7 moments that shook the Royal Family
- Credit: PA
Following on from Monday night’s UK broadcast of Oprah with Meghan and Harry, the royal family is once again in the spotlight, as a number of bombshell revelations were revealed that have shocked both the family itself and onlookers across the globe.
In no particular order, here’s seven more events that shook the royal family across the 20th and 21st century.
King Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson and the constitutional crisis
Just mere months into his reign as monarch, King Edward VIII caused a constitutional crisis when he proposed to marry Wallis Simpson in 1936 – an American socialite who had been married twice before.
The announcement caused chaos at the time, as the Church of England forbade the king from marrying a woman of divorce. Thus, Edward was forced to abdicate. In a radio address to the nation, he said: "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King without the help and support of the woman I love."
Following his abdication, Edward’s brother George VI took to the throne, while Edward married Wallis. The two remained together until his death in 1972.
Divorces and abdication aside, perhaps more shocking but less widely spoken about is the fact that Edward and Wallis were both pictured with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler on numerous occasions - and even went on a 1937 tour of Germany, two years before the Second World War broke out.
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The Buckingham Palace intruder
Buckingham Palace is seen as one of the world’s most protected and elusive residences, but that didn’t stop Michael Fagan from breaking into the Queen’s home not just once, but twice.
Fagan first snuck into the palace in June 1982 after he climbed up a drainpipe, entered through an unlocked window and hid after startling one of the housemaids. He then claims he wandered the halls of the palace and viewed royal paintings while sitting on a throne. Fagan then drank some wine before sneaking back out without getting caught.
A month later, he tried his luck again and managed to re-enter the palace before stumbling into the Queen’s bedroom. Shortly after waking Her Majesty up, police arrived but Fagan was not charged with trespassing as it was a civil offence rather than a criminal one. He was then sent to a psychiatric hospital before being released in January 1983.
Princess Anne’s attempted kidnapping
Following a charity event in 1974, Princess Anne was returning to Buckingham Palace when her car was forced to stop on the Mall by a man driving a Ford Focus. Wielding two guns, the driver of the car Ian Ball, got out of his vehicle and began firing a gun, claiming he would kidnap the princess and hold her for ransom.
Princess Anne managed to escape unscathed after being led away by a passer-by – but the ensuing chaos resulted in Anne’s personal police officer, her chauffeur, a nearby journalist and a police officer all being shot while they intervened. Fortunately, they all survived their injuries.
Once arrested, Ball pleaded guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping, and was sent to Broadmoor under the Mental Health Act.
Lord Mountbatten’s assassination
On August 27 1979, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Earl of Burma was assassinated in an attack that shocked both the royal family and the wider world.
Lord Mountbatten, who was Queen Victoria’s great-grandson and second cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, was aboard his fishing boat off the coast of Mullaghmore in north-west Ireland when a radio-controlled bomb that was planted beneath the boat detonated fifteen minutes after setting sail. Also killed in the attack were 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, 14-year-old Nicholas Knatchbull, and Doreen, Dowager Lady Brabourne who died later that died.
Provisional IRA member Thomas McMahon was found guilty of the attack, and sentenced to life in prison. However, he was released 19 years into his sentence as part of the Good Friday Agreement.
Prince Andrew’s involvement with Jeffrey Epstein
The second biggest car crash to rock the royal family has got to be the baffling car crash of an interview that Prince Andrew gave in 2019, following the accusations that he was heavily involved with late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The interview, in which he sat down with BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis, saw the Prince outright deny allegations that he had sexual relations with, or had even met one of Epstein’s alleged victims Virgina Giuffre (who he was pictured alongside in a photo that is believed to be dated March 2001).
The interview also saw Prince Andrew admit he didn’t regret his friendship with Epstein, and that he was medically unable to sweat after being shot in the Falklands War.
As the fall out and ensuing scandal from the interview grew momentum, the Prince announced in November 2019 that he was stepping away from royal duties for ‘the foreseeable future’.
The Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Camilla love triangle
On July 29 1981, an estimated 750 million people across the globe tuned in to see Lady Diana Spencer become the affectionately-dubbed People’s Princess as she married Prince Charles in a lavish wedding ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral. The world looked on as a real-life fairytale unfolded right before its very eyes.
However, the marriage was soon marred in controversy, as Prince Charles reportedly began having an affair with former girlfriend Camila Parker Bowles in 1986.
In 1992, Diana and Charles officially announced their separation, with the divorce being finalised in August 1996 – just one year before Diana sadly died in a car crash in Paris. Charles later went on to marry Camilla in 2005.
Princess Diana’s tell-all interview and subsequent death
Following Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ separation, Diana sat down with BBC journalist Martin Bashir in 1995 for a tell-all Panorama interview that sent shockwaves throughout the world.
The 54-minute broadcast was watched by around 23 million viewers in the UK, and saw the princess talk at great length about her relationship with Charles, and why they decided to end their marriage.
Some of the biggest bombshells dropped during the interview included the revelation that Diana had in fact had an extramarital affair with James Hewitt, her experiences with self-harm and bulimia, and the lack of support she felt from the royal family. Readers may remember Diana famously saying in regards to her marriage, "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
Tragically, Diana passed away two years after the interview in 1997 after the car she was travelling in was involved in a collision in Paris. Also in the car was her partner at the time, Dodi Fayed.