It goes without saying that the world has changed a lot in the past few decades – and what is perhaps most apparent are the ideals of a public that regard certain things as awful now, but 20 years ago, no one would have batted an eyelid.
There has always been a circus around the British media and cases when the media have lost their minds. But nowadays, in an age where everyone has a voice, it seems as though the media more than ever are looking to cause a stir.
There have been many scandals in the history of British culture, but there are some in particular that the media would absolutely lose their minds over now.
Here are 10 of them!
10.John Lennon mocking disabled people
Though it may hurt some of you Beatles fans out there, let’s talk real for a second. It can be argued that when one examines the unflattering public and private life of John Lennon, it can be said that he was a pretty dodgy guy. In fact, many could argue that he was a horrible human being.
As more time passes, it’s starting to become clear that John Lennon’s personal history does not make good reading these days.
Among the list are as follows: he emotionally abused his kids, he beat up both his wives, he was a remarkably huge hypocrite, he confirmed to any fashion going, and according to many that knew him, he was a pathological liar.
And there’s another one to add to that list – a video emerged recently of John Lennon on stage in the 60s outright mocking disabled people in the most uncomfortable way possible.
Now yes, I know what you’re thinking. Different time, different ideals, different standards and all that stuff, but come on. It doesn’t matter what time you live in, and what society you were shaped by, what he did was just downright hurtful, mean-spirited and wrong.
Nothing was made of it at the time, but if John Lennon were alive today, his reputation would have been pulled apart and completely re-examined by all of his transgressions. If he were a young man in this day and age doing that, social media would have ruined him, and he’d never be heard of again.
9.Peter Townsend and Princess Margaret
Thanks to the advancing relationships between the royal family and the media, as well as the advancements made in technology, we feel as though we know the monarchy better than ever. It was only a hundred years ago that for the most part, that the general public didn’t even know what a lot of the members of the royal family looked like.
And thanks to various documentaries and dramas, not least shows like Netflix’s The Crown, we know so much about the modern history of the royal family, which makes one wonder how the modern media and the modern day public would have reacted when the story of Peter Townsend and Princess Margaret was kicking off.
The royal family are more popular now than they ever have been, but I can imagine that more than a few feathers would have been ruffled at the idea of Princess Margaret not being able to marry the man loved, because of strict monarchy traditions.
Princess Margaret wished to marry divorcee Peter Townsend, but in doing so, she could be forced to forfeit her place in the line of succession.
Because Townsend was divorced, he wasn’t allowed to re-marry under Church of England rules, of which the young Queen (and Margaret’s sister) was the head. Therefore, the pair were urged by the Queen to wait until Margaret was 25 when she would no longer need the monarch’s permission to marry.
But the problems persisted. Despite waiting the obligatory time, a new plan was proposed that would allow Peter to marry the Princess by removing her from the line of succession, but keeping her royal titles and public duties.
Margaret released a statement confirming that she had broken off the engagement, writing: “I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend. I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage.
But mindful of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others. I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so I have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend.”
Can you imagine if such a scandal took place now? The papers would be all over it, and the modern public may have a different view of Her Majesty.
8.The Thorpe affair
We’re all a lot more familiar with this one now, aren’t we? In the early 60s, Jeremy Thorpe was an MP for North Devon, but like many gay men at the time, he had to live a double life, as it were, by keeping his romantic life shrouded in secrecy in an effort to avoid the law against homosexuality, which was only repealed in 1967.
To be outed, as it were, as a gay man, not only would have meant the end of Thorpe’s political career, but a prison sentence.
Even when homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, the attitude didn’t improve a great deal for many years, so when Norman Scott, (the man with whom Jeremy Thorpe shared his closest and most intimate relationship) threatened to bring down the web of lies, Thorpe knew that he needed to silence him.
This story has tentacles that stretch far and wide, so if you want the detailed view, there’s a lot about it online, and the new BBC drama A Very English Scandal tells the story excellently, but the long and short of it is that though Jeremy Thorpe was found not guilty of conspiring to commit murder.
It was one of the first cases of trial by media. Though he was found innocent in the court, he was found guilty by the public – the only verdict that truly matters.
This is a difficult one to try and interpret in the modern age, because this whole scandal, it seems, only intensified as much as it did because of perception of gay men in the UK. If this happened now (as in a high profile, but single, MP having a relationship with a man), it would be news for a day, but that would pretty much be the end of it.
7.Charlie Chaplin didn’t like women, but preferred girls under 18
There had never been a star like Charlie Chaplin. In his prime, he was the most famous man in the world, he was the most well-paid actor in Hollywood, and seemingly, he could do no wrong.
But despite all the finery and acclaim at his disposal even at the age of just 24, his upbringing in the squalor of South London left a mark on him that never seemed to fade. It was the foundation of his outlook on life, and it was the beginning of his troubled relationship with women.
After his father left the family, the young Charlie Chaplin and his family had to be raised by a single mother in terrible poverty, in which she was forced to take to the streets at times to make ends meet.
Biographies have revealed that he used and discarded women, tried to control them and never really trusted them. He tended to prefer girls that were under 18 – getting two girls aged 16 and 17 pregnant and marrying them in secrecy, as he looked to avoid scandals and prison sentences.
There is no way he could’ve gotten away with behaviour like this in this day and age.
6.Only Fools and Horses star’s substance and wife beating shame
Patrick Murray’s Mickey Pearce was one of the closest supporting characters in Only Fools and Horses, and appeared in a number of episodes over almost all of the show’s history. But the actor behind the wide boy had to come clean about his struggles with addiction when millions of fans saw how his features had changed from the last Christmas special in 1996 to the last trilogy which began in 2001.
At the time, Murray told the News of the World: “Yes, it’s true. I’m an alcoholic. I was drinking 10 lagers and half a bottle of whisky a day. It started as a social thing but it became a habit.”
During his battle with alcohol addiction, the actor sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous, worked as a labourer and as a cab driver as he drank his money away, but also turned down acting jobs because in his mind, they didn’t compare to Only Fools.
His girlfriend at the time also admitted that not only had he become dependent on a £200-day substance habit, he was also abusive to her.
Speaking exclusively to the News of the World in 2003, she revealed: “He became nothing more than a violent bully. He bled me dry.
“He became increasingly aggressive. At Christmas last year, while I was at my parents’ watching the Only Fools Christmas Special, I rang him and he was in a cab driving to get gear from his dealer.”
But the relationship became abusive, as she said: “He punched me and gave me a black eye. He told me he was sorry.” But two months later Patrick attacked her again.
“He grabbed my hair and pulled me towards him. His gold watch strap caught me on my left shoulder and I’ve now got a two-inch scar.”
This was huge news at the time, but had this have happened in the age of social media, the climate of the response would have been a great deal worse, I can imagine.
5.Manchester United v Liverpool: The 1915 Good Friday betting scandal
The Manchester United and Liverpool rivalry has been one of the most intense in the history of British football, and many fixtures down the years have produced some controversial moments, but perhaps none as controversial as that of 1915, when the biggest betting scandal in football history took place.
Things were very different 100 years ago – these days we are more accustomed to seeing Manchester United and Liverpool going head to head for major honours, but back then, it was a game for Manchester United to avoid relegation to the division below.
And after an approach from a third party, according to the BBC, some of the players from both sides devised a plot to rig the game 2-0 to Manchester United, which eventually saw The Red Devils avoid relegation.
“There was the realistic possibility of relegation for both of the sides – so it was an important match,” said Graham Sharpe, a sports writer who has researched the fixture.
“It was overshadowed by the First World War, which had been raging for several months, and you could make the case that those players thought to themselves, ‘when this season has finished, there may not be one to follow’.”
While some played on, many footballers signed up to fight in the First World War.
According to a BBC report: “There were rumours about the honesty of the tie, even before kick-off.
“There were eyewitness accounts of the two sets of players meeting up in Manchester pubs to discuss the outcome, before bets were placed at up to 8/1.
But for those on the pitch who were not in on the pact, there was understandable outrage at the severity of the miss, and threatened not to come out for the second half.
Eventually Manchester United went 2-0 up, but Liverpool nearly ruined the whole thing when forward Fred Pagnam “accidentally” you could say, hit the crossbar.
Sharpe also commented: “A number of his teammates gestured angrily towards him.” Suspicion was rife immediately after the match, with an inquiry announced immediately after the game.
Later that year after the inquiry had uncovered the degree of the manipulation, Liverpool players Tom Fairfoul, Tom Miller, Bob Purcell and Jackie Sheldon and United’s Enoch West, Sandy Turnbull and Arthur Whalley received lifetime bans.
Lawrence Cook, of Chester, and Manchester City’s Fred Howard were also banned for their parts in the scam. The Football Association said the players had “sought to undermine the whole fabric of the game and discredit its honesty and fairness.”
Shortly after, some of the players were called up to fight in the war, but some of them had their bans lifted upon return to England in recognition of their bravery during the war effort.
Given that footballers are now banned from betting on football, and given the severity of punishment that has been given to players that have broken that rule, this would tear the FA in half if Manchester United and Liverpool of the modern era tried to pull off such a scam.
Everyone would just go bananas.
4.Sir Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret
When the time comes to hand out the Knighthoods, The Queen seldom gets in the way of proposals, but when a fresh-faced newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested Mick Jagger for a knighthood in 1997, the Queen was against it.
It wasn’t necessarily because he was a rock star – she’d given out hundreds of honours of that sort – it was more because of who he was. He was the quintessential bad boy of rock, but instead of relishing in his anti-establishment reputation, it has been said that he actively sought to break into the establishment, and that is where Princess Margaret comes in.
It has been alleged over the years that Mick Jagger got to know Margaret when they were younger and playing the dinner party scene. After meeting at a party, one courtier said: “they spoke on the phone constantly and she invited him to social events”.
Margaret’s sister, however, was not altogether pleased with the notion that the pair were getting closer.
“The Queen could tolerate the Beatles because they were clean-cut and sort of sweet — at least, that was their reputation at the time,’ said Harold Brooks-Baker, who was the publisher of Burke’s Peerage. The Stones were an entirely different matter.Princess Margaret had caused more than her share of scandal. The last thing the Queen wanted was her sister running off with Mick Jagger.”
To this day, people have had their suspicions, but no one knows for sure whether they had an affair or not. But if this were to happen today, good lord, the country would come to a standstill.
3.Elizabeth Taylor is branded a ‘marriage-wrecker’
Elizabeth Taylor was considered one of the most beautiful bombshells in Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s, but even this British actress was at the centre of scandal.
She is perhaps even more well-known for her eight marriages than her blockbuster films, however, it was on one occasion in which the world turned sour against her. Why, you may ask? Well, she was the ‘other woman’ within the marriage of heartthrob Eddie Fisher and his actress wife, Debbie Reynolds.
Debbie and Eddie were considered to be the prince and princess of Hollywood at the time – and Elizabeth and Debbie and been best friends since their childhood days in the movie studios.
In the 1950’s, Elizabeth’s partner and Eddie’s best friend, Mike Todd died in a plane crash. It was reported that Elizabeth clung to Eddie’s side to try and keep Todd’s memory alive, however, the pair soon grew to become much closer than just friends.
Eddie soon decided to divorce Debbie with the intention of marrying Elizabeth, but as most Hollywood romances go – this relationship wasn’t to last.
Throughout her life, Debbie had always made a joke about this time of her life, but revealed the pain she suffered due to the scandal:
In 2010, Reynolds told the Daily Mail: “I was the last to find out about the affair. There had been hints in the papers and I had noticed that when I turned up at functions or parties on my own my friends were whispering. Although I didn’t want to find out the truth, I had to face up to it. Even so, it was a great shock to find them together. It left me shattered.”
“Elizabeth had been married three times. I was devastated because I had two children. I was very religious so I didn’t believe in divorce, but they laid guilt on me that I was keeping them and true love apart. So, I finally let Eddie off the hook. I told him to go.”
2.Led Zeppelin’s ‘fish’ story
Led Zeppelin truly lived up to their name when it came to the rock n’ roll lifestyle, after it was rumoured that members of the band alongside Vanilla Fudge pleasured a girl with a fish they had caught from the local bay whilst on tour.
In Stephen Davis’ memoir entitled Hammer of the Gods, he recalls the moment that himself, Carmen Appice and their road manager, Richard Cole caught some fish from their hotel window. A girl Appice was said to have been seeing at the time was slightly high and kept asking if she could make a movie with him.
She was tied to the bed, whilst they used the fish to help the situation along…if you get the drift; all filmed on a Super 8 camera.
It was then reported in the media that the girl had been taken advantage of by the band, but according to Cole, this wasn’t true.
Looking back on the occasion, Appice said: “You have to understand that those days were so different. It was all peace and love. It was a really crazy time, birth control pills were just coming out and politically and socially, everything was different”.
1.Eric Clapton’s racist rant
Eric Clapton was also involved in a scandal back in 1976, during a concert in Birmingham. In the middle of performances, he made it clear that he was in support of white politician, Enoch Powell and stated that Britain was becoming a ‘black colony’ – which even now, still makes one feel totally enraged.
“This is Great Britain. What is happening to us?” he said during the outburst.
Following his comments which made worldwide headlines, a new movement was brought in, known as ‘Rock Against Racism’. Pop, punk and reggae bands staged concerts with an anti-racist theme in the hope of educating youngsters.
Over the years, Clapton has paid the price for what he said due to the connotations he has been associated with since but puts it all down to substances and alcohol abuse.
“I sabotaged everything I got involved with” he said. “I was so ashamed of who I was. Half of my friends were black, I dated a black woman and I championed black music.”