A few days ago, photos of Prince Harry cavorting naked with a blonde hit the web. While the prince has had his share of controversy in the past, including attending a party in a Nazi uniform and getting caught smoking weed, he has a long way to go to catch up to some of his scandalous relatives.
1. George IV
While most Americans think that George III was a tyrant, it was actually his son who took being a horrible monarch to a new level. The licentious George IV was possibly the worst monarch in British history, and even before he took the throne he managed to involve himself in dozens of scandals. Because he was rather unattractive, he found the best way to get women to sleep with him was to offer them what in today’s money would be hundreds of thousands—in some cases, millions—of pounds. However, after he had gotten what he wanted (and often a child or two as well), he would refuse to pay. His father usually ended up footing the bill to make the women go away. It was no wonder George tried to get out of his financial agreements, considering he was a prolific gambler and once had debt collectors surround his residence demanding payment.
But the biggest scandal of his life involved his main mistress, a twice-widowed Catholic woman named Maria Fitzherbert. When she refused to sleep with him, he started sending her suicide notes that ran as long as 42 pages. Eventually she relented—but only if he married her.
Unlike the Prince of Wales today, George simply could not marry a commoner. On top of that, it was actually illegal for him to marry a Catholic. He ignored all that, though, and married Mrs. Fitzherbert in a secret wedding in the dead of night. It was so secret that seemingly everyone in England knew about it within a few months. Ten years later, when his father insisted he get married for real to a foreign princess he hated, George’s illegal marriage threatened to derail the whole thing. In the end he abandoned his mistress and numerous children to do his duty, but his image was tarnished forever.
2. Edward VII
Edward VII was almost certainly the most over-sexed monarch in British history. Throughout his life it is estimated he slept with thousands of women. Some led to scandals, including a former friend threatening to blackmail the prince after he slept with his friend’s wife. But without a doubt it was his very first sexual encounter that sent the strongest shockwaves through the royal family.
Edward (who was called Bertie by his family) had the misfortune of being a libertine in a family of prudes. His parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, had both been virgins when they married and it never occurred to them that their children would ever consider not following that path themselves. But at the age of 19, his parents sent him off to a military camp for the summer, and there he encountered the camp prostitute. Despite being watched like a hawk by his chaperones, he managed to have sex with her three different times, all of which he recorded in his diary.
Eventually one of his chaperones found out what was going on and informed Edward's parents. Their reaction was melodramatic, to say the least. They could never look at him again without being reminded about how he had failed. He could never get married now because his wife would be too good and pure for him. Bertie went back to school at Cambridge, but his father, not content to berate him in letters, came to visit and took his son on a long walk in the rain in order to yell at him some more. When Prince Albert fell ill a short time later, the doctors told Queen Victoria it was due to the shock of her son’s betrayal. Albert died of his illness and Victoria blamed her son and heir for the death of her beloved husband for the rest of her life. All because he got it on with a hooker.
3. Queen Victoria
While she may have been prudish in her younger years, in old age Queen Victoria may have thrown caution to the wind. Once she was widowed, she withdrew almost completely from public life and isolated herself on her country estates. There she became close to a Scottish servant named John Brown (pictured with the Queen). She allowed him to take liberties that no one else would dream of, like calling her “woman” instead of “Your Majesty.” She gave him presents and created special honors and medals to present to him alone. Her children took to calling Brown “Mama’s lover,” and soon rumors were getting back to London about their relationship. Some claimed they slept in adjoining rooms and that a minister had admitted on his death bed that he had presided over a secret marriage between the two. A popular magazine started referring to the queen as Mrs. Brown.
When Brown died, Victoria was distraught. She had a statue of him built and the instructions she left when she died included that she be buried with a lock of his hair, his photograph, and a ring he had given her. After Victoria’s death, her youngest daughter went through her diaries and burned many of the pages that she thought were too dirty to ever see the light of day. Many are presumed to have been about Brown.
Incidentally, like Prince Harry, Queen Victoria was also the subject of a salacious image in her youth, although this one was on purpose. As a gift for her husband early in their marriage she had a racy portrait painted of herself, one which Prince Albert found so sexy that he hid it away in his private office so no one else would ever accidentally see it. The portrait was only recently deemed acceptable for release so be prepared:
4. The Duke of Kent
No member of the royal family has ever been considered more scandalous to the family that the current queen’s Uncle George, the Duke of Kent. His life is considered so unsavory that to this day his papers are sealed at Windsor Castle, and no researchers are allowed to look at them. This may have something to do with the fact that George was bisexual.
As the fourth son of George V and fifth in line to the throne, George, like Prince Harry, knew his chances of becoming king were slim and he was freer than his brothers to live the life he wanted to. And it turned out the life he wanted to live involved lots of sex and drugs.
Before his marriage, he is supposed to have enjoyed the company of thin blonde men, but afterwards his tastes expanded to include a black (female) singer. He was arrested for engaging in homosexual activity at least once, but released when his identity was confirmed. The papers may not have reported on his indiscretions, but all of high society knew about them.
George was also heavily addicted to morphine and cocaine, and was put under house arrest by one of his brothers during the 1920s in an attempt to cure him. It didn’t work.
The Duke was not discreet when it came to writing to his lovers, and was reportedly blackmailed by a male prostitute over his love letters. Other dirty missives by George to Noel Coward were probably stolen from the playwright’s house.
George died in a plane crash at the age of 39. Mystery even surrounds his death. While the official version is that the pilot took the wrong flight path and crashed into a mountain, rumors started circulating that the Prince, a pilot himself, had been flying while drunk. Others spread salacious rumors that his lifestyle had become too much of a liability for his family, and he had been killed on purpose.
Just to be safe, Prince Harry might want to rethink his next game of strip billiards.