of her days wasting away while the young George I went on to become king.[2]

8 The Duke of Cumberland

The attempted murder of the Duke of Cumberland

The Duke of Cumberland isn’t someone you hear about too much, but his past is certainly marred by scandal. For the majority of his life, the duke had a relatively normal experience in the court.

However, in 1810 an attacker made an attempt on the duke’s life while he was sleeping at St. James Palace. This was all despite the door to the duke’s room being locked.

The palace attendants were shocked by the attempt on the duke’s life and raced to wake his valet and let him know about the news. Like the door to the duke’s room, the door to the valet’s room was locked, however, and the attendants couldn’t get him to open the door. Eventually, they found a way into the valet’s room via another door, only to discover someone had slit the valet’s throat!

Although no one knows exactly what happened, many people speculate that the Duke of Cumberland had headed into the valet’s room in an attempt to seduce him. When the valet rejected him, the duke slit his throat, headed back to bed, and invented the story of an intruder to cover his tracks.[3]

7 Queen Matilda of Denmark

The Tragic Life of Caroline Matilda of Great Britain, Queen of Denmark and Norway

Another juicy scandal features Queen Matilda of Denmark, who, although born in England, married into the Danish royal family in 1766 at just 15 years old.

Matilda found her new home lonely and her new husband depressed. Queue the royal physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee, who arrived at court in 1769 amid a smallpox outbreak in Denmark.

Although the queen initially wasn’t a big fan of the physician, she quickly changed her mind after he treated her son for smallpox. That was just the start of a lengthy affair with the physician, who began taking advantage of the king’s mental illness to rule by proxy.

Eventually, however, the court found out about the queen’s love affair with the physician, and they weren’t happy. They confronted the queen and the physician in 1771, torturing the physician and throwing the queen in jail. The queen was eventually released from jail and deported back to her home country, while her lover was executed by drawing and quartering.[4]

6 Marquise de Montespan

The Dark Life of the French King’s Satanic Mistress | Madame de Montespan

The Marquise de Montespan is controversial in many ways, but it all begins with her love affair with the king. Despite being married to Marie-Thérèse of Austria, the king was captivated by the beauty and intelligence of the Marquise de Montespan. He secretly met with her regularly, showering her with gifts and spending quality time with his lover.

But this wasn’t enough for the Marqiuse de Montespan—she wanted to become queen. Of course, knowing that the king already had a queen, she decided to go about it using her wits and wiles.

The marquise started her exploits by securing herself adjoining rooms to the king’s at Versaille. Then, in 1674, she separated from her husband, the marquis, so that she could spend more time with the queen. Next, she turned to a Parisian witch Madame Catherine Monvoisin to whip up love potions made from the bones of babies.

It all came crashing down in 1679 when a series of poisonings at the court led to investigations into the marquise and her favorite potion maker. The witch was burned at the stake, while the marquise chose to make her exit and joined a convent where she lived out the rest of her days, escaping her more gruesome fate at court.[5]

5 Alexander VI

The Devil Pope: The Life of Rodrigo Borgia – Pope Alexander VI – See U in History

Alexander VI isn’t technically a royal ruler; however, he is considered royalty in the Catholic Church and was the pope during the 15th-century Italian Renaissance. Alexander VI, despite being a religious leader, had his fair share of scandals.

You see, even though the pope was supposed to focus on the spiritual, he was far more interested in lavish parties and earthly riches. Worse yet, the pope had sworn a vow of celibacy when he took office. Despite that, the pope became involved with multiple mistresses and allegedly held orgies at the church’s expense.

The pope seems to have gotten away with it, too, as he continued this lifestyle until 1503 when he contracted a fever. On his deathbed, the pope allegedly repented of his sins. Still, we’ll never know whether he truly felt remorse for his scandalous lifestyle.[6]

4 Ingeborg of Denmark

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ingeborg of Denmark was born into the Danish royal family. However, she went on to become Queen of France through her strategic marriage to King Philip II of France in 1193.

Despite all this, the poor princess was doomed to a life of scandal and ruin. On the day of their wedding, King Phillip began to feel ill and blamed the issue on his new wife’s presence. Just days after their wedding, he was calling for an annulment and wanted to send poor Ingeborg back home.

In what became a scandal in the courts, King Phillip pleaded with the pope for an annulment, claiming that Ingeborg was too closely related to him. He created a fake family tree to prove his point, and the pope fell for it and sent Ingeborg back to Denmark.

Now free to do what he liked, King Phillip married a second time, although this wife died not long after their marriage. That’s when King Phillip changed his mind and claimed that Ingeborg was his lawful wife and queen of France in 1213.

Luckily for Ingeborg, her royal husband died just 10 years after this change of heart, freeing her from the marriage and allowing her to do what she wanted with her life. She chose to found a convent, where she went on to live the rest of her days far from the court’s scandals.[7]

3 Edward III

Alice Perrers – Edward III’s POWERFUL Mistress

Edward III is a royal who fell into scandal thanks to his mistress, Alice Perrers. Alice was a member of the royal household during the 1360s, which is when the king first fell for her and began his fated affair.

It seems that the queen actually somewhat approved of the match, as Alice was a lady in the queen’s bed chamber. And so the affair continued, with Alice birthing several illegitimate children by the king, until the queen’s death in 1369. That’s when things began to take a royal turn for the worse.

With the queen out of the way, Alice moved in on the poor king, who was now growing old and whose health was failing. According to some, Alice wound up manipulating and abusing the poor king until his death. She was incredibly unpopular, and once the king was out of the way and the court could be open about the scandal, they exiled Alice from England.[8]

2 Stephen VI

He Put A Rotting Corpse on Trial? | Pope Stephen VI

Stephen VI is another pope surrounded by scandal, but this scandal is significantly stranger than that of his predecessor, Alexander VI.

This particular pope seemed to have been incredibly jealous of his predecessor, Pope Formosus. Once Formosus died and left Stephen VI as pope, Stephen VI set to work getting his revenge.

He had the previous pope’s body exhumed, dressed in robes, and put on a public trial. There, Stephen VI screamed at and berated the corpse, eventually declaring him guilty of a slew of fake charges. Then, Stephen VI went about annulling all decrees and ordinances made by Formosus during his papacy.

However, it seems that the rest of the world didn’t take kindly to this display of Pope Stephen VI’s. The trial resulted in a huge scandal that led to his removal from office, imprisonment, and later strangulation by protestors.[9]

1 Princess Charlotte of Prussia

Princess Charlotte of Prussia a Lost Jewel

Princess Charlotte of Prussia, one of the last royals of the Kingdom of Prussia, also caused a scandal. Charlotte, who was the granddaughter of English Queen Victoria, married into the German royal family in 1878 and immediately began to lead a high-flying society life in Berlin.

However, that high-flying life landed her in some pretty hot water. In 1891, some anonymous letters began going around the German court accusing Princess Charlotte and the Duke of Wilhelm of being involved in sexual orgies and debauchery.

For four long years, the letters circulated in the courts, accusing Charlotte of more and more affairs and sexual misdemeanors. However, nothing much came of the scandal in the end, and the court eventually forgot about the letters. Still, they seriously tarnished Charlotte’s reputation, which never recovered after the incident.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen