Top Scandals of Royal Couples in the Last 20 Years

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Apr. 10 2024, Published 5:34 a.m. ET

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The lives of royal couples have long fascinated the public, with their rich heritage and prestige, impressive ceremonies and seemingly glamourous and luxurious lifestyles.

But what also fascinates audiences worldwide are the scandals that occasionally surface, reminding us that royalty, too, deals with issues all too human. In the last 20 years, several scandals have erupted within royal families around the world, each bringing its own share of shock, controversy, and media frenzy. Here are some of the most talked-about royal couple scandals of the last two decades from dodgy financial dealings to racism accusations, sex scandals and abdications.

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1. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson - Financial and Personal Misconduct

Though Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, also known as Fergie, divorced in 1996, their actions in the years following their split have continued to cause scandals. From Fergie's debt issues to Prince Andrew's association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (Epstein also pleaded guilty in 2008 to solicitation of prostitution), their actions have repeatedly brought unwanted headlines, culminating in Prince Andrew stepping back from public duties in 2019 following his disastrous Newsnight interview.

2. King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein

The former Spanish king’s relationship with Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, revealed through various scandals involving financial impropriety and corruption, significantly tarnished his reputation and led to his abdication in 2014. The relationship exposed the private dealings and lavish lifestyle of the king, leading to a public outcry and a shift in the Spanish royal family’s image.

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3. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – Stepping Back from Royal Duties

Perhaps one of the most publicised royal couple scandals in recent history, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step back from their roles as senior members of the British Royal Family in 2020 shocked the world. Citing invasive media scrutiny and a lack of support from the royal institution, their departure, dubbed “Megxit,” ignited debates on racism, media ethics, and the role of the monarchy in the modern world.

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4. Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark – The Tell-All Book

In a rare scandal involving the Danish Royal Family, a 2021 tell-all book about Crown Prince Frederik's younger years, including his relationship with Crown Princess Mary, stirred controversy. The book detailed Frederik's party lifestyle before his marriage and other personal details, challenging the usually pristine image of the Danish royals.

5. The Prince and Princess of Wales – Photo-gate

Following a well-intentioned Mother’s Day post from the Royal Couple in the wake of a period of respite and recovery for the Princess of Wales after major surgery in January 2024, a media frenzy and numerous conspiracy theories ensued when it emerged that an accompanying family photograph had been edited before publication. Cue a swift apology issued by the Princess of Wales, followed by a video message explaining that her extended absence from public life was due to a more recent cancer diagnosis and a wish for privacy for the family to come to terms with the news. So not so scandalous after all – unless you count the behaviour of some sections of the media and social networking sites!

Royal scandals, while often sensationalised, remind us of the delicate balance royal families must maintain between their public duties and private lives. Each scandal, in its own way, has prompted discussions about privacy, responsibility, and the evolving nature of monarchy in an era that values transparency and accountability. As the line between public interest and personal space continues to blur, royal families worldwide are navigating these waters with an increasing emphasis on openness and reform.


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