Royals Who Had Their Titles Stripped From Them

Being royal is a privilege afforded to precious few people, and one that should never be taken for granted, because royal titles can be expunged just as quickly as they are bestowed. Whether you're born into a monarchy or you became part of one by way of marriage, the rules of the royals are pretty much the same across the board — break protocol and/or embarrass the family in any way, and you could be out the door. History has shown that even the most popular royals aren't bulletproof in this regard. From the United Kingdom and its neighbors in Europe, to the far east where the rules get even stricter, royals have been stripped of their titles in numerous countries, and for a variety of reasons.

From fathering secret love children and lying about ties to notorious drug lords, to stealing public money and masterminding barbaric cockfighting rings, here's why the following royals were unceremoniously stripped of their titles.

The demotion of Diana, Princess of Wales

Perhaps the most well-known instance of a royal being stripped of their title, Princess Diana was told that she would no longer be Her Royal Highness after her divorce from Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. The couple wed at St, Paul's Cathedral in 1981 and welcomed sons William (born 1982) and Harry (1984) not long after that. Reports of trouble in paradise soon followed, but Diana's relationship with the Palace wouldn't completely deteriorate until 1995, when she sat down for a sensational interview with the BBC's Martin Bashir.

"There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded," Diana said, referring to her husband's relationshp with Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana's interview was apparently the last straw for Queen Elizabeth, who sent her daughter-in-law a letter informing her that divorce was the "best course" for her. The royal split was made official in 1996, and from that moment she was known simply as Diana, Princess of Wales.

The queen was reportedly "happy" for Diana to keep her royal title, but sources suggest that Charles insisted she be stripped of it. According to The Mirror, Diana was stung by this, which prompted a then 14-year-old Prince William to make a promise about her title that he'd never get the chance to keep. "Don't worry Mummy, I will give it back to you one day when I am King," he reportedly told his mother, who passed away following a Paris car crash in 1997.

Princess Cristina's lost title was the least of her worries

Princess Cristina of Spain was stripped of one of her royal titles after she became embroiled in a tax evasion scandal. Her husband, former Olympic handball player Iñaki Urdangarin, was placed under investigation in 2012 and was soon accused of misappropriating public funds via his charity. There was no suggestion that Cristina was involved at first, but the royal was sucked into the drama in 2013, when she was "formally named as a suspect," according to El Pais. She wasn't present at the 2014 coronation of her brother, King Felipe VI, who later decided that it would be wise to relieve the embattled royal of her duchess title. "His Majesty the King will revoke the use of the title of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca by Her Royal Highness the Infanta Cristina," a statement from the palace confirmed.

Her lawyers argued that she left all of her finances to her husband and that any wrongdoing by Urdangarin (who was said to have stolen around 6 million euros worth of public money) was completely on him, but Cristina was charged with two counts of being an accessory to tax fraud and she became the first Spanish royal in history to stand trial. The court ultimately bought her story — according to Reuters, Cristina was fined 265,000 euros for "benefiting, albeit unknowingly, from her husband's ill-gotten gains," while Urdangarin himself was sent down for six years. The trial, an embarrassment for the royal family, lasted a full year.

A love child cost Prince Nicholae his crown

Romania hasn't had a reigning monarch since communists took power in 1947 and King Michael was forced to abdicate his throne. Michael moved to England and later set up shop in Switzerland, but the always-dignified ruler remained popular in Romania right up until his passing in 2017. The funeral was attended by the UK's Prince Charles and a number of European monarchs past and present, but local eyes were glued to Michael's grandson, Nicholas Medforth-Mills, who was sensationally stripped of his royal title by the king two years earlier for lacking "moral principles," according to Express.

Medforth-Mills is the son of Michael's daughter, Elena, and her British husband. He was known as Prince Nicolae and was third in line until he was cast out of the royal house for fathering a love child. "The royal life means leading my life in a way I find hard to accept," he said at the time (via the Belfast Telegraph). "For this reason, I accept with a lot of pain in my heart the decision of His Majesty King Michael for me." His acceptance was apparently short-lived.

The royal family filed a police complaint against the scorned prince after he tried to force his way into his grandfather's home to reconcile with him prior to his passing. He wasn't allowed to enter, which reportedly didn't go down well with the public — the ecology-loving former prince and his glamorous wife, Alina-Maria Binder, have become hugely popular with Romanians in recent years.

Princess Srirasmi of Thailand lost a lot more than her title

Thailand's King Vajiralongkorn has been called "a modern-day Henry VIII," and it's definitely a fair comparison — while he hasn't been through quite as many wives as the infamous English monarch, Vajiralongkorn isn't far behind at this point. His first marriage ended in 1991, but his wife (who is also his cousin, which probably helped her case) retained her royal title. According to the South China Morning Post, his second wife wasn't afforded that privilege. She fled the country with her five children after the jilted monarch "hung posters on his palace's walls explicitly accusing her of adultery, abuse and fraud." She was the first of his wives to be stripped of her royal title, and wouldn't be the last.

The king's third wife, former lady-in-waiting Srirasmi Suwadee, was with him from 2001 until 2014, when she vanished from the public eye. The former princess has not been seen since. "There is a Facebook article demanding proof she is alive and well, as despite efforts to locate her, she appears to have fallen off the face of the earth," the South China Morning Post reported. Srirasmi was stripped of her title and forced to leave her son (Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, heir to the Thai throne) behind, but why was she sent into exile? There are strict lèse-majesté laws in Thailand, where insulting the monarchy is a grave crime. Several members of Princess Srirasmi's family were jailed under these laws, including her elderly parents. Vajiralongkorn married his fourth wife, Queen Suthida, in 2019.

Prince Johan Friso of Holland gave up his crown for love

Prince Johan Friso was second in line to the throne of the Netherlands when he met an ambitious young blonde named Mabel Wisse Smit. There's no rule that prohibits royals from marrying commoners in Holland, but Queen Beatrix's second son was told that he'd lose his place in the line of succession if he wed Smit. Why? Well, everything was going swimmingly for the couple until a bombshell news story broke — Smit had once been involved with Klaas Bruinsma, a notorious and devilishly handsome drug trafficker who was shot dead outside an Amsterdam hotel in 1991.

The fact that Smit overnighted on Bruinsma's yacht on more than one occasion was only half the problem. According to Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (per The New York Times), the prince and his fiancée gave authorities an ”incomplete and inaccurate” summary of Smit's past involvement with the murdered gangster, and ”there had been a breach in trust" as a result. Balkenende's cabinet refused to give the union its approval, meaning that if the prince wanted to go ahead with it, he could never possibly be king.

He married Smit anyway, and the couple had two children together. Sadly, their time together was cut tragically short. In 2012, the former prince was buried by an avalanche while skiing off-piste. He was rescued, but the oxygen deprivation caused extensive damage to his brain and he never regained consciousness. He passed away after 18 months in a coma.

Princess Madeleine didn't mind the downgrade

In 2019, a number of young Swedish royals lost their titles when King Carl XVI Gustaf ordered a large-scale cull. "His Majesty The King has decided on changes to the royal house," a statement from the palace confirmed (via People). "The purpose of these changes is to establish which members of the royal family may be expected to perform official duties incumbent on the head of state or related to the function of the head of state." Speaking to Express, royal scholar Roger Lundgren said that the move coincided with a shift in public opinion — the Swedes were starting to question why there were so many people on the royal payroll.

The king's youngest daughter, Princess Madeleine, was hit the hardest, with all three of her children being stripped of their Royal Highness titles (although the royal line of succession remained unchanged). She wasn't unhappy about the decision, however. In fact, she openly praised it. Soon after the news was made public, Madeleine took to Instagram and made it clear that she and her husband (British-born American financier Christopher O'Neill) saw this as a positive move for their young family. "Leonore, Nicolas and Adrienne will no longer belong to the royal house," the princess captioned her post. "This change has been planned for a long time. Chris and I think it's good that our children are now getting a greater opportunity to shape their own lives as private individuals in the future."

Princess Ayako married her way out of the Imperial Household

In Japan, Imperial Household law dictates that female royals who marry commoners will be stripped of their status, but that didn't stop Princess Ayako from tying the knot with a shipping firm worker in 2018. Ayako is the youngest child of the late Norihito, Prince Takamado, who died after suffering a heart attack during a squash lesson at the Canadian Embassy in 2002. The 28-year-old was thinking about family as she exchanged vows with Kei Moriya in a traditional Shinto ceremony at Tokyo's famous Meiji Shrine. "I'm filled with joy to marry and to have so many people visit us at the Meiji Shrine and congratulate us," she told reporters (via Hello!). "I am very happy that we held the wedding at this Meiji Shrine where my great grandfather Meiji Emperor is worshipped. I feel so happy."

Her husband, who works for the Japanese firm Nippon Yusen, told the press that Ayako looked "beautiful" on their wedding day (the now-former royal wore a conventional court kimono and a hairstyle common among imperial aristocracy), and he implied that they wanted kids sooner rather than later. "I would like to support her firmly and, hand in hand, build a happy family with lots of laughter," he said. In November 2019, Ayako gave birth to a son, who, like his parents, is classed as a commoner. It comes at a time when there's a distinct lack of male heirs, which has prompted calls for the succession laws to be overhauled.

Losing royal titles is kind of Prince Carl Philip's thing

Like his younger sister, Princess Madeleine, Prince Carl Philip of Sweden was told that his children were to be stripped of their titles and removed from the royal house in 2019. King Carl XVI Gustaf declared that both of Carl Philip's sons would no longer go by His Royal Highness, and (again, like his sister), the prince was all for it. "We see this as positive as Alexander and Gabriel will have freer choices in life," Carl Philip, who married model and reality TV star Sofia Kristina Hellqvist in 2015, said in an Instagram post. "They will retain their prince titles and their duchies, Södermanland and Dalarna, which we value and are proud of."

Interestingly, Prince Carl Philip was also stripped of a royal title when he was a child. When he was born, he was given the title Crown Prince and was named heir to his father's throne, but changes to the Swedish Constitution were afoot. In 1980, the law was changed so that females were allowed to ascend, and Crown Prince Carl Philip transformed into a simple prince overnight. His older sister became Crown Princess Victoria, but he's never been bitter about being bumped down the royal pecking order. "We will also continue to support the King and Crown Princess — our future head of state — and participate in the King's House activities as we wish," Carl Philip said after his sons were demoted to princes.

Princess Irina left her royal father with 'profound sadness'

King Michael shocked his people when he stripped Prince Nicolae of his royal title amid rumors he had fathered a child out of wedlock, but it wasn't the first time that Romania's last king had fired a member of his family. In 2013, Princess Irina, who was fifth in line to the throne at the time, was charged with operating a cockfighting ring on her ranch in Oregon, according to The Oregonian. The third of King Michael and Queen Anne's five daughters was born in Switzerland, and has only set foot in Romania on a handful of occasions. She settled in the U.S. after marrying former sheriff's deputy John Wesley Walker, who was also charged. King Michael was left with "profound sadness" upon hearing the news, a statement on the royal family's website revealed.

According to the BBC, a federal indictment stated that paying spectators watched birds with blades attached to their legs fight one another as Irina and her husband sold refreshments nearby. "Besides being a barbaric practice, cockfighting jeopardises public health and safety and facilitates the commission of other criminal acts," a United States attorney for the District of Oregon said. Irina pleaded guilty and apologized, admitting that she had brought shame on her family. It was too late to save her princess title, however — King Michael revoked it because of her involvement in the scandal. She and her husband were sentenced to probation, agreeing to pay the government $200,000 as part of their plea deal.