The Queen of England has, by definition, a lot on her plate. She’s a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and de facto head of the entire Windsor family. Then she has her official role as monarch and head of the Church of England. When you have that much responsibility, occasionally you’re going to make a mistake. The problem is that when you’re as big a deal as Queen Elizabeth II is, your mistakes have global repercussions. Here are the biggest mistakes Queen Elizabeth II has ever made and the fallout she faced.
Elizabeth let the public in with a royal documentary — and could never get them out again
In decades past, the royal family led seriously private lives. They appeared at public events and issued the occasional holiday radio broadcast. That changed in 1969 when a major documentary, Royal Family, aired on BBC and showed for the first time ever the ordinary lives of this extraordinary family. Viewed by 30 million people in the U.K., this unprecedented access changed the way the royals were seen forever. It also fed into a culture of ever-increasing hunger for royal news, gossip, and scandal. Needless to say, there has been no further official documentary filmed in the years since.
Elizabeth was reportedly a ‘detached’ mother
Elizabeth had two children, Charles in 1948 and Anne in 1950, before she ascended the throne in 1952. She ended up spending more time as queen than as mother. Shortly after her coronation, Elizabeth and her husband Philip went on a 6-month tour of the Commonwealth, leaving their children in England with nannies. Prince Charles described his mother as “not indifferent so much as detached” and even claims it was the nursery staff, not his mother, who witnessed his first steps.
Busy with royal duties, Elizabeth waited eight years after she became queen to have more children. Her third child Andrew was born in 1960, and her fourth and youngest child Edward was born in 1964. Perhaps having a sense of regret over time lost with her first two children, Elizabeth took a bit of a step back from royal duties to raise her family. Edward shares a special relationship with his mother and is seen as the typical “favorite youngest child.”
Elizabeth almost got herself killed in her own palace
When you’re Queen, there are some mistakes you cannot afford to make. One of these is neglecting to tell your security detail that you can’t sleep and are taking a walk around the premises. One night, Elizabeth neglected to tell security that she was up and taking a walk around Buckingham Palace at 3 a.m. This resulted in a panicked guard seeing a moving shadow and thinking he’d caught an intruder. It also resulted in one of the greatest things ever said to a monarch: “Bloody hell, Your Majesty, I nearly shot you.”
Elizabeth took the HRH title away from Diana
When Charles divorced Diana, the rules about monarchy and divorce were much stricter. Charles would one day be king and therefore head of the Church of England, which did not allow divorce except under certain circumstances. The queen was mortified. She saw to it that Diana could not use the HRH (Her Royal Highness) title any longer, meaning she had lost the right to be called “Your Highness.”
This was seen as a petty maneuver. It also put public opinion on Diana’s side. Perhaps this is why, though Harry and Meghan have given up using their HRH titles, they have not been stripped of them. This means the queen may restore their titles at any time.
Elizabeth waited to acknowledge Diana’s death
In 1997, Queen Elizabeth was in Scotland at Balmoral Castle when news of Diana’s death reached her. To the public’s shock, the queen remained in Scotland rather than returning to Buckingham Palace. She waited several days to release an official statement. Meanwhile, the public’s mourning intensified, and the Queen found herself suddenly unpopular. In the end, she relented and allowed the royal standard to drape Diana’s coffin and had the Union Jack lowered to half staff over the palace.
Elizabeth keeps her opinions to herself
It’s not that Elizabeth is unopinionated (just the opposite). But a monarch’s opinion is tantamount to an endorsement, and the monarch absolutely cannot be seen taking sides. This, again, makes her seem cold. In reality, it’s tactical move that keeps her from getting dragged into every public dispute.
Elizabeth can’t control her family’s scandals
As quiet as Queen Elizabeth II keeps herself, her family has no trouble making waves. She has had to weather everything the other royal members have brought onto the Windsor name. Her sister Princess Margaret had a shockingly public scandal with a man 17 years her junior and eventually divorced her husband. As for Elizabeth, all but one of her four children has been divorced, and her son Prince Charles’ affair was a PR disaster.
Recent times have seen some of the biggest royal scandals of all. Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle made headlines for stepping away from their royal duties to live a more normal life. And most scandalous of all, in 2019, her son Prince Andrew stepped down from royal duties following a disastrous Newsnight interview about his friendship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The monarchy won’t be able to withstand much more in the scandal department, something Elizabeth is trying very hard to avoid.
Elizabeth’s biggest regret revealed
Reportedly, the queen’s biggest regret is her response to the Aberfan disaster. In 1966, a landslide buried a school in the Welsh mining town Aberfan, killing over 140 people, including 116 schoolchildren. The queen did not visit until a week afterward. Instead, she sent her husband Prince Phillip. She has stated repeatedly in the years since that she regretted not going earlier. She feared that too many resources would be spent on seeing to her own comfort and safety, rather than the continued recovery and rescue efforts.
According to biographer Sally Bedell Smith, the queen argued against her advisers telling her to go, saying, “People will be looking after me. Perhaps they’ll miss some poor child that might have been found under the wreckage.” When Elizabeth did visit Aberfan, it was one of the rare times she has been seen shedding tears in public.