The British Royal Family appears to be the epitome of class and, in many ways, that is true. However, the royals have also had their fair share of scandal — especially when it comes to choosing suitors — beginning in the 1500s with King Henry VIII and his six wives right down to current day. The last century in particular has witnessed some of the most shocking royal relationships and that’s despite being under the strict Royal Marriage Act of 1772 and now the updated Succession to the Crown Act of 2013. It seems nothing can stop true love or, at least, forbidden love.
Let’s explore some of the most scandalous relationships from the past hundred years.
King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
According to BBC News, less than one month after American socialite Wallis Simpson divorced her second husband and after less than one year on the throne, King Edward VIII informed the Prime Minister of his intentions to marry Simpson. That went about as well as you might expect. Prime Minister Baldwin told King Edward VIII that the people would not accept Simpson as Queen. In return, the King informed Prime Minister Baldwin that he was prepared to abdicate the throne, but also proposed the idea of a morganatic marriage. This would mean he could remain as King but Simpson would not become Queen.
This plan was ultimately rejected and, in December of 1936, King Edward VIII did as he said he would and resigned as King. It is perhaps easiest to think of King Edward VIII as a man who gave up so much and you could ask, “For what?” For love and happiness, it seems.
In a BBC News interview with both Simpson and the former King nearly 32 years into their marriage, Simpson admitted, “I wish it could’ve been different but, I mean, I’m extremely happy.” Later she reiterated, “We’ve been very happy,” while reaching for her husband’s hand.
Princess Margaret and Captain Peter Townsend
If you’re a fan of the Netflix series The Crown, you may know a thing or two about Princess Margaret and Captain Peter Townsend. While the show is fictional, it is based on true stories. The show’s creator Peter Morgan has ample material. Morgan even called Margaret’s life “a terrific story” when interviewed by Radio Times.
According to The Telegraph, Margaret met Townsend when she was a teenager. He was nearly twice her age, married, and working for her father, King George VI, at the time. Townsend continued working for the family after Margaret’s father passed and he and his wife eventually divorced. Margaret, much like her Uncle Edward, fell in love with a divorcee, which was obviously quite scandalous! Soon, the press caught onto their secret relationship and, in an attempt to kibosh the rumors, Townsend was sent to work in Brussels.
In a letter to the Prime Minister in 1955, Margaret wrote, “[I]t is only by seeing [Townsend] in this way that I feel I can properly decide whether I can marry him or not. At the end of October or early November I very much hope to be in a position to tell you and the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers what I intend to do.”
Ultimately, Margaret made the difficult decision not to marry Townsend. Margaret’s close friend Lady Mary Russell expounded on the decision in the article, “We still felt it wouldn’t be possible… for her in her position to marry Peter Townsend.”
Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones
Some five years after deciding to let go of her love for Peter Townsend, Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones, or Lord Snowdon, The New York Times details. Prior to getting married, the Cambridge-taught photographer and Princess Margaret dated for some time in secret.
Did Margaret finally get her happily-ever-after? Sadly, no. Margaret’s marriage to Armstrong-Jones dissolved just as her relationship with Townsend did. After 16 years of marriage and two children, the two separated.
With a legal separation, Margaret wouldn’t receive as much pressure to renounce her title as she would with divorce. Plus, a renouncement would mean she would no longer be entitled to her $70,000 (adjusted for inflation, that would roughly equal over $304,500 today) state allowance as well as all the other privileges that come with being fifth in line to the throne.
Two years later Margaret decided that, despite all of the possible repercussions, she did want a divorce after all. An excerpt from Ben Pimlot’s biography The Queen, reprinted by PBS, explains that times were beginning to change and The Church of England “treated her with gentleness.” What a relief that must have been for Margaret.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Prince Charles and Princess Diana were often photographed together looking completely in love with one another. As it turns out, their relationship was a pretty scandalous facade.
Andrew Morton, author of the biography Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words — a book now known as having been made with full cooperation from Diana herself — wrote, “Her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981 was described as a ‘fairytale’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the popular imagination, the Prince and Princess… were the glamorous and sympathetic face of the House of Windsor. The very idea that their ten-year marriage was in dire trouble was unthinkable — even to the notoriously imaginative tabloid press.”
Dire trouble, indeed. Morton went on to tell what he learned about Diana, “It was like being transported into a parallel universe, the Princess talking about her unhappiness, her sense of betrayal, her suicide attempts and two things I had never previously heard of: bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder, and a woman called Camilla.”
By royal standards, the two were a perfect match. However, it seems neither love nor happiness were present in their relationship. Cheating, however, was very much a part of their union.
Read More: https://www.thelist.com/103244/royal-familys-scandalous-romances/?utm_campaign=clip