10 Most Controversial Royal Marriages Throughout History
- Princess Mako and Kei KomuroPrincess Mako and Kei Komuro
- Prince Harry and Meghan MarklePrince Harry and Meghan Markle
- Edward VIII and Wallis SimpsonEdward VIII and Wallis Simpson
- Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan and Oksana VoevodinaSultan Muhammad V of Kelantan and Oksana Voevodina
- Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia HellqvistPrince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist
- Prince Charles and Lady Diana SpencerPrince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
- Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-JonesPrincess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones
- Prince Andrew and Sarah FergusonPrince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson
- Princess Anne and Mark PhillipsPrincess Anne and Mark Phillips
- King Henry VIII and Anne BoleynKing Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
Learn more about royal individuals who have made headlines throughout history for breaking age-old traditions and royal protocol in order to marry the one they love, and for having marriages riddled in scandal and chaos
With the recent news of Princess Mako of Japan's marriage to her commoner university sweetheart at last, the arduous journey towards their marriage has caught the attention of the world once again with regard to the complicated workings of the royal household and their stance on marriage, especially unions between aristocracy and commoners.
A royal marriage controversy is not necessarily anything new because throughout history, royal families all around the world, in particular those of Europe, have been plagued by scandals and controversy. In many of these situations, the scandals often revolved around the assertion to be with the one they love.
Keep scrolling to learn more about the most contentious royal marriages and scandals in our history.
Princess Mako and Kei Komuro
Just yesterday, Princess Mako of Japan finally married her college boyfriend, Kei Komuro, in a simple wedding registry in Tokyo. While the wedding itself was an unassuming affair, the process leading up to the princess's big day was a long and painful one.
By choosing to spend her life with Komuro—a commoner whom she met in college—the princess officially renounced her royal status, which was a decision that brought about intense public scrutiny, with tabloids reporting on a financial dispute between Kei's mother and her former fiancé.
Japan's law requires Mako to undergo official ceremonies to mark her departure from the royal family and she is granted a dowry of around $1.4 million. However, she opted out of both traditions, making her the first female imperial family member since World War II to decline the dowry when marrying a commoner.
She plans to move to New York, where Komuro has already found a job at a law firm, later this year.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
This royal couple has been shrouded in controversy since day one when Prince Harry started dating Suits actress Meghan Markle, with their relationship strangely echoing that of his great-uncle's marriage to the American socialite Wallis Simpson in the early 20th century.
After meeting on a blind date in 2016, the prince confirmed his relationship to the actress in November of that year and the latter subsequently faced a wave of abuse and harassment from internet trolls.
The onslaught of gruesome tabloid attention they garnered from their dating years up until after their wedding led to their decision to take a "step back" from the royal family in 2020, where they would split their time between the United Kingdom and North America and that they planned to be financially independent. They also made the rare move to take legal action against the paparazzi for the excessive, negative tabloid attention.
Markle was also facing scrutiny for her troubled relationship with her father, as the latter would reveal scathing revelations and news about his daughter to the tabloids.
The couple recently sat down for an explosive (and controversial) tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey where they shared how their treatment by the royal family led them to step down from their positions, with accusations including unnamed members of the family expressing concerns about how dark Archie's skin would be when he was born and Markle being "silenced" and told never to comment on false reports in the media.
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Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
Forever known as the king who gave up the British throne for love, Edward VIII did something that monarchs did not have the luxury of doing—he fell in love. Furthermore, the woman he was in love with was not only American, but also a divorcée.
In December of 1936, Edward VIII shook the ground beneath the monarchy when, after less than a year on the throne, he signed his abdication papers so that he could marry Wallis Simpson—an American socialite.
This put the future of the monarchy in jeopardy, and members of the royal family were said to loathe Simpson ever since, according to E! Entertainment.
However, Edward VIII's early letters suggest he was never wild about the idea of being king anyway and was eager to spend the rest of his quiet life with his American bride.
While this was the love story of the century to some and a scandal to others, the story of King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallis Simpson was simply one about a prince who just wanted to be like everyone else.
Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan and Oksana Voevodina
In June 2018, the Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan married Russian beauty queen and model Oksana Voevodina in a traditional Malay wedding in Malaysia and they also had a Western ceremony in Moscow, Russia later in November that year.
According to Malay royal wedding proceedings, Voevodina reportedly converted to Islam and changed her name to Rihana Oxana Petra, adopting the family name of Muhammad V. The wedding was widely covered and discussed on social media and in an unprecedented move, the sultan became the first Malaysian king to step down from the throne in January 2019.
The couple subsequently had a son by the name of Tengku Ismail Leon Petra bin Tengku Muhammad V Faris Petra in May 2019 and shortly after, the sultan filed for a divorce, which was finalised in Singapore by a talak tiga, or third talaq—an irrevocable divorce executed by simply announcing to his wife that he dissolves the marriage.
As if tensions between the model and the palace weren't already at an all time high, it was also reported that after Voevodina had posted photos of their life together on her Instagram account, the Kelantan palace condemned the social media posts of the monarch's private life on social media as inappropriate and defamatory.
Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Sofia Hellqvist
If Meghan Markle ever needs any advice on how to deal with the tabloids, Sofia Hellqvist is someone she should reach out to.
The Swedish duchess was a budding reality TV star and had posed provocatively for a men's magazine—where she was known most notoriously as Slitz Magazine's "Miss Slitz"—before she randomly met Prince Carl Philip during a night on the town. The duo quickly fell for one another, but the Swedes were not very pleased with Hellqvist's past.
In the beginning of her relationship with the prince, the princess was hounded relentlessly by the Swedish press, where they would publish pictures of her tattoos as well as her various more risque outfits. However, since the pair tied the knot back in 2015 –things have been a lot calmer for the duchess.
When asked about her experience, she told People, “A lot has been written over the years, not only following our engagement. For me it’s pretty boring, it happened ten years ago and I’ve moved on with my life. But no regrets. Experience shapes a person.”
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
While the marriage between Prince Charles and Lady Diana was a seemingly fairytale affair on the outside, the union between the two vastly differently personalities of a large age gap was one that was doomed to fail from the start.
As a 19-year-old with noble blood, Lady Diana seemed like the perfect bride. Yet their scandalous marriage would be spearheaded by a slew of incompatibilities and Charles' continued infidelity.
Charles was reportedly jealous of Diana's fame and social acumen and both of them were caught in intimate conversations with their lovers on separate occasions. Diana's tapped phone call was called "Squidgygate" because of her then-boyfriend's pet name for her, but Charles seemed to top that when he was caught in an illegally recorded phone conversation with his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, whom he later married.
Diana's infamous televised interview with Martin Bashir was perhaps the final nail on the coffin, which was conducted behind the royal family's backs, whereby she said her marriage had driven her to self-harm, bulimia, and infidelity on the part of both her and her husband—and this interview was credited for ushering in a new era of confessional TV interviews.
The year after their divorce in 1996, Diana unfortunately died after being injured in a car crash.
Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones
We have to thank The Crown for reigniting all the royal drama surrounding Princess Margaret and her troubled marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones, or later known as Lord Snowdon.
A wild child back then, the princess fell in love with Peter Townsend—a married man who worked for her father when she was just 17. After Parliament refused to allow the pair to wed, she married a photographer named Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960 despite palace officials' protests. Though they remained married for 18 years, it was not a blissful union.
Armstrong-Jones had many affairs when his and Princess Margaret's marriage began to fall apart, but she was the one with the most scandalous dalliance when she was caught on camera canoodling with gardener Roddy Llewellyn, who was 17 years younger than her.
After Margaret's affair with Llewellyn hit the papers, her husband asked for a divorce and it was surprisingly approved by the Crown.
The divorce nearly cost the princess everything including her government-funded lifestyle and she was subsequently labeled a “royal parasite.”
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Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson
Shortly after Prince Andrew was involved in a scandalous relationship with erotic film actress Koo Stark, he decided to settle down with someone who seemed like a more appropriate royal bride in the eyes of the public—Sarah Ferguson, a girl from the English countryside.
However, Andrew and Ferguson were ill-suited to each other, and their marriage brought many the scandals and bad press upon the Crown.
In 2010, decades after their 1996 divorce, Ferguson reportedly tried to sell information about Prince Andrew to the press, according to ABC News. Today, she reportedly still lives with Prince Andrew, and their relationship has regularly been called "strange," according to Express.
In November 2019, Prince Andrew resigned from his official royal duties as the Duke of York following scrutiny for his ties to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Princess Anne and Mark Phillips
Princess Anne thought she had found love when she married Captain Mark Phillips in 1973. Their relationship seemed to be going well for a while, but by the late ’80s, their marriage crumbled.
The princess fell for one of the palace equerries while being married at the time, and the affair was discovered because someone had stolen some of her love letters from her home.
To add fuel to the fire, an art teacher from New Zealand named Heather Tonkin came forward in 1991 saying that Captain Phillips was the father to her 5-year-old daughter, and he’d been paying her for her silence.
When DNA confirmed that Phillips was indeed the little girl’s father, Princess Anne filed for divorce. The captain was booted out of the princess’ country home, Gatcombe Park where he’d been staying. Princess Anne went on to marry her current husband, Timothy Laurence in 1992.
King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn
One of the oldest royal marriage scandals in history, the union between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn literally made history by changing the religion and church of the entire country.
At the beginning of his reign in 1509, the British Crown showed no signs of wanting to leave Catholicism. Yet when Henry VIII fell in love with his mistress Anne Boleyn, he made the unprecedented decision to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The Catholic Church does not recognise divorce, so Henry decided to create his own religion and thus, the Church of England was born.
As if forcing an entire country to switch religions for your marriage wasn't controversial enough, he later beheaded his wife for reportedly cheating on him and subsequently went on to marry four more times.