Top British Royal Scandals

Hulton Archive

Illicit affairs… Damaging phone conversations... Toe sucking? Scandal often comes hand-in-scepter with the privileges of royalty, and the British royal family is no stranger to public disgrace and embarrassment, dating as far back as the 16th century.

The first recorded scandal occurred in 1534 when Henry VIII -- famously known for having two of his wives beheaded -- challenged the Roman Catholic Church by establishing the Anglican church. Having spent most of his reign objecting to the authority of Rome, it was the pope's refusal to grant the king a divorce that led to his break from the church. The storyline of Showtime's "The Tudors," starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VIII, details the excitement of this lengthy scandal and Henry's multiple affairs.

Spawning a trend of marriage scandals in the royal dynasty, King Edward VIII wanted to wed twice-divorced, American socialite Wallis Simpson in the '30s, but doing so would have gone against the rules of the church. In response, Edward abdicated his throne just 11 months after assuming the position but before his coronation as king in 1936. Of course, this event drives the plot of the Oscar-winning film 'The King's Speech,' with Guy Pearce starring as Edward VIII.

In 1985, England witnessed another scandalous love affair as Mark Phillips, husband to Princess Anne, fathered a daughter with his mistress, Heather Tonkin.

And many remember the embarrassment of Prince Charles and his then-wife Princess Diana when, in 1992, the Sun newspaper published transcripts of an intimate telephone conversation between Diana and her alleged lover, James Gilbey. During the conversation Diana expressed concern that she may be pregnant with his child. The same year Diana's private conversation was outed, Charles found himself in his own phone scandal when a British tabloid published transcripts of an explicit conversation between him and then-mistress Camilla Parker-Bowles, in which the next in line to be king of England said he wished he could turn into a tampon so he could live inside her trousers.

Charles and Diana divorced in 1996, but even after Diana's death the following year, scandal ensued as Major James Hewitt, Diana's former riding instructor, released 60 personal letters that the princess had sent him over the course of her marriage. Some even believe that Hewitt is the actual father of Diana's second son, Prince Harry, although a reported DNA test disputed that allegation.

The most recent royal scandal occurred in 2010 when Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, found herself in a video sting in which she offered access to her former husband, Prince Andrew, to an undercover tabloid journalist. The video showed Fergie appearing to accept $40,000 in cash and asking for over $700,000 more. Fergie's lapse of judgment came as no surprise to the public and the Royal family; in 1992 The Daily Mirror released photos of the duchess -- while still married to her prince -- having her toes sucked by wealthy Texas businessman John Bryan.