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What Happens When the Fairytale Ends: British Royal Divorces Over the Years


Royal weddings are the closest thing we commoners get to seeing a real-life fairytale, but just like in real life, these marriages don’t always work out.

Divorces within The Firm used to be a very rare occurrence.
In fact, when Princess Margaret divorced her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1978, she was the first senior royal to do so since Henry VIII.

In fact, when Princess Margaret divorced her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1978, she was the first senior royal to do so since Henry VIII.

But in the 21st century, three of the Queen’s children have ended their marriages, and now her eldest grandson Peter Phillips has announced that he and his wife Autumn are parting ways after almost 13 years of marriage.

Let’s take a look at these royal splits in a little more detail.

Peter Phillips and Autumn Phillips

ASCOT, ENGLAND – JUNE 23: Peter Phillips and Autumn Phillips attend Royal Ascot Day 5 at Ascot Racecourse on June 23, 2018 in Ascot, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)Getty Images

After 12 years of marriage, Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn issued a statement announcing their joint, amicable decision to separate.

According to the statement, the couple agreed that “this was the best course of action” for their two daughters Savannah, nine and Isla, seven, and their “ongoing friendship.”

Despite Autumn originally hailing from Canada, the couple added that they will remain in Gloucestershire, where the family has lived for a number of years.

Suspicions arose when the couple didn’t attend the traditional Christmas Day celebrations with the rest of the royals for the first time in years and again when Peter attended a church service at Sandringham alone a couple of weeks later.

Peter and Autumn’s last public sighting together was at the Highland Games Gathering in Braemar in September.

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones

Princess Margaret and husband Antony Armstrong-Jones at state ball during Jamaican independence celebration. (Photo by Ray Fisher/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister Princess Margaret paved the way for royal divorces when she and her husband parted ways in 1978 after 18 years of marriage. But the split was anything but amicable.

Margaret and Antony, who are the parents of David Armstrong-Jones and Lady Sarah Chatto, were seen with each other less and less, and rumors of Antony’s dalliances with various women and Margret’s affair with landscape gardener Roddy Llewellyn were exposed soon after.

Things grew exceedingly nasty with reports that Lord Snowden would make lists of “things I hate about you” and leave them in books Margaret was reading, including one that allegedly read: “You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you.”

Divorce was not a done thing at the time, but in 1976, the Palace announced that the couple had “mutually agreed to live apart”, but had “no plans for divorce”

They divorced two years later but remained friends, though Antony went on to marry his second wife Lucy Mary Lindsay-Hogg, just months after his divorce from Margaret was finalized.

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal and her husband Mark Phillips attend a garden fete at Great Somerford, Wiltshire, 21st June 1975. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)Getty Images

Princess Anne was the first of the Queen’s children to marry in 1973 when she wed Captain Mark Phillips. The two welcomed children Peter and Zara in 1977 and 1981 respectively, however, things reportedly became worse following Zara’s birth.

The couple spent less time together and Mark didn’t have the approval of Anne’s family, with Prince Charles reportedly calling his brother-in-law “thick and wet.” 

But things turned scandalous in April 1989 when The Sun newspaper obtained a series of personal letters stolen from Anne’s briefcases.

“The stolen letters were addressed to the Princess Royal by Commander Timothy Laurence, the Queen’s Equerry. We have nothing to say about the contents of personal letters sent to Her Royal Highness by a friend which were stolen and which are the subject of a police investigation,” a statement from the Palace read.

Four months later, Buckingham Palace announced that Anne and Mark were to separate and in 1992 they divorced.

Anne went on to marry Timothy Laurence in December of that year and is still married to him, but she and her ex-husband remain on good terms.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana

OTTAWA, CANADA – OCTOBER 29: The Prince And Princess Of Wales During A Visit To Ottawa In Canada (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)Getty Images

Their fairytale wedding captivated the world, but the marriage was hardly one of our great love stories.

In fact, even before they tied the knot, Diana found a bracelet Charles had made as a present for his former lover, Camilla Parker-Bowles, that featured the letters F and G for Fred and Gladys – their nicknames for one another.

Throughout the marriage, there were struggles ranging from Diana’s bulimia to extramarital affairs on both sides. The pair eventually separated with the-then British prime minister John Major announcing the news in 1992.

More details of cheating emerged after the separation, however, after a scandalous tape of a conversation between Charles and Camilla was released and Diana gave her famous Panorama interview.

In the interview, she famously stated that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” and also admitted to an affair with Major James Hewitt.

It was then that the Queen urged Charles and Diana to divorce and in 1996, it was finalized, but Diana, though stripped of her HRH title, was still referred to as the Princess of Wales

Just over a year later, Diana died in a tragic car crash in Paris. Meanwhile, Charles married Camilla in 2005 and the two remain married to this day.

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – AUGUST 04: Prince Andrew, Duke Of York With Sarah Duchess Of York At Clarence House For Family Birthday Celebrations (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)Getty Images

Aside from Peter and Autumn, the award for the most amicable royal split has to go the Duke and Duchess of York.

With her cheeky attitude and fiery red hair, Sarah Ferguson was unlike the typical demure royal bride, but struggled with her new life as a member of the prestigious family, especially as Andrew was often away serving in the Royal Navy

After just six years of marriage, the pair announced their separation in March 1992.

With three of her children announcing their separations that year, the Queen famously referred to it as her “annus horribilis.”

Scandal shortly followed when paparazzi photos of a topless Fergie having her toes sucked by financial adviser John Bryan were published in the newspapers.

To make matters worse, the incident coincided with her trip to Balmoral, where she was staying with her in-laws, and Prince Philip has reportedly never forgiven her for the scandal.

Andrew and Fergie divorced in 1996, but continue to be a strong family unit and co-parent their daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

In fact, the Duchess of York has confessed that “we’ve never really left each other”, and the two still live together at Windsor’s Royal Lodge.

Fergie even defended Andrew in the wake of the scandal where his relationship to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was exposed.

“He is the best man I know. It’s just incredible what he has done for Britain, and it’s all nonsense, so I talk about family, and I’m very strong about it,” she said.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love

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