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Controversial royal romances: King Charles' affair, Crown Princess Mette-Marit's 'wild' past & more

King Edward and Wallis Simpson's relationship was also forbidden

Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Wallis Simpson and King Charles with their husbands and wives
Nichola MurphyDeputy Lifestyle Editor
Phoebe TathamContent Writer
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While Prince William and Princess Kate and Zara and Mike Tindall have had fairytale romances, not every member of the royal family has had drama-free love stories.

Prince Andrew had a romance with an actress that was deemed scandalous before he married Sarah Ferguson, while Crown Princess Mette-Marit had a "wild" past before her royal wedding. Meanwhile, King Charles and Queen Camilla sparked backlash for their affair and King Edward's decision to abdicate due to his forbidden marriage was considered shocking at the time.

Join HELLO! as we take a closer look at some of the most controversial royal relationships behind palace walls that set tongues wagging…

Prince Andrew and Koo Stark

Prince Andrew in a suit with his ex Koo Stark in a black outfit© Dave Benett

Five years before he married his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, Queen Elizabeth's son dated American actress Koo Stark for 18 months.

According to People magazine, Andrew even introduced her to his mother in 1982 and Buckingham Palace released a statement regarding her past, which saw her take part in daring photoshoots and film scenes.

"We do not know if the Queen was aware of the girl's acting career before she was invited to Balmoral," a spokesperson said.

Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon

The Wedding Of Crown Prince Haakon Of Norway & Mette-Marit, 2001© Getty

Crown Prince Haakon married Crown Princess Mette-Marit, formerly known as Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby, on 25 August 2001. However, their relationship was considered unconventional due to her past before joining the Norwegian royal family.

The former waitress was a single mother to her four-year-old son Marius from a previous relationship when the couple were introduced by mutual friends in 1999.

After announcing their engagement in December 2000, they made the controversial decision to live together until their wedding took place eight months later.

Considered a modern-day Cinderella, Mette-Marit addressed her "wild" past in a press conference held shortly before the wedding. "My youth rebellion was much stronger than many others. That resulted in me living quite a wild life," she said, before condemning drugs and asking for a fresh start.

King Charles and Queen Camilla

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla leave the Service of Prayer and Dedication blessing their marriage at Windsor Castle on April 9, 2005© Getty

King Charles III and Queen Camilla's unconventional love story most definitely upset the apple cart. Whilst the couple are now happily married, their romance got off to a sticky start when reports suggested that the monarch had an affair with Camilla during his marriage to Princess Diana.

When asked if he tried to be "faithful and honorable" to Princess Diana during their marriage, Charles replied: "Yes… until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried." He added: "Mrs. Parker Bowles is a great friend of mine… a friend for a very long time. She will continue to be a friend for a very long time."

After meeting at a polo match, Charles and Camilla first started dating in the 70s. They nonetheless called it quits when a young Prince Charles travelled overseas. Camilla went on to marry Andrew Parker-Bowles in 1973, and Charles wed Princess Diana in 1981. In 1992, Charles and Diana announced their split. Meanwhile, in 1995, Camilla filed for divorce from Andrew Parker-Bowles. 

Nearly 30 years after they first met, Charles and Camilla eventually went public with their relationship in 1999. They went on to marry in 2005 in a civil ceremony at Windsor's Guildhall followed by a service of blessing at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Whilst key members of the royal family such as Prince Harry and Prince William attended the couple's ceremony, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were notably absent on Charles's big day. The reason? According to the Telegraph, the late monarch bowed out because of her role as head of the Church of England, which discourages divorce.  

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Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

king edward

Despite marrying for love, both Edward and Wallis were effectively exiled by the royal family. The once future King only returned to England a handful of times, most notably to attend two royal funerals: that of his brother in 1952, and later for his mother Queen Mary in 1953.

Why did their relationship cause such a scandal? Prior to finding love with Edward, Wallis had been married twice before. She married Earl W. Spencer (a navy pilot) in 1916 whom she divorced in 1927, and later wed Ernest A. Simpson in 1928 whom she divorced in 1936.

In light of her two divorces, Wallis was deemed socially and politically unacceptable as a prospective British queen. Beyond this, both the government and the crown rejected Edward's proposal to Wallis as the Church of England did not permit divorced people to remarry in the church.

Thus, on December 10, 1936, Edward famously renounced the throne before marrying Wallis in France at Chateau de Cande.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leave St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)© Jane Barlow - PA Images

Similar to King Edward, Prince Harry fell for a divorced American actress, Meghan Markle. The Suits star was previously married to film producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013.

After they confirmed their relationship in 2016, Harry issued a statement asking the press to stop the "wave of abuse and harassment" toward his girlfriend, which he said came in the form of "the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."

The statement continued: "Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm. He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game - it is her life and his."

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have continued to open up about dealing with criticism around their relationship after tying the knot in 2018.

Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend

Princess Margaret in a floral hat next to suit-clad Peter Townsend in 1955© Getty

Prior to finding love with Antony Armstrong-Jones, Queen Elizabeth II's sister Princess Margaret sparked controversy with her engagement to Peter Townsend: King George VI's equerry.

News of their engagement sparked debate within the royal family given that Peter had been married before. Princess Margaret, who was just 25 years old at the time, needed the Queen's consent to marry a divorced man.

In 1955, Margaret issued a heartbreaking statement calling off her engagement. Her message read: "I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.

"Mindful of the Church's teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others."

Princess Mako and Kei Komuro

The couple at a press conference to announce their wedding© Getty

Princess Mako's fairytale love story rocked the Imperial House of Japan, leading her to give up her royal title.

Princess Mako, now known as Mako Komuro, fell head over heels in love with her beau Kei after they first crossed paths as students in 2012. And in 2018, the couple announced their decision to wed.

Just two months after the young lovebirds went public with their engagement, Kei became the subject of headlines, with numerous news outlets reporting on Kei's mother's alleged money dispute with her former fiancé.

The revelations sparked a public backlash, eventually leading Princess Mako's father to temporarily withhold his approval of their marriage. Despite the uproar, in November 2020, Crown Prince Akishino eventually gave his daughter the green light she needed to wed her university sweetheart.

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