Prince William's Most Controversial Moments Ever

The private lives of the British monarchy have, traditionally, been shrouded in secrecy, where the foibles of the various family members were guarded discreetly from the press. However, times have certainly changed since the reign of Henry VIII (can you imagine the memes relating to his love life in the age of Twitter?). Thanks to the paps chasing royals about town and digging for tea, there have been many eyebrows raised regarding certain members of the venerated institution. Except, the truly controversial Windsors are not the usual suspects.

As a youngster, Prince William appeared to be a sweet and genial royal, who would no doubt make his esteemed family proud when he finally ascended the throne. His clean-cut portrayal in the tabloids was always in stark contrast to that of his younger brother, Prince Harry. While the ginger prince was partying in Nazi costumes and rebelling, his big brother sensibly towed the line and adhered to the monarchy's strict etiquette. Or so we thought.

Once William reached manhood, he found himself in the crossfire over numerous controversies. Although The Firm attempted to bury many of these indiscretions, the public was growing increasingly aware that Wills is perhaps not all that he seems. Harry may have been the one reportedly ostracized from the royal family, but, as it turns out, William could very well be the bad boy of the Windsor clan. Get ready for these juicy deets in all their crowning glory, as we give the lowdown on Prince William's most controversial moments ever.

The Rose Hanbury affair scandal

Prince William and Kate Middleton may seem like the perfect royal power couple, but the Duke of Cambridge has been at the center of a salacious sex scandal. His father, Prince Charles, gained notoriety for having an extramarital affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles when married to Princess Diana. If risqué tattle is anything to go by, the apple allegedly doesn't fall too far from the tree. 

Wills has been the unlikely source of steamy sex stories. Rose Hanbury, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, is a former pal of Duchess Kate, but their friendship allegedly came to an abrupt end amid rumors of a dalliance between her bestie and her beau, per Marie Claire. According to tabloid In Touch (via Celebitchy), Wills allegedly cheated on Kate when she was pregnant with the couple's third child. "William has carried a torch for Rose for years — he's raised eyebrows with his comments about her grace ... and even confided to pals that she was 'the one who got away,'" a supposed palace insider claimed to the rag. "Kate immediately confronted him, demanding to know the truth about his relationship with Rose, but he just laughed it off."

According to The Daily Beast, William and his legal team attempted to suppress the publication of the rumors. For instance, a British newspaper had been warned against publishing details about the alleged affair, making a shady situation seem even more sus. "If the stories of Kate freezing Rose out are true, then whatever caused the falling out must have been very serious," royal journalist Duncan Larcombe told the outlet.

Prince William's love of hunting

The British aristocracy is renowned for its hunting traditions: King George V and company once killed almost 4,000 birds during just one outing. Despite his affable demeanor, Prince William is no exception to the royal love of hunting. In 2020, he was condemned for taking Prince George, then aged 7, on a trip to shoot grouse. PETA argued that William forcibly exposing his young son to animal cruelty may have detrimental effects on his mental wellbeing. "For a child to be compelled to witness such casual killing — and by a parent he looks up to, no less — is potentially as harmful to his or her psyche as it is to the bird's very life," said PETA's director Mimi Bekhechi (via the Daily Mail).

This wasn't the first time he faced condemnation for hunting. In 2014, Wills shot dead wild boar and stag during a trip to Spain, despite having slammed rhino hunters as "selfish" just months earlier, per the Mirror. Indeed, his penchant for hunting is in stark opposition to his conservation efforts. 

In 2016, William even justified trophy hunting in the name of conservation. "It's not to everyone's cup of tea, but the argument for regulated, properly controlled commercial hunting is that the money that goes from shooting a very old infertile animal goes back into the protection of the other species," he told "ITV News." Lion Aid slammed the prince, telling the Independent that there are a mere "1,500 wild male lions in existence," making "sustainable" trophy hunting an impossibility.

He was accused of being complicit in colonialism

In March 2022, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Caribbean tour was at the center of heated contention. Their first engagement in Belize had a poor start after the couple attempted to land their plane in a football field, leading to protests from locals, who deemed the act a manifestation of the royals' colonial mindset. "We don't want them to land on our land, that's the message that we want to send," one person told the Daily Mail.

When the pair arrived in Jamaica, they were met with yet more protestors, who condemned the royal family's history of imperial violence and called out the couple for their apparent imperviousness to the sordid history of the monarchy. In an open letter (via ABC News), the protestors argued, "We see no reason to celebrate 70 years of the ascension of your grandmother to the British throne because her leadership, and that of her predecessors, have perpetuated the greatest human rights tragedy in the history of humankind."

Admittedly, the tour was a total PR shamble. The Washington Post questioned why Prince William and Kate Middleton agreed to the ill-advised excursion in the first place. The couple's open-top parade in a Land Rover, which was dubbed as "absolutely awful" by one protestor, left civil rights activist and professor Rosalea Hamilton saying that "these unfortunate images are a relic of the past." In the wake of the controversy, the duke was asked to apologize for the monarchy's history of slavery; instead, he said slavery was a "stain on our history."

The Duke of Cambridge allegedly violated lockdown laws

In 2020, Britain implemented some of the harshest COVID-19 restrictions in Europe. People were banned from leaving their local area, only permitted to go outside for brief exercise or essential work. However, Prince William allegedly broke said lockdown laws by traveling to Scotland, which had its own strict coronavirus rules, at a time when cases were skyrocketing, per Insider.

While everyone else was stuck at home, Wills and Kate Middleton traveled all over Scotland like it was pre-2020 times, per Edinburgh Live. Although the couple claimed that their trip constituted "essential travel," which was permitted under lockdown rules, many questioned what was so essential about the royals' trip across the Scottish isles (the Cambridges' official residence, it should be noted, is in Kensington Palace in London, some 400 miles away from Edinburgh). Subsequently, there were calls for the couple to be prosecuted (Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who created the restrictions, would later be investigated by the Met Police for breaking the very rules he implemented). "It's a slap in the face at a time when people can't get married, have restricted numbers at funerals, and hospital inpatients aren't allowed visitors. What exactly makes this essential travel?" asked Dr. Katrina Farrell.

According to the Daily Record, the royal couple had been warned twice about violating restrictions. James Hynd, a Scottish government minister, urged William and Kate not to continue with their trip. Meanwhile, politician Deidre Brock said it was "irresponsible to travel to eight different locations over three days."

Prince William's seemingly misguided remarks on the war in Ukraine

The 2022 war in Ukraine has shocked people the world over, but the truth is, war in post-WWII Europe is not such a foreign concept. From the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which ended in 1998, to the Bosnian War of the mid-'90s, large-scale conflict has been prevalent both in Europe and across the globe.

When offering his two cents on the Russia and Ukraine conflict, Prince William was reported as saying that such a war was "alien" in Europe, unlike in African and Asian countries. He was swiftly condemned, with CNN's Jake Tapper writing in a since-deleted tweet (via Vanity Fair), "Read a book about your own family, dude," along with a photo of Wills' great uncle Edward VIII shaking hands with Adolf Hitler, in reference to the abdicated king's alleged alliance to Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, others decided to educate the prince on the myriad wars that have affected Europe.

Although People reported that William had been misquoted (he actually said, "For our generation, it's very alien to see this in Europe," and there appeared to be no mention of Africa or Asia), it seemed that the clarification came too little, too late, with the prince having been royally lambasted on social media. Richard Palmer, who initially reported that William made reference to Asia and Africa, apologized for misreporting the remarks and clarified what the prince had actually said. Despite the huge, albeit brief, controversy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appreciated Wills' support, thanking him on Twitter.

Did he call Harry 'oversensitive' after the Archie racism row?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's now infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey was full of damning confessions about the royal family, but perhaps the most contentious claim was that a senior member of the regal family made racist remarks about baby Archie's skin tone. When Harry dropped the bombshell revelation, Prince William was swift to defend his family against claims of racism, insisting, "We're very much not a racist family," per CNN. Wills, it seemed, was more concerned with defending the royal institution rather than his brother.

But the rift between the princes grows deeper amidst allegations of the dismissive way in which William reacted to his brother's valid distress and hurt following the racist microaggression. Royal author Christopher Andersen told Us Weekly that both William and Prince Charles supposedly called Harry "oversensitive" and believed he was "overreacting" to the incident. As NBC News argued, the royals' alleged reactions "shine a spotlight on racial microaggressions — a subtle statement or behavior, whether intentional or not, that communicates something negative and yet still ambiguous about a person of color."

Meanwhile, calling someone too sensitive for being upset or offended is regarded as a form of emotional gaslighting. As Repeller highlights, "'You're being too sensitive' — in the wrong hands — is almost always an insult. ... It's an attempt to at once dismiss your feelings while also turning the tables and making you at blame, guilty for myriad things."

Hard partying Wills

Before he wed Kate Middleton, Prince William was apparently a bad boy looking to get his freak on. Yes, they may be the perfect royal nuclear family now, but Wills and Kate's relationship apparently got off to an extremely rocky start.

In the late 2000s, William was very much enjoying the debauched bachelor lifestyle (well, if paparazzi snaps are anything to go by) — despite the fact that he was dating Kate at the time. Subsequently, the prince found himself in hot water over his hard partying ways. In 2007, photos surfaced of William appearing to grab a woman's breast at a nightclub. As detailed in the book "William and Kate: A Royal Love Story," the woman in question, who hails from Brazil, confirmed as much, saying, "I felt something brush my breast. I thought it couldn't be the future king, but now that I've seen the picture, it's no wonder he's got a smile on his face!"

In the wake of the controversy, William and Kate parted ways, per Reuters. Wills may be a monarch in waiting, but the way in which he allegedly broke things off with Kate is less than princely: There are rumors that he called it quits with her via a phone call. According to insiders, Kate was devastated after seeing her beau's drunken shenanigans, which weren't confined to grabbing the Brazilian beauty. Per the Daily Mail, William was also seen cavorting with a 19-year-old blonde, who, apparently, was "the only girl who could make Kate jealous."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Kate Middleton's engagement ring broke royal tradition

Tradition is so utterly sacred to the British royal family that any breach, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is seen as an affront to her majesty. Prince Harry may have gained a reputation as a rebel prince, but it turns out that his big brother is a renegade royal in own right. Subsequently, when Prince William got down on one knee to Kate Middleton in 2010, he presented her with a stunning sapphire ring. All seems pretty wholesome and romantic, right? Think again.

It turns out that the ring Wills bestowed upon Kate was at the center of much controversy. The ring, which originally belonged to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was looked down upon by the Windsor family because it broke royal tradition. Per Vogue, this is due to the fact that the jewel was not bespoke: Diana picked it out of a selection by former crown jeweler Garrard, meaning that those with an extra $60,000 lying around could buy the very same piece. As Express noted, the controversy surrounding Kate's ring will likely only get worse, as the popularity of "The Crown" has led to high demand for dupes.

Moreover, the fact that the ring formerly belonged to Diana opens up a whole other can of worms relating to her continued mistreatment at the hands of the royal family. Therefore, admittedly, one cannot help but wonder if a deep-seated aversion to William and Harry's tragically departed mother played a pivotal role in the bejeweled controversy.

His controversial remarks about the African population

Following in the footsteps of his father, Prince William has fashioned himself as something of a conservationist in recent years. While the prince may try to do his best, his efforts have led to some truly misguided remarks.

In 2017, Wills gave a speech at the Tusk Trust, an organization focused on wildlife preservation, in which he blamed overpopulation in Africa for wildlife loss. "Africa's rapidly growing human population is predicted to more than double by 2050. ... There is no question that this increase puts wildlife and habitat under enormous pressure," he said, per Business Insider. Consequently, he faced a huge backlash to the controversial remarks.

Per The Guardian, some argued that, as a privileged prince, William had little right to act as the custodian of conservation in Africa. "Conservation even now, nearly 55 years after Kenya got independence, is still the one arena where Prince William can waltz into Kenya and tell us he wants us to do this, that or the other," said conservationist Dr. Mordecai Ogada. Accordingly, many accused William of harboring a "white savior" mentality, arguing that African voices should be at the forefront of discussions about wildlife loss in their homelands. Moreover, there was only one Black person present at the event, amplifying the alleged inherent racism in William's remarks. The Conversation highlighted that William's perceived "white savior" mentality is central to the colonial history of conservation, noting that, under imperialist rule, many natives were forbidden from exploring their natural surroundings.

Prince William's alleged feud with Meghan Markle

According to insiders, Prince William allegedly harbored animosity toward Meghan Markle. Royal expert Robert Lacey, whose book "Battle of Brothers" was excerpted by the Daily Mail, claimed that Wills furiously referred to his sister-in-law as "that bloody woman." The outburst, Lacey suggested, arose after Meghan supposedly mistreated his staff. According to Lacey, Prince Harry was extremely protective of his wife, deeming his brother's treatment of her as insulting. But William was apparently unrelenting in his palpable dislike of Markle. 

"The House of Windsor simply cannot afford to go on ostracizing the only mixed-race members of the clan," Lacey wrote. "William has no choice ... but to swallow his pride and smile beside Meghan on next year's Platinum Jubilee balcony." There are even claims that William tried to sway Harry against marrying the "Suits" star in the first place. In the book "Royals at War" (via The U.S. Sun), it is alleged that Wills "warned Prince Harry about rushing" into marrying Markle. 

Critics have since argued that the royal family's alleged distrust, suspicion, and dislike of the Duchess of Sussex is indicative of racism in the royal institution itself, as well as the systemic racism of the United Kingdom. Vogue suggested that, as an African American, Meghan was viewed as an outsider and arguably faced far more scrutiny and censure than any other royal. For instance, when Prince Andrew was embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal, the British media was firmly focused on Meghan, as argued by Vanity Fair.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Wills skipped royal duties for a lads' trip

We've all taken a sneaky day off work. Most of us can get away with it, but when you're second in line to the throne, perhaps jetting off to a Swiss resort is not the best indication of your loyalty to The Firm.

In 2017, Prince William seemingly decided that a ski trip to Switzerland with his pals was more important than attending the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey — a service attended by every member of the royal family except him. Per the Daily Mail, he was photographed "dad dancing," cavorting with 20-something models, and boozing the night away with Jägerbombs while his relatives performed their royal duties. This certainly wasn't the image of the pristine prince that is typically depicted in the media.

William was slammed over his apparent aversion to his duties. Critics argued that, as a publicly funded institution, the royal family must carry out their duties as a means of giving back to the people. Subsequently, Wills' decision to go on a boys' outing was controversial not only because he flouted his duties, but because it was likely funded by the British taxpayer. "It doesn't seem he is doing what is expected," anti-monarchy campaigner Graham Smith told the Mirror. "He is happy to take money off the taxpayer so he needs to step up and do something in return." In an interview with the BBC the year before, William defended himself against these claims, insisting that he "take[s] duty very seriously."

Prince William and Kate's controversial trip to India

The royal family's relationship with India has historically been at the center of controversy. For instance, the crown jewels (the Koh-i-Noor) were taken from India, which the British Empire colonized for 90 years. Accordingly, India has requested that Queen Elizabeth II return the diamond, deeming the British acquisition of the Koh-i-Noor a theft, per The Telegraph.

Thus, there was much controversy when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge embarked on their tour of India in 2016. The couple was criticized for visiting a wildlife conservation with a shoot-to-kill policy against poachers. As reported by The Guardian, Prince William enquired about the policy and was told that "poachers were using sophisticated automatic weapons, whereas the forest guards had old rifles." However, this has been disputed amidst claims that the guards have actually shot dead members of a local tribe, who merely attempted to pick food from the area.

What's more, critics argued that positive media coverage of the couple's visit whitewashed the royal family's history of oppression against the Indian people. For instance, Wills and Kate Middleton visited slums that housed an impoverished population, where they lightheartedly played soccer with local children, per the Daily Mail. Subsequently, the Independent argued, "India may have gained independence nearly 70 years ago, but that doesn't stop Kate and William using the country as a playground for their publicity stunt. If we have to watch the two pose with 'slum children' ... then we could at least do so while telling the truth about Britain's horrendous history."