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The reign of Queen Elizabeth II: Scandals and controversies

Queen Elizabeth, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, was praised for her dedication to duty, but scandals involving her extended family frequently tainted her reign. Here are some of the most notable crises that the royal family has faced during her 70-year reign.

Margaret- younger sister
Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister, was the centre of several scandals that rocked the monarchy at the start of her reign. Margaret, a rebellious beauty, was forced to call off her engagement to Group Captain Peter Townsend, a handsome air force officer, in 1955 because the rigid customs of the time deemed him unfit because he was divorced. She instead married Anthony Armstrong-Jones, a society photographer known as Lord Snowdon. That marriage ended after she had an affair with landscape gardener Roddy Llewellyn, who was 18 years her junior.

Prince Philip of Greece
Her choice to marry the Greek Prince Philip sparked some debate. While Philip served in the British Royal Navy during WWII, he had sisters who were married to Nazi-supporting German aristocracy. As a result, no one from his German family was invited to his and his wife’s wedding.

Throughout her early years as monarch, he was dogged by rumours that he was having extramarital affairs. When the queen’s private secretary, Mike Parker, was forced to resign after his wife filed for divorce while Philip was on a solo tour of the Commonwealth in 1957, it raised questions about the monarch’s wife. In an unusual statement at the time, the queen’s spokesman stated, ‘It is quite untrue that there is any such thing as royalty’.

Camilla and Diana
Her eldest son Charles’ failed marriage to his first wife Diana, as well as his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, his first love with whom he had an affair and eventually married after Diana’s death, were the biggest scandals of her reign. Following their 1981 wedding, Charles and Diana’s marriage fell apart at the end of the decade and into the 1990s, and the couple was frequently featured in tabloid publications’ negative stories. According to a 1992 book by journalist Andrew Morton, who later acknowledged Diana as his primary source, the relationship between Diana and Charles was irreparably damaged.

Later that year, newspapers published quotes from a recorded phone conversation between Diana and James Gilby, who referred to her as ‘Squidgy’. Then, in 1993, a reporter overheard a phone conversation between Charles and Camilla during which the prince expressed his desire to return as her tampon. In TV interviews after their divorce, Diana admitted to having an affair with military officer James Hewitt and that there were ‘three of us’ in the marriage—a reference to Camilla.

‘Annus horribilis’
In her farewell speech, the queen referred to 1992 as ‘annus horribilis’. She stated that 1992 is not a year she will remember fondly. Diana’s home in Windsor Castle was destroyed by fire, and Charles and Diana divorced legally. However, they were not the only union to dissolve that year.

The Duke and Duchess of York, Prince Andrew’s second son and his wife Sarah Ferguson, parted ways as well. On the front page of a newspaper, ‘Fergie’ was seen topless getting her toes sucked by wealthy American businessman John Bryan. In December 1992, Anne wed navy commander Timothy Laurence.

Andy’s airmiles 
As he fell further down the line of succession, British tabloids dubbed Prince Andrew ‘Airmiles Andy’ or ‘Randy Andy’ because of his playboy lifestyle. Three years after Jeffrey Epstein’s initial conviction for child sex offences, Andrew resigned as Britain’s travelling trade envoy in 2011.

Prince Andrew was forced to resign from his royal duties and companies started to distance themselves from him after allegations of sexual abuse by billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein committed suicide in prison in 2019 while being detained on sex-trafficking accusations, which raised more doubts about the prince’s innocence.

Giuffre accused Andrew of sexual and physical assault and sued him in 2021. In January of the following year, he lost both his ‘His Royal Highness’ title and his military ties. To avoid the public humiliation of a trial, Andrew settled the claim in February 2022 without admitting guilt. He agreed to pay an unknown sum.

The so-called ‘Megxit’
When Prince Harry was younger, he was portrayed in the media as a royal wild child. He admitted to using marijuana and drinking while underage in a pub, fought with photographers outside a London nightclub, and shocked many by dressing up as a Nazi officer at a costume party. However, due to his laid-back demeanour and military experience, he rose to become one of the most popular royals, and his 2018 wedding to American actress Meghan Markle was hailed as a model for a new, modern monarchy.

Unsatisfied with the media’s encroachment into their lives, they announced in January 2020 that they would resign from their royal duties, dealing a severe blow to the institution. After relocating to Los Angeles, they launched a scathing attack on the royal family and Buckingham Palace in a TV interview with American broadcaster Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. They levelled racist accusations and claimed Meghan had been driven to the brink of suicide. Harry also stated unequivocally that Charles and William’s older brother was imprisoned.

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