The One Humiliating Mistake That Has Haunted The Royal Family For Years

The British Royal Family on the Buckingham Palace balcony to watch the Trooping the Colour ceremony
Chris Jackson / Getty Images

When one thinks of the royal family these days, the words “poise,” “grace,” and “tradition” are likely among those that come to mind. And you’d be right. Members of the royal family are held to a higher standard, and have a long list of behavioral and dress code rules they need to observe at all times.

While this has been true for most of their existence, from time to time wardrobe choices are made that result in scandalous reports of too much leg or chest. But a little too much skin pales in comparison to the embarrassing fiasco of the royal family’s involvement in an episode of The Grand Knockout Tournament, something that became a PR nightmare for the royals, as News.com.au reports.

For 80 cringe-worthy minutes, some of the senior members of the family were dressed in renaissance outfits, making cheesy jokes and participating in a series of humiliating games for the entertainment of everyone on television. The segment later became known as It’s A Royal Knockout, much to the embarrassment of the royal family.

While many of the royals — including the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana — refused to be made a spectacle on the show, Prince Edward, who had long desired a career in the film industry, pushed his other siblings to participate.

The result was Princess Anne; Prince Andrew; Sarah, Duchess of York; and Prince Edward “dressed up as giant vegetables and throwing fake hams at each other,” while Rowan Atkinson adjudicated the bizarre contests.

Author of Royalty Inc, Stephen Bates, spoke about the bizarre appearance on the show.

“The royals went off in several really questionable directions, the first of which, the nadir, was It’s A Royal Knockout. It was a really, really naff program, but terribly popular and the royals, or at least Prince Edward, thought the royals could cash in on this. It’s A Royal Knockout was completely the wrong sort of message to give.”

Blame for the humiliating fiasco fell straight to Prince Edward, as it had been his idea to get involved in the first place.

Ben Pimlott’s 1996 biography, The Queen, detailed the reaction of the rest of the family to the unsavory disaster.

“It was a terrible mistake. (The Queen) was against it. But one of her faults is that she can’t say no,” one of the monarch’s close friends told Pimlott, with another adding, “There was not a single courtier who did not think it was a mistake.”

Pimlott further detailed how the “excruciating” appearance of the royals on the show “made the public stunningly aware that a sense of decorum was not an automatic quality in the royal family, and even that some members might be more deserving of their Civil List incomes than others.”