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Scandals and gaffes that rocked the Royal family

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 January 2020 | UPDATED: 00:49 30 January 2020

Wallis Simpson and the man who, for love, gave up the chance of being King Edward VIII    Picture: PA

Wallis Simpson and the man who, for love, gave up the chance of being King Edward VIII Picture: PA

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Outrage has surrounded the stepping back of Harry and Meghan from their Royal titles.... but it's not the first (and won't be the last) controversy for the family

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones leave Westminster Abbey after their wedding in the spring of 1960   Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATIONPrincess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones leave Westminster Abbey after their wedding in the spring of 1960 Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION

Let's be honest. Wouldn't we all do what Meghan and Harry are doing, if we found ourselves in their (nicely-made) shoes?

Yes, of course, there's a lot to be said for never having to worry about where the next meal is coming from and knowing there will always be someone to bleed a lukewarm radiator.

But is it worth trading that for a Truman Show world of luxury where your moves are, essentially, choreographed while a spotlight shines in your face? You don't have the freedom to choose your own direction or act naturally.

No wonder things often go a bit awry - through naivete, a lack of awareness, youthful indiscretion, or living in a bubble, perhaps.

Here's a look at some "moments". Let's remember, though, that we all make mistakes; but the foibles of commoners are generally not publicised so widely...

King who quit

The deck was stacked against Bessie Wallis Warfield from the off. She was American, a socialite, had been married twice, and sought her second divorce so she could marry the man she'd met as the Prince of Wales. He'd become King Edward VIII.

Beach House, Undercliff Road East, Felixstowe, where Wallis Simpson stayed in 1936    Picture: ARCHANTBeach House, Undercliff Road East, Felixstowe, where Wallis Simpson stayed in 1936 Picture: ARCHANT

When he abdicated in 1936, much of the nation was hurt and angry. Wallis was accused of "stealing" our monarch.

In the event, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor remained together until his death in 1972. Many people never forgave her, though.

There's a famous link to Suffolk. Wallis "hid" at Beach House, Felixstowe, in 1936 while her divorce from second husband Ernest was being dealt with at County Hall in Ipswich.

Ipswich was chosen because it was an out-of-the-spotlight provincial town. It did mean Wallis had to live, temporarily, in the area covered by the court.

She also had a room at the resort's rather swish Felix Hotel, in Cobbold Road, where staff were told to keep mum about their famous visitor. The Felix opened in 1903 and was initially a big success as Felixstowe built a reputation as an upmarket holiday destination.

It helped no end that the wife and family of Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm had spent time in Felixstowe in 1891. German physicians were thought to have chosen the town because of its health-supporting air.

For Felixstowe, it was the kind of endorsement money couldn't buy.

The Duchess of York with then husband the Duke of York after being presented with her private pilot licence at Kidlington Airport, near Oxford, in 1986   Picture: PA Archive/PA ImagesThe Duchess of York with then husband the Duke of York after being presented with her private pilot licence at Kidlington Airport, near Oxford, in 1986 Picture: PA Archive/PA Images

Not quite a fairy-tale

Princesses don't always enjoy happy endings. An independent streak and an appetite for a good time doesn't sit easily with regal obligation. Princess Margaret, our Queen's sister, fell for a war hero but because he was a divorcee had to concede hopes of marrying.

In 1960 she married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones and had two children. But love dimmed and they had affairs.

In the mid-1970s we learned Margaret had enjoyed a relationship with gardener Roddy Llewellyn, 17 years younger. In 1978, the end of the Snowdons' marriage was the first divorce (or similar) within our royal family for more than four centuries.

Germany calling?

Edward and Mrs Simpson, again. They visited Germany in 1937 and met Adolf Hitler. They were suspected of being sympathisers.

In 2017, Cabinet papers were released. They showed the Nazis had suggested restoring Edward to the throne - if he'd supported them during the war and they'd triumphed.

When the magic was still strong... Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their way to Buckingham Palace after their wedding at St Paul's Cathedral in 1981   Picture: PA ImagesWhen the magic was still strong... Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their way to Buckingham Palace after their wedding at St Paul's Cathedral in 1981 Picture: PA Images

Winston Churchill had in the 1950s asked America and France to stop details being published for a decade or more. He argued that key telegrams were "unreliable".

In 1957, the duke described the documents as "complete fabrications".

Ouch

In 1986, when the Duke of Edinburgh was on a state visit to China, a 21-year-old British student told reporters what Prince Philip had said. It was along the lines of "If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes", apparently.

Royal remarriage

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There were rumours about Princess Anne and Mark Phillips's marriage long before they announced, in 1989, plans to separate. Both had been linked to other people. A newspaper said, too, it had seen letters between the Princess Royal and Queen's equerry Timothy Laurence.

They wed in 1992. Anne was the first royal divorcée to remarry for more than 85 years.

Fergie's feet

The Duke and Duchess of York had announced plans to separate. Later in 1992, paparazzi pictures showed Sarah Ferguson on holiday - her toes being nibbled by a male friend. It caused a stir.

Diana's interview

The Princess of Wales's 1995 BBC interview was seismic. She talked about the separation from the Prince of Wales, her view that "there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded" - a reference to Camilla Parker Bowles - and her own unfaithfulness.

Prince Harry at RAF Honington in 2014   Picture: GREGG BROWNPrince Harry at RAF Honington in 2014 Picture: GREGG BROWN

Bad choice

Early in 2005, Clarence House issued a statement on behalf of Prince Harry after he went to a fancy-dress party in a Nazi-style costume. It said: "I am very sorry if I caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologise."

Snookered

There was a kerfuffle in 2012 when Prince Harry - on a break before going to Afghanistan - was pictured in a Las Vegas hotel, apparently playing a game of strip billiards. He said later he had probably let down his family, but that it was also a private area, with "some expectation of privacy".

He added it was "probably a classic example of me probably being too much army and not enough prince".

Brooch anger

Princess Michael of Kent apologised in 2017 for a brooch critics called "racist".

According to the BBC, blackamoor figures and sculptures usually depicted African men and were prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Princess Michael wore the brooch at a Christmas banquet in Buckingham Palace. Later, her spokesman said she was distressed it had caused offence. It had been a gift and had been worn many times. It was thought she wouldn't opt for it in future.

Duke's collision

About a year ago the Duke of Edinburgh was in a crash on the A149 at Sandringham that saw his Land Rover Freelander overturn.

The vehicle was in collision with a Kia driven by a 28-year-old woman as he emerged from a driveway and was apparently dazzled by the low sun. Two women in the car suffered minor injuries. A nine-month-old boy in the Kia was not hurt.

Prince Philip, then 97, was checked at the nearby hospital. 
He was shaken and shocked, but "had no injuries of concern", 
said a Buckingham Palace spokesman.

The palace said later that the duke had voluntarily surrendered his driving licence.

The Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the police reports about the collision and revealed no further action would be taken.

No sweat

An ongoing concern for the Queen is claims about son Prince Andrew's links with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who has since committed suicide.

Andrew has strenuously and repeatedly denied sexual allegations made by a woman. They relate to 2001 and 2002, when she was a teenager. She claims he was sweating profusely at the time. During a BBC interview last November he said that couldn't have been the case.

"I didn't sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War, when I was shot at. It was almost impossible for me to sweat."

He also insisted he could not have been with the woman on one of the dates she cited. He had taken daughter Beatrice to Pizza Express for a party, before spending the night at home.

"Going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing 
for me to do. I remember it weirdly distinctly."

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