Royal Memoirs That Enraged The Public

After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle laid it all out on the table in a conversation with Oprah Winfrey in 2021, word got out that some members of the royal family apparently were rattled by the Sussexes' statements. A tipster told People that "anger" as well as "deep sorrow and shock" rippled through the palace; Us Weekly reported a source claimed "Charles may never forgive Harry." Following the interview, Queen Elizabeth II said in a statement (via the AP), "The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately."

Prince Harry is far from the first royal to take the family's personal matters out to the public. Rather, there have been a number of royal memoirs that have generated a great deal of buzz and raised an eyebrow or two.

Indeed, royal memoirs are nothing new and the first person to score a spot in the hot seat for giving outsiders a glimpse into royal life was then-Princess Elizabeth's governess all the way back in 1950. In the decades that have followed, there have been plenty of other inflammatory tomes published and we're rounding them all up below. Here are 12 royal memoirs that have enraged the public.

Did a royal reporter exploit Princess Diana's death?

British royal reporter Andrew Morton made headlines in 1992 with the publication of "Diana: Her True Story." It sold five million copies worldwide, per PBS, and Morton claimed that Diana's friends and family participated in the memoir, but as he later told the Independent, "I was called a liar." However, the real controversy began after Diana's death when, in 1997, Morton released an expanded version of the book titled "Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words." This time, he claimed it was the princess herself who contributed and included a new 18,000-word transcript of Diana's own words, per PBS.

The book was so sensational, tackling everything from Diana's marriage to her battle with bulimia, that Buckingham Palace threatened to ban it. Criticism was swift. The Guardian reported on "Morton's betrayal in turning death to credit" (via PBS), accusing him of being "guilty of a novel immorality in deciding that promises of confidentiality are not posthumous." Meanwhile, as the Independent noted, Sir Bob Geldof called Morton "a loathsome creep gorging on the memory of the woman who handed him his cheque." But the author maintained his innocence. "I have been attacked most vociferously by those people who have made the most money out of Diana's death: Newspapers, magazines, TV shows," he told The Toronto Sun in '97 (via PBS). He also said in the Independent that "Diana was in on this" and mused, "I just didn't understand it. By attacking me, they were attacking the Princess of Wales, who wanted the story written."

Prince Charles bared all with no regrets

Prince Charles "bared his soul" in a 1994 authorized biography called "The Prince of Wales," giving historian and broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby "unprecedented access to thousands of his private letters and diaries," per the AP, as well as granting him "long interviews." In the book, Charles talks about being bullied as a child, being pushed into a "loveless" marriage by his father, and is quoted as asking, "How could I have got it all so wrong?″ In one of the cited letters, the future King of England writes that his marriage to Princess Diana makes him feel trapped ”in a kind of cage" and "longing to be free. How awful incompatibility is, and how dreadfully destructive it can be for the players in this extraordinary drama," he muses, adding, "I never thought it would end up like this.″

As the AP noted, the book was published to the "dismay of traditionalists" and, per Los Angeles Times, it "stirred controversy" within the royal family. One Buckingham Palace aide even slammed it as "a huge mistake," explaining, "The monarchy has been damaged enough by all these revealing books, but this one is more damaging, because every word has been inspired by the prince himself." The Independent also highlighted how the book's publication sparked "debate about the Prince's wisdom in going along with them," but one spokesman was adamant that Charles "does not regret his cooperation over the book."

Sarah Ferguson spilled the royal tea in her memoirs

Princess Diana and Prince Charles weren't the only royal couple to separate in 1992 and divorce in 1996: Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew's relationship followed the exact same timeline. But unlike Diana, Ferguson, better known as Fergie, didn't sign a confidentiality agreement when she joined the royal family in 1986, so she was able to publish her first memoir, "My Story," in 1996. Not unlike occasional controversy magnet Fergie, the tell-all sure made a headline or two.

In the book, she spilled the royal tea, criticizing the royal family and revealing the cause for her divorce. She wrote, per Express, that she and Andrew "had been discussing a separation, not because we'd stopped caring for one another, but because I had reached the end of my royal rope." She continued, "For six years I had shouldered the demands of Palace life. I'd endured the constant scrutiny of the British press and the barely veiled hostility of the Royal Household" and "gradually, relentlessly, they had beaten me down," she claimed, adding, "They were killing me by inches. It was time to save my life." Fergie wrote that she was "tagged 'unsuitable' for royal life" and "frozen out" (via E! News).

Following the book's publication, Ferguson was accused of "cashing in on her royal connections," per The Guardian, and, as Town & Country noted, it (along with her 2011 followup, "Finding Sarah: A Duchess's Journey to Find Herself") was "packed with a kind of oversharing that couldn't have pleased the crown." 

Did Sarah Ferguson's book spark a feud with Princess Diana?

Perhaps the biggest fallout following the publication of "My Story" came when Princess Diana, who had known Sarah Ferugson since they were teenagers and had introduced her to Prince Andrew, stopped speaking to her friend. As Robert Jobson, The Evening Standard's royal editor, recounted (via Express), "Sarah made clear that she was going to write a book and Diana was supportive of that. But she said, 'I don't want you to mention me at all.'" However, she was indeed mentioned and not in a flattering light.

Recounting how her friend aided her in adjusting to royal life, Fergie wrote, "Diana helped me by giving me all her shoes (and less happily, her plantar warts)." Then and there, Diana cut her out of her life. As Tina Brown wrote in "The Diana Chronicles," "Goddesses don't get warts" and "Despite Fergie's pleading apologies, Diana never spoke to her again." As royal author Katie Nicholl noted (via Express), when "Diana bore a grudge — she could really bear a grudge."

Fergie confirmed the claims in 2007, telling Harper's Bazaar, "The saddest thing, at the end, we hadn't spoken for a year." Playing coy, she added, "I never knew the reason," but was adamant that she "tried, wrote letters, thinking whatever happened didn't matter, let's sort it out. And I knew she'd come back," she said. "In fact, the day before she died she rang a friend of mine and said, 'Where's that Red? I want to talk to her.'"

Prince Harry's memoir stirred up drama long before its publish date

In July 2021, it was confirmed that Prince Harry has a memoir on the books. He agreed to a $20 million publishing deal with Penguin Random House, per The Guardian, that will possibly include four books. His first tome, written "not as the prince I was born, but as the man I have become," will be published in late 2022 with help from Pulitzer-winning ghostwriter JR Moehringer. "My hope is that in telling my story — the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned — I can help show that no matter where we come from, we have more in common than we think," Harry explained in a statement. Even so, criticism was swift.

As Express reported, royal experts dubbed the deal a "money making exercise at the expense of his blood family," and reporter Natalie Oliveri told Today (via Express) that people are "criticising" Harry for leaving "the fishbowl that was the Royal Family" only to agree to a memoir. Other scathing reactions included royal biographer Angela Levin telling TalkRADIO (via Express), "I don't think he cares about Britain anymore. I think he wants to destroy the monarchy [...] he is riddled with hate," while Sophie Elsworth, a writer at The Australian, told Sky News she would sooner watch "watch paint dry" than pick up a copy. She continued, "Is he trying to utterly destroy any tiny little amount of respect he has left in the Royal Family?"

Queen Elizabeth's governess was banished from court for her memoir

One of the people who knew Queen Elizabeth best was undoubtedly Marion Crawford. For 16 years, Crawford, a teacher, was chosen to be the governess to then-Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret. The young princesses nicknamed her Crawfie, per Tatler, and, as the outlet points out, she "was not only their teacher, but their constant confidante and companion." Sadly, their special relationship would fall into ruin with the 1950 publication of "The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen's Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford."

Although Time concluded that "the nursery secrets that Crawfie revealed were hardly earth-shattering" and Tatler dubbed it a "discreet and loving memoir," Crawford was "punished for the rest of her life" due to the book's publication. "Poor Crawfie was cast into the outer darkness" by the royal family, per Tatler, and the press went after her as well. As Time discovered, one newspaper criticized her "views on how confidences should be treated" as she made some bold assumptions, including writing that Prince Philip "was not a demonstrative man [and] Lilibet took after him."

As Tatler noted, Crawford was never forgiven and, when she died in 1988, the royals apparently still held such a grudge that "not a single royal flower was sent" to the funeral.

Diana's butler sparked 'excitement and controversy' with his account

Paul Burrell was Princess Diana's butler for a decade and, in 2003, he decided to share his royal recollections in a memoir titled "A Royal Duty." In doing so, he "raised the hackles of the Royal Family," per People, as he made bombshell claims, including that Diana once had nine "gentleman friends" and graded them, per CNN, that she feared there was a plot to kill her 10 months before her death, and that Prince Philip once told her, "I cannot imagine anyone in their right mind leaving you for Camilla," per The Guardian.

The book soon came under fire with former Buckingham Palace press secretary Dickie Arbiter telling BBC Radio 4 (via CNN), "It is damaging to the memory of Diana." But the most scathing reaction came from Princes William and Harry. In a joint statement, per The Guardian, they slammed, "We cannot believe that Paul, who was entrusted with so much, could abuse his position in such a cold and overt betrayal." They added, "It is not only deeply painful for the two of us but also for everyone else affected and it would mortify our mother if she were alive today."

As for Burrell, he told People he was "hugely proud of this book" and added, "I had no idea that a book which is [...] a glowing tribute to the Princess, would cause such excitement and controversy. I never for one minute envisioned a storm which was largely based on a misrepresentation of my book's aim."

An explosive Prince Charles biography was dubbed 'hearsay'

When journalist and investigative author Tom Bower published "Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles" in 2018, he was taken to task for never actually having spoken to Prince Charles. "So, really all of this is hearsay," "Good Morning Britain" host Susanna Reid slammed, per The Scottish Sun, as Bower shot back, "No, it's not. I witnessed evidence from more than 120 people who have personally worked and lived with Prince Charles." In the book, Bower makes some truly eyebrow-raising claims, including that the prince travels with a flask of premixed martini, that he's afraid of plastic wrap, and that he takes all of his bedroom furniture with him on the road, including his "own lavatory seat," per Daily Mail. He's also quoted as once having asked, "People think I'm bonkers, crackers. Do you think I'm mad?"

The media wasn't on board. In reviewing the book, The Oldie called it a "royal hatchet job" and pointed out that "the stories are not true." Meanwhile, The Mirror defended Prince Charles, noting that he "has his foibles, but he is not a crook, not a bully and not a hypocrite." Twitter agreed. While one user wrote, "What's the point of the book? Hearsay is not fact. All sounds very silly to me," another proclaimed, "I think this book is rubbish!" Yet another criticized, "Disgusted you can write a book on hearsay and ex-employees grievances — and claim it as truth for [money] and personal fame."

A former press secretary was accused of 'betraying' Prince Charles

Dickie Arbiter worked as a Buckingham Palace press secretary from 1988 to 2000 during which time he was bound by a confidentiality agreement. However, come 2014, he toed the line and published "On Duty With The Queen," a reflection on his 12 years of royal service.

According to The Mirror, Prince Charles was "furious" at Arbiter for "betraying" him. One palace source told the outlet that the book "is raking over the breakdown of the marriage [to Diana] and the Prince has been asking aides, 'Why do we have to go through this all again?'" The insider called it "disloyal" and continued, "It is just a case of a man who he thought was a friend and who could be trusted cashing in on the misery of that time." They also added that "a legal team has reviewed all his old contracts in a bid to try and find a way to stop it." Even so, the memoir was published and Arbiter defended it on "Good Morning Britain," insisting that "it's a personal reflection. It's not a royal book. It just happened to have a royal aspect to it, which was part of my life," he argued, noting, "Is Charles furious? Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. How [would critics] know?"

The Twitterverse didn't buy it. As The Mirror noted, one user quipped, "Arbiter low on cash???" while another fired off, "I'm sad for the two Princes that the Charles/Diana stuff is dragged up again. Does Dickie Arbiter need the money that much?"

Diana's bodyguard was accused of 'rewriting history'

On August 30, 1997, Princess Diana, Egyptian billionaire Emad "Dodi" Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul, died following a car crash inside a Paris tunnel, but there was one survivor: Trevor Rees-Jones. The bodyguard, who was employed by Dodi's father, former Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, initially kept silent but decided to tell his story in 2000's "The Bodyguard's Story: Diana, the Crash, and the Sole Survivor." In his book, Rees-Jones claimed that Diana and Dodi were not engaged and debunked Mohamed Al-Fayed's theory that they were murdered because they planned to marry, per the Irish Independent. Rather, he claimed that the crash was the result of poor decision-making by Dodi paired with the fact that Henri Paul was under the influence.

According to Rees-Jones (via the Irish Independent), Dodi went against security protocol that fateful evening, deciding not to have a two-car convoy, choosing Henri Paul, who "was a security man not a chauffeur," to drive, and dismissing his bodyguards. Rees-Jones claimed he was told repeatedly that the new plan had been "okayed by Mr. Mohamed" in London but shot back, "No f****** chance is he leaving without a bodyguard [...] I'll be coming with you." But even by being in the car, he couldn't save them. Mohamed Al-Fayed soon slammed the bodyguard for blaming his son. Calling him a "money-grabbing" hypocrite, per The Guardian, he accused Rees-Jones of "talking rubbish, rewriting history, in an attempt to deflect blame from Trevor's own part in what happened."

Wallis Simpson's royal recollections echoed Meghan Markle's

Years before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Oprah interview unleashed a flurry of bombshell allegations, Wallis Simpson was making similar claims. The American socialite met and fell in love with the Prince of Wales, who would become King Edward VIII, in the fall of 1930, per The New York Times. As the outlet noted, she "was neither a great beauty nor an aristocrat" but rather "an American woman from Baltimore who had been divorced from her first husband, was still married to her second husband." Not surprisingly, the match was frowned upon and Edward's mother, Queen Mary, was reportedly "grieved and outraged." Meanwhile, Prime Minister Baldwin pushed Edward to find someone else and threatened the Government's resignation. Instead, he chose love and abdicated in 1936 with the couple getting married six months later. They left England but despite their hopes of a reconciliation, never returned.

In 1956, Simpson published what the Independent called her "now-forgotten memoir," "The Heart Has Its Reasons," in which she made claims that certainly didn't help a reconciliation. "There is something steely and inhuman in the monarchical principle," she wrote, per the Independent, recalling how after the abdication, "little by little, it was made evident that he could never resume his place in the family circle." She continued, "The enormity of the hatred and the distorted image of me that seemed to be forming in minds everywhere went far behind anything I had anticipated." This included receiving "two or three trays heaped high" with threatening letters each morning.

Was King Edward VIII the only one to get it right?

Before Wallis Simpson published her memoir, King Edward VIII put his own thoughts on paper in 1951's "A King's Story." Although his decision upset palace insiders, per The Telegraph, the outlet notes that 15 years had passed since his abdication and so, he was able to write "with no blame or bitterness within." Indeed, Edward began the book by admitting that he felt "some hesitation" because "the rule of reticence that binds kings and princes in a constitutional society is not lightly put aside." However, he concluded that "after the passage of a decade and a half the political passions aroused by the most historically controversial aspect of my career, the Abdication, have long since cooled, and a just perspective of my life and reign should now be possible."

As The Telegraph recounted, backlash included Lady Hardinge criticizing him for choosing to "exchange a [...] one-sided account of his abdication for a large cheque." But as the outlet also pointed out, it featured no ill-will towards his family and "never sought to undermine the institution of the monarchy." For example, writing about his mother who refused to accept Wallis, he suggested she was simply driven by "the iron grip of Royal convention." He also lamented having to "sacrifice my cherished British heritage," adding, "I wanted to be a successful King" (via Daily Mail). It's a tone far different from Prince Harry's; The Telegraph concluded he "should take a leaf out of Edward VIII's book."