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Five scandals and tragedies that have broken while the Royal Family has been at Balmoral

Danielle Stacey
Royal Correspondent


The Queen has traditionally always spent the summer at her Scottish home Balmoral.

Members of the Royal Family get to enjoy some peace and privacy during their stay at the 50,000 acre estate, but some of the biggest news stories have happened whilst they have been in residence over the years.

Speaking on Yahoo UK’s ‘The Royal Box,’ The Sun’s former royal editor Duncan Larcombe says: “This is a place where some of the biggest events to affect the Royal Family have broken, whilst they’ve been there in this hideout.

“It is a hideout, it’s in the middle of nowhere.”

Sarah Ferguson’s toe-sucking photo - August 1992

One of the biggest scandals to rock the Royal Family was the infamous toe-sucking photos of Sarah Ferguson and her financial advisor John Bryan in Saint-Tropez in August 1992.

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The Duchess of York and Princess Beatrice in 1992. [Photo: PA]

The Duchess of York, who had separated from Prince Andrew just a few months earlier, was staying at Balmoral at the time with the Royal Family, when the pictures were published.

Fergie later wrote in her autobiography: “It would be accurate to report that the porridge was getting cold. Eyes wide and mouths ajar, the adults were flipping through the Daily Mirror.”

She and Prince Andrew finalised their divorce in 1996.

‘Squidgygate’ - August 1992

Just days after the Fergie scandal in August 1992, The Sun leaked the tape-recordings of Princess Diana’s pre-1990 telephone conversations with close friend James Gilbey about her marital problems with Prince Charles.

It became known as ‘Squidgygate,’ as Gilbey affectionally referred to Diana as ‘Squidgy’ and ‘Squidge’ during the calls.

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Princess Diana during a visit to a factory in South Shields in 1992 as the announcement of her marriage separation from Prince Charles was made by the Prime Minister, John Major, in the House of Commons. [Photo: PA]
Princess Diana's friend James Gilbey. [Photo: PA]

Later that year then-prime minister John Major announced the news that the Prince and Princess of Wales would be separating, to the House of Commons.

After a series of unpleasant events, the Queen would later refer to 1992 as her ‘annus horribilis’ (a latin phrase meaning ‘horrible year’) during a speech at Guildhall.

On 28 August 1996, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s divorce was finalised.

Princess Diana’s death - August 1997

Prince William and Prince Harry, then aged 15 and 12 respectively, were staying with their grandmother the Queen at Balmoral, when they learned of their mother’s death.

Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997.

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The Queen and Prince Philip in Balmoral the morning after the death of Princess Diana in 1997. [Photo: Getty]

The Queen was criticised for not returning to Buckingham Palace straight away, but she reportedly wanted to shield her grandsons from the media and allow them to grieve in private.

The Royal Family returned to London on 5 September 1997 (the day before the funeral) where Her Majesty paid tribute to Diana in a live broadcast.

Prince Harry’s naked Vegas photos - August 2012

In August 2012, scandal rocked the firm again when The Sun published the photos of Prince Harry, then 27, naked in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge at the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony. [PA Images via Getty Images]

The images were released just weeks after he had represented the Queen at the London Olympics closing ceremony.

Jeffrey Epstein’s death - August 2019

Prince Andrew was visiting the Queen in Balmoral when news of his former friend Jeffrey Epstein’s death broke earlier this month.

American billionaire financier Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his New York jail cell, while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking.

He was later pronounced dead at a hospital in an apparent suicide.

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