Royal Family Is Up Against Its “Biggest Crisis” Since the 1936 Abdication, Expert Says

“It’s been quite shocking.”

King Charles, Queen Camilla, Prince William, and Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Not since King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson in 1936 has the monarchy been up against a challenge this steep, royal author Robert Jobson said, per Us Weekly. (The abdication was a seminal turning point in the royal family, a shocking decision made by the then-monarch, who had been on the throne for less than a year.)

“I think people will be talking about this as the biggest crisis since the abdication,” Jobson said on ABC News Studio’s IMPACT x Nightline: The Crown in Crisis, currently streaming on Hulu. “It’s quite vulnerable.” 

King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

King Edward VIII left the British throne to marry Wallis Simpson, seen here on their wedding day on June 3, 1937. The Church of England barred the King from marrying Simpson because she was twice divorced; the royal family has always had a complicated relationship with divorce.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

The couple seen here in France in 1937.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Edward VIII was barred by the Church of England from marrying Simpson, an American who was twice-divorced. After Edward left the throne, his younger brother King George VI ascended, making a path for then-Princess Elizabeth to take the throne in 1952, after her father passed away unexpectedly at just 56 years old. (After his abdication, by the way, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor moved to France and lived there until the former king’s death in 1972.)

King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

The two took on the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after his abdication. They are seen here in Nassau, Bahamas in 1942, during the five-year time period that the former king was Governor of the Bahamas, from 1940 to 1945; they mostly spent their time in France.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth died in September 2022 at 96 years old, and 2024 has been a year of tumult for the family: King Charles, the Princess of Wales, and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, are all battling cancer. Before her death, Her late Majesty saw her grandson, Prince Harry, and granddaughter-in-law Meghan Markle step back as working members of the royal family and relocate to the U.S.; Prince Andrew, long regarded as the late Queen’s favorite son, resigned from his royal duties in 2019 because of his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his own sexual assault allegations, which he vehemently denied then and continues to today.

“I’ve covered the royal family since 1990 and it’s always been a rollercoaster,” Jobson said. “I think this particular period of 2024, where you’ve got Camilla who used to be regarded as the ‘Rottweiler pariah,’ she’s leading the royal family into ceremonies at Westminster Abbey. I think it’s been quite shocking.”

Queen Camilla at Easter service

Camilla, once reviled, is now the stable backbone of the monarchy and is keeping it afloat.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Jobson is referring to, of course, Camilla’s extramarital affair with then-Prince Charles, who was married to Princess Diana at the time; Camilla herself was married to Andrew Parker-Bowles. Both Charles and Camilla left their respective marriages in the mid-1990s, married in 2005, and, since Charles’ cancer diagnosis, Camilla has led the family through this period, being the stable anchor amid seemingly endless bad news.

Fellow royal author Omid Scobie was also featured in the aforementioned documentary alongside Jobson, and said in it “I would argue that the royal family, prior to any of this happening, was already facing a crisis regarding their future when it came to their popularity, when it came to apathy towards the royals in the U.K., particularly when it came to younger generations,” he said. “This health crisis in the middle of it has given them their biggest challenge in all the years.” (Scobie’s book Endgame, which carries the subtitle Inside the Royal Family and the Monarchy’s Fight for Survival, seems eerily precinct, considering it was released in November 2023, before anyone knew the calamity that would become 2024.) 

Royal family at Sandringham

Who would have known on Christmas Day at Sandringham what 2024 would bring for the royal family?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Scobie added that there is a “huge void in the royal lineup”: “This is not the slimmed-down monarchy that King Charles dreamed of,” he said. “He imagined a lineup of his strongest royals in the family, including Prince Harry. And now we have a really limp lineup at times. And, you know, the Queen [Elizabeth] said it best herself: ‘To be seen is to be believed.’ If we’re not seeing the others and what they’re doing, what are we believing in?”

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.