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Before Thomas Markle Spoke Out: A Look Back at the Biggest Royal Scandals in Recent History

Meghan Markle, Princess Margaret, Princess Diana. Photos: Getty

There’s yet another Thomas Markle interview in the British papers, in which he alleges that he lied to Prince Harry about staging paparazzi photos, and that he wasn’t allowed to speak at their May 19 wedding. Although Markle previously said he was done speaking to the press, it seems that he won’t (or can’t) be silenced.

A new report from Entertainment Tonight says that the Palace is “considering a more aggressive strategy” to handle Markle—but many are wondering how it even got to this point. In a Daily Mail column, writer Richard Kay calls it an “existential crisis” for the royal family.

Crisis? That’s a word with which the palace is all too familiar. After all, there’s a reason Queen Elizabeth’s reign makes for such a compelling (and critically acclaimed) television show—because of its consistent, and innate, drama. Below, some of the most high-profile scandals in royal history.

The Abdication of Edward VIII
Call this the grandfather of all royal scandals. After proposing to Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée, Edward VIII threw Britain into a constitutional crisis since, at the time, the king and head of the Church of England was forbidden to marry a divorced person. With the royal establishment refusing to budge, he abdicated the throne in 1936.

It was a decision that altered the monarchy forever. His brother, George, became king, and the then-Elizabeth of York became heir to the throne.

Princess Margaret’s Relationship With Peter Townsend
At Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, Princess Margaret picked a piece of lint off the lapel of her father’s former equerry, Peter Townsend. The intimate gesture caught the attention of the press and blew the lid off the couple’s affair, which was a problem, because Townsend was a divorced commoner and therefore deemed an unsuitable match for the high-ranking Margaret.

The 1772 Royal Marriages Act made it so Queen Elizabeth had the final say over her sister’s potential marriage. As the head of the Church of England, she herself was at a crossroads: Should she risk looking like she approved of divorce and therefore violate the very rules of the religious body she led, or sacrifice her sister’s happiness? She ended up with this compromise: They could stay together, but Margaret needed to renounce her rights of succession.

Margaret never ended up marrying Peter Townsend. Instead, she wed Anthony Armstrong Jones, and ended up divorcing him years later.

The Duke of Windsor’s Nazi Sympathies
In 1957, the American press published the Marburg Files, an explosive set of German documents that suggested that Edward, then the Duke of Windsor, was not just a Nazi sympathizer, but part of a Hitler-orchestrated plot to reinstate him on the throne. Whether or not the Duke was aware of this is still up for debate, but one thing is clear: In 1937, he did visit Hitler in Germany.

“His Royal Highness never wavered in his loyalty to the British cause,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. “The German records are necessarily a much tainted source. The only firm evidence which they provide is of what the Germans were trying to do in the matter, and of how completely they failed to do it.”

Charles and Diana’s Messy Split
Although rumors had plagued the Waleses for years, 1992 was the year when their marriage hit a place of no return. First, with “Squidgygate,” where recordings of Princess Diana’s private phone call with a suspected lover were released by the press. Then, Andrew Morton’s explosive biography on the princess, written with her cooperation, was published, detailing her unhappy marriage.

By December of that year, the two announced they were separating “amicably.” Soon after, more recorded tapes—this time of a phone call between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles—were published, proving that their was indeed a relationship between the two of them.

Diana’s BBC Tell-All
In 1995, Princess Diana gave a tell-all interview to BBC’s Martin Bashir—without consulting the Palace. In it, she pulled the curtain back on her bulimia, self-harm, and the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles (perhaps the best-remembered line was a jab at his then-mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”).

Sarah Ferguson’s Payout
In 2010, News of the World caught Sarah Ferguson selling access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, for £50,000. “£500,000 when you can, to me, open doors,” Ferguson was allegedly captured saying on video.

After the news broke, she issued an apology: “I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused,” she said. “It is true that my financial situation is under stress, however, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgement 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.”

But it seems the damage was done. Ferguson wasn’t invited to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding (although she was to Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s). Even to this day, outlets continue to report that Prince Philip can’t stand her.

Prince Harry’s Party-Prince Days
For awhile, Prince Harry was quite the wild child—and had the tabloid reports to prove it. His actions ranged from offensive (dressing up as a Nazi for a costume party) to debaucherous.

Since then, Harry’s become a more functional working member of the royal family. But, he admitted to Newsweek: “I still have a naughty streak too, which I enjoy and is how I relate to those individuals who have got themselves into trouble.”

Now Read: Why We Haven’t Seen Much of Kate Middleton Lately

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