While Queen Elizabeth II was a constant presence in British life during her record-long tenure, the monarch fought to keep her family’s private affairs out of the public eye, attempting to avoid controversy.

Even so, the royal family weathered several scandals during Elizabeth’s 70-year reign – drama that inevitably captured worldwide attention. Here’s a look back at some of the biggest dust-ups of the queen’s decades on the throne.

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1. Charles and Diana

King Charles III, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, has faced strong criticism from the public for decades, much of it stemming from troubles that emerged during his marriage to Princess Diana.

Charles, who succeeded to the throne after Elizabeth’s death last week, married Diana in 1981 in a ceremony that was televised around the world. Over the next three years, Diana gave birth to Prince William and Prince Harry.

But soon after, the public watched the fairy-tale couple’s relationship crumble through revelations of infidelity, a leaked phone conversation between the prince and his mistress and a separation turned divorce at the queen’s urging. During this time, Diana – who said in an interview that she wanted to be a “queen of people’s hearts” – had the public’s favor.

Some Britons blamed Camilla Parker Bowles, whom Charles would marry in 2005 and who is now queen consort, for the breakdown of the marriage. “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Diana said in a 1995 interview.


Public anger toward Charles mounted when Diana died in a car accident in 1997, which shocked the world and drew scrutiny to the responses from the prince and the queen. The sovereign’s subjects thought she was too quiet, as much of the rest of the world, it seemed, was devastated by Diana’s death.

Ultimately, in a breach of royal protocol, Elizabeth bowed her head when Diana’s coffin passed by Buckingham Palace.

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2. Young Harry

Years before Prince Harry removed himself from official royal duties, his antics as a young adult drew intense scrutiny from the press and his family. Perhaps the most memorable of Harry’s scandals was his costume at a 2005 party, where he came dressed as a Nazi, donning a uniform with a swastika on the armband.

Harry, then 20, was caught after a photograph taken at the party was sold to a British tabloid, the Sun, which headlined its front page, “Harry the Nazi.” A royal statement attributed to Harry said: “I am very sorry if I have caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologise.”

He previously drew criticism for public intoxication, including a tussle with a paparazzo outside a nightclub, and for smoking marijuana. He was made to go to rehab over the latter incident – but only to observe the consequences of drug use.

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3. Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew, Elizabeth’s third child, has been the subject of numerous controversies, but none larger – or more damaging for the royal family – than the revelation in 2011 of his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, who have both been convicted of sexually exploiting teenage girls. One of their victims, Virginia Giuffre, said Epstein trafficked her to Andrew when she was 17 years old.


Andrew has denied the sexual abuse allegations and has not been criminally charged. In 2019, he gave a disastrous interview to the BBC defending his relationship with Epstein, causing a number of organizations to cut ties with him and forcing him to step back from his public duties as a royal. A month later, the BBC aired an interview with Giuffre, in which she described the alleged encounters with Andrew and said: “He knows what happened. I know what happened and there’s only one of us telling the truth, and I know that’s me.”

In 2021, Giuffre filed a lawsuit against him, accusing the prince of assault. Andrew’s lawyers unsuccessfully sought to dismiss the suit, and when a judge ruled that it could proceed, the royal family distanced itself from him. Soon after, Buckingham Palace announced that he would be stripped of his military affiliations and royal patronages and that he would be “defending this case as a private citizen.”

The statement came after more than a decade of scandalous headlines, and it represented the result of frantic damage control during the biggest crisis for the House of Windsor since Diana’s death. In February, Andrew settled with Giuffre for an undisclosed amount. In a one-page statement to the court, the parties agreed that Epstein “trafficked countless young girls over many years.” It said Andrew “regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others.”

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4. Harry and Meghan’s exit

In February 2021, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, sat down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey that would stun the world. By then, the pair had already announced their plans to quit their jobs as royals.

When the interview aired the next month, the reasons they did so came to light, including allegations of racism from the U.K. tabloids as well as the monarchy. Meghan, whose mother is Black and father is White, told Winfrey that there were conversations at the palace about the skin color of her son, Archie, while she was pregnant with him.

At one point after her marriage, Meghan said in the interview, “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.” And in response to her requests for help, royal human resources told her there was nothing they could do because she was not a “paid employee of the institution,” Meghan said.


Many noted the parallels between the couple’s tell-all and the 1995 BBC interview with Harry’s mother, Diana, when she spoke about Charles’s affair, her struggles with bulimia and the lack of support from the royal family.

The 2021 interview was a first look inside the treatment Harry and Meghan had received from the media and the monarchy that subsequently led them to relinquish their royal responsibilities.

Two days after the interview aired, Buckingham Palace said in a statement that the royal family was “saddened” to learn about Harry and Meghan’s experience.

“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning,” the statement said. “While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”

Asked for the “simplest answer” for why they left, Harry replied, “Lack of support and lack of understanding.”