The royal family has expanded at a fast pace over the past few decades. By way of weddings and births, we’ve welcomed over a dozen new royals since the early 1980s. Throughout the years, the royal family has also lost many of its members. Some have passed away, yes, but others have endured a different sort of send-off.
While every royal wedding and birth announcement is often full of pomp and circumstance, being cut off from the royal family is a much more private affair. In some situations, the public isn’t aware that it’s even happening. The royals have weathered plenty of scandals over the centuries and, in some situations, have chosen to cut ties with certain members of their family to avoid further controversy. That’s not to say that everyone who’s been excommunicated by the royal family has "deserved" it. These are the stories of the royals who’ve been blacklisted from their family.
Why the "lost prince" was blacklisted by the royal family is heartbreaking
Prince John, the brother of King Edward VIII, died of epilepsy at the age of 13 in 1919. John was fifth in line to the throne at the time, but he is now known as the "lost prince," as noted by The Telegraph. For much of his life, his family kept him hidden on the Sandringham estate where he was cared for by a nurse.
"It has been said that the Royal family wanted to keep John’s condition a secret as it could have shown the Royal blood was not as pure as was thought," The Telegraph reported. Even while traveling to medical appointments, the car’s blinds were kept closed as to not bring "’disgrace’ to the family by having a seizure in public."
Letters from King Edward confirm that his brother had been "practically shut up for the last two years" preceding his death and that his family only visited "once or twice" per year. Edward noted, "…this poor boy had become more of an animal than anything else and was only a brother in the flesh and nothing else."
King Edward VIII’s relationship caused him to be blacklisted by the royal family
Less than one year into his monarchy, King Edward VIII was prepared to abdicate the throne in order to marry his true love, American divorcee Wallis Simpson, as noted by BBC News. Although he originally suggested a morganatic marriage — meaning he would remain king without Simpson being given the title of queen — the idea was rejected by members of the government, and he abdicated. Shortly afterward, the couple married in France. But this wasn’t exactly the happily ever after Edward had in mind.
According to The Guardian, government documents and letters written by Edward reveal that the disgraced king was forced to stay away or else he’d be financially cut off from the royal family. Edward called the agreement "unfair and intolerable." He continued, writing, "I never intended, nor would I ever have agreed, to renounce my native land or my right to return to it for all time." Nevertheless, the publication explained that "Edward lived the rest of his life in exile, mainly in Paris, only occasionally returning to Britain for very brief visits."
Royal family member Nerissa Bowes-Lyon was sent away and institutionalized
Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother’s niece, was admitted into the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Mental Defectives in 1941. Bowes-Lyon was born with a mental disability and was admitted into the facility when she was 22 years old. Onelle Braithwaite, one of the nurses who cared for the royal family member, revealed in the 2011 documentary The Queen’s Hidden Cousins (via Daily Mail) that Bowes-Lyon was unable to speak but gestured and made noises to communicate. When the Queen or the Queen Mother would appear on television, the nurse revealed that Bowes-Lyon would curtsey. "Obviously there was some sort of memory," she said. "It was so sad."
In July 1981, Nerissa Bowes-Lyon watched on television as Charles and Diana arrived to their wedding. Had things "been different," Braithwaite felt Bowes-Lyon would’ve been attending the wedding as opposed to watching it on TV. Sadly, her only real chance to see her family was through the screen. In the 1960s, she received her last recorded visitors, and, in 1986, she was buried in a grave marked only by a serial number and name tag.
Katharine Bowes-Lyon was also blacklisted by the royal family
Nerissa Bowes-Lyon wasn’t the only royal banished to the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Mental Defectives. Her younger sister, Katharine Bowes-Lyon, who was also born with a mental disability, was institutionalized at the same time. She was just 14 years old when she was admitted into the asylum. "The belief was if you had a child with a learning disability, there was something in your family that was suspect and wrong," Jan Walmsley, a professor in the history of learning disabilities at Open University, revealed in The Queen’s Hidden Cousins (via Daily Mail).
Like Nerissa, Katharine is not thought to have received many visitors. "I never saw anybody come," former nurse Dot Penfold explained. "The impression I had was that they’d been forgotten." After the Royal Earlswood Asylum shuttered its doors in 1997, Katharine was transferred to a residential care home. After 55 years in an institution and about 17 years in a care home, she passed away at the age of 87 in 2014. Yet and still, Queen Elizabeth‘s cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson, attested to The Telegraph that the sisters were well cared for by their family and that the documentary "hurt" the queen.
Princess Diana had her title taken away by the royal family
As part of Charles and Diana‘s divorce settlement in 1996, the princess was stripped of her royal title. Buckingham Palace issued a statement revealing that Diana would neither perform royal engagements anymore nor be addressed as Her Royal Highness, according to a Los Angeles Times report from that year. Charles, on the other hand, maintained his role in the royal family. His right to rule was also unaffected by the couple’s divorce.
After the dust settled, many still considered Diana to be a member of the royal family — with or without her title. Diana was able to keep her Kensington Palace apartment and remained a big part of her children’s lives until she died in 1997. But at the time of her death — and even now — Diana was and is still thought of as a princess. "I am satisfied that at her death, Diana Princess of Wales continued to be considered as a member of the Royal Household," Baroness Butler-Sloss, deputy coroner of the Queen’s Household, revealed some ten years after Diana’s death (via English Princesses).
Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson was blacklisted by the royal family twice
Separations and divorces within the royal family are taboo as it is, but Prince Andrew and Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson‘s situation was particularly scandalous. While married to her husband, photographs of a man named Steve Wyatt sucking Fergie’s toes were published in British newspapers. "I mean, sucking toes. … It’s not like it was pornographic. It was just so undignified," Anne-Marie O’Neill, senior editor of People, commented to CNN World at the time.
As you can imagine, the royal family felt a certain kind of way about Fergie. E! News said it "took 16 years before the Duchess of York was invited back to Balmoral" after the toe-sucking incident. But then, Fergie, who would later admit to struggling financially, was secretly recorded attempting to sell access to her royal ex-husband. "I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused," Fergie said in a statement provided to ABC News.
This scandal led to Fergie being "blacklisted again" in 2010, E! News revealed. While Fergie was reportedly not invited to attend Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s wedding, she was present at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s nuptials. It seems the Fergie ban has been lifted.
Thomas Markle says he’s been cut off "completely" by the royal family
Thomas Markle may not be a royal per se, but he certainly knows a thing or two about being blacklisted from the British royal family. "I’m really hurt that she’s cut me off completely," he said of his daughter, Meghan Markle, when speaking to the Daily Mail months after she married Prince Harry. "I used to have a phone number and text number for her personal aides at the Palace, but after I said a few critical words about the royal family changing Meghan, they cut me off." Of course, things had been tense between the father and daughter after it was revealed that Thomas staged wedding-shopping photos for the paparazzi.
Thomas spoke with the publication again in late August 2019, and he revealed that he was now upset at not being able to meet his grandson Archie. "There was never any problem between Meghan and me until recently," he reiterated. "I’ve stayed quiet because Meghan was pregnant with Archie but I’m speaking out now because they and their PR people are continuing to ghost me out of her life."