Princess Diana was undeniably one of the biggest British icons of the 20th century. Her revolutionary, rebellious behaviour as a member of the Royal Family and the charity she offered to everyday Britons at her own expense made her both extremely popular and extremely controversial, with tabloids both praising and scrutinising her every move. Tragically, in 1997, she died in a car crash with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed. Officially, the crash was determined by the jury to be an accident, and the circumstances surrounding her death were initially swept under the rug. But a great number of the British public and the media were not satisfied, and many allegations were made against the British establishment, most notably by Dodi Fayed’s father, all of them suggesting that Diana’s death was actually an assassination that had been orchestrated by Crown-affiliated forces for numerous reasons.
In 2008, an inquiry into her death led to a re-investigation in which several members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles, her former husband and the key suspect of several conspiracy theories, were interviewed by police investigators. Ultimately, the inquiry concluded that the death had indeed been an accident and that there was no solid evidence of malicious activity. However, the conspiracy theories live on, with Fayed’s father claiming to this day that he believes Diana and his son were assassinated by the British royals for their controversial status that was said to have brought shame upon the family.
The Profumo Affair was one of the first widely publicised political scandals of the new Britain that had emerged from World War Two. Undoubtedly one of the most influential and significant political scandals in British history, the Profumo Affair ended in jail sentences and suicide. During the peak of the Cold War, the war minister John Profumo was caught secretly engaging in an extramarital affair with a 19-year-old model, Christine Keeler. The scandal caused an explosion at the heart of the establishment, and the affair was exposed by newspapers nation-wide.
The gravity of the scandal was compounded by the fact that Keeler was concurrently engaging in a sexual relationship with a Soviet military attaché, which raised allegations that she may have been a spy for the soviets. Resigning in disgrace, Profumo’s political career would never recover, and the aftermath was an embarrassing charade in which a number of trials, one resulting in the suicide of the accused, were conducted by the government in order to save face.
The practice of selling honours (knighthoods, baronetcies and peerages) was a common practice among high-ranking government officials and stretched back around a century before the scandal took place. The presiding Prime Minister at the time of the scandal, David Lloyd George, had enjoyed an extremely successful political career up to this point as leader of the Liberal Party, and most famously Britain’s wartime leader during World War One. However, by the early 1920s, he was rapidly losing support among both his party and the British public due to a series of political blunders and policymaking that decreased his popularity.
In a vain attempt to suppress criticism from newspapers and to raise funds for his failing political party, he arranged the sale of hundreds of honours. In a disastrous turn of events for the Prime Minister, his business deals were exposed by the newspapers he had sought to escape from, and his reputation suffered drastically as a result. He was accused by the House of Lords of committing an abuse of power in the station of Prime Minister, and the event is now considered today by modern historians to have brought about the downfall of his political career. While he did not resign, his power and influence would steadily decline until his retirement from politics and his death in 1945.
In 1995, Jonathan Aitken, a British Conservative MP and Cabinet minister was accused of conducting controversial arms deals with Saudi tycoons. The story was published on the frontpages of several major newspapers, and despite the evidence presented, Aitken insisted on rejecting the charges. Infamously, he declared that he would combat them with the “sword of truth”, repeatedly lying to courts and forcing his family to do the same. Eventually, the web of deceit that Aitken had spun entrapped even him, and he was forced into a position where an accusation of perjury was inevitable. When the time came for him to answer for his criminal behaviour, he was brought before a court in 1999 and sentenced to 18 months in prison for the crime of perjury. Bankrupted and disgraced, Aitken was forcefully retired from politics. He left prison after serving seven months of his 18-month sentence, and found work in the Church of England where he continues to serve to this day as a Deacon.
John Bingham, Earl of Lucan was an incredibly wealthy British aristocrat who lived a privileged life as a peer. He spent much of his time gambling and indulging in activities you might expect of a member of the British aristocracy, and he was notable for his suave personality and conventionally good looks. Remarkably, he was even considered for the role of James Bond!
After a divorce settlement resulted in Lucan losing custody of his children in 1972, he was noted to have became bitter and obsessive. Fixated on righting the injustice he believed had been wrought upon him by the British political system, Lucan was driven to near-madness and, in 1974, was reported to have bludgeoned the nanny of his children to death in the kitchen of their family home. As his wife investigated the attack, she too was assaulted by a man she claimed was Lucan, quickly escaping the scene. Lucan’s mother reported receiving a phonecall from him, requesting that she take care of his children before he cut off contact. After this, Lucan quickly disappeared from the face of the earth, with many theories suspecting that he either killed himself or vanished, effectively faking his death. Since his disappearance, there have been numerous claims by certain individuals who reported sighting him in places from New Zealand to India. As an inquest in 1975 named Lucan to undoubtedly be Rivett’s killer, widespread media coverage across the globe and a huge police investigation began in order to find him and bring him to justice. However, Lucan was never discovered and on February 3rd 2016, he was officially declared dead by the courts.