An overseas tour for the royal family is pretty much a military operation, requiring strict precision and only the best organization to ensure everything is planned—and that absolutely every eventuality is covered. But it doesn't always work out as smoothly as hoped.
Ahead of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle and Prince Harry embarking upon their first royal tour as a married couple—where they'll be visiting Australia, Fiji, the kingdom of Tonga, and New Zealand—we asked Ted Powell, a historian and author, to recap some of the overseas tour mishaps and scandals the royals would probably rather forget...
Queen Elizabeth's 1981 tour of New Zealand
"Royal tours provide the perfect opportunity for members of the public throughout the Commonwealth to meet the British Royals. It is easy to forget the risks they run by putting themselves so much in the public eye. In 1981 the Queen survived an assassination attempt while on a tour of New Zealand. A mentally disturbed youth took a pot-shot at her with a rifle, but luckily was too far away to do her any harm. Members of the crowd heard the shot, but were told by police that it was just a car backfiring."
Charles and Diana's 1988 tour of Canada
"Tours bring out the stresses of royal marriages if all is not well between the couple. Charles and Diana’s tour of Canada in 1988 revealed their estrangement only too well: Their body language said it all, as the photographs showed them looking strained and uncomfortable in each other’s company."
Charles and Diana's 1992 tour of India
"Even more dramatically, the picture of Princess Diana sitting alone in front of the Taj Mahal (the symbol of an Indian prince’s great love for his wife) was a poignant statement of her emotional isolation during the couple’s tour of India in 1992, the last she carried out with Prince Charles."
William and Kate's 2016 tour of India
"William and Kate are of course the perfect royal couple, and their tours always seem to go like clockwork...except, that is, for Kate’s frequent tendency to get photographed in a ‘Marilyn Monroe’ pose, as a gust catches her on a windy runway. Her preference for full-skirted dresses in light fabrics may be partly to blame—it is rumored that the Queen has tiny weights sewn into the hem of her suits to prevent such embarrassments."
Edward VII's 1860 tour of the USA and Canada
"Mishaps and malfunctions have been a part of royal tours since they first began. Way back in 1860 the young Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, went on a tour of Canada and the USA. The tour was a great success, with Americans thrilled at the bonhomie and charm of their royal guest. In New York a Grand Ball was held at the Opera House. 3,000 guests were invited, but 5,000 squeezed in, causing the floor of the Opera House to cave in. Carpenters had to be called to repair the damage, and the dancing did not get under way until midnight."
Prince Charles' 1979 tour of Australia
"Bachelor princes always attract particular attention when they are on tour. In 1979, before his marriage to Princess Diana, Prince Charles was jogging along a beach in Australia when he was accosted by a beautiful bikini-clad model. She ran across the sand and gave him a smacker and a warm embrace as they stood in the surf. The photo made the front pages across the world: some commentators thought it was a deliberate PR stunt to loosen up the Prince’s rather stuffy public image."
Prince Philip's 1986 tour of China
"Prince Philip has always been famous for his non-politically correct gaffes, both at home and abroad. Usually no one takes them too seriously, but sometimes they risk causing an international incident. One of his most notorious comments was when he was touring China in 1986. He told a British student who was studying in Beijing that he would go home ‘slitty-eyed’ if he stayed too long. The British Ambassador had his work cut out for several days smoothing ruffled Chinese feathers."
Princess Anne's 2007 trip to Guernsey
"The Princess Royal is second only to her father in bluntness and plain-speaking. She does not suffer fools gladly, and has been known to tell photographers to "naff off." When she was on a tour of the Channel Island of Guernsey in 2007, she tripped and fell in front of a welcoming crowd of schoolchildren. A well-meaning official tried to help her up, but received a sharp rebuke from the furious princess: 'Don’t do that, thank you. Grabbing me around my.... won’t help!'"
Edward VIII's 1920 tour of Australia
"Royal tours inevitably involve a great deal of travel, and in spite of all precautions disasters occasionally happen. In 1920, Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, was touring Australia. The royal train had an accident in a remote corner of Western Australia, when it came off the rails and overturned. Fortunately Edward was not hurt. He climbed out of the window of his carriage clutching a cocktail shaker. In fact Edward was delighted; he was always pleased when the grinding routine of his official schedule was disrupted."
Prince Harry's private 2012 trip to Las Vegas
"As a bachelor, Prince Harry could always be relied upon to enjoy a good party. Who can forget his famous antics in America in 2012? Harry was on leave from military duties when he spent a riotous weekend at a luxurious resort hotel in Las Vegas. After cruising through a series of poolside parties, Harry ended up late at night playing ‘strip pool’ in his suite. Soon afterwards, grainy photographs emerged of a naked prince sheepishly covering his Crown Jewels with his hands, proving conclusively that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas!"
Ted Powell is a historian and author. His new book King Edward VIII: An American Life, published by Oxford University Press is out now, available in hardback and ebook.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.