Prince Andrew’s desperate comeback bid: How far will his mother go to protect him?
Against the wishes of her family, Queen Elizabeth II allowed the Duke of York to walk alongside her at a memorial service at Westminster Abbey. Whether this is a one-off or a declaration of intent remains to be seen
At 95 years of age, 70 of those on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II has the privilege of being mistress of her actions and oblivious to her mistakes. Ahead of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June, many who watched last Tuesday as she walked down the center aisle of Westminster Abbey on the arm of Prince Andrew have labeled it the Duke of York’s latest maneuver. The Queen’s favorite son is desperate to escape the ostracism to which he has been condemned due to his unpropitious relationship with the pedophile millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
Just one month ago the duke finally paid out Virginia Giuffre to end the case she brought against him for sexual abuse of a minor. The final figure for the out-of-court settlement has not been made public but it is understood to be between €8 and €14 million ($8.7-$15.3 million). While the settlement ended a public nightmare for the monarchy in this Jubilee year, it was still interpreted in the British media as an unofficial admission of guilt.
Buckingham Palace has stripped Andrew of his military titles and royal patronages, as well as the use of His Royal Highness at public events.
The interventions of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and his son William, second in the line of succession, have been key to screening Andrew out in the media in order to contain future damage to the image of the British monarchy.
After Andrew’s catastrophic November 2019 interview with journalist Emily Maitlis on the BBC’s Newsnight, the two convinced Elizabeth II to remove the Duke of York from publicly representing the crown.
In the BBC interview, Andrew came off as a haughty aristocrat, far removed from reality; trying to justify his friendship with Epstein even after he had been convicted of sexual abuse while denying his alleged sexual relationship with Giuffre.
It was therefore a low blow for Charles and William to have Andrew assume a central role in the memorial service for their father and grandfather at Westminster. According to British media’s royal reporters, Charles and William had reluctantly agreed that Andrew would travel with the Queen to the abbey from the grounds of Windsor Castle, where mother and son live next door to each other. The ceremony brought together all the European royals, including Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.
As long as Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch, Andrew will be protectedIngrid Seward, author of biography on Prince Philip
In theory, it was the dean of the abbey who was supposed to take the monarch to the seat that had been arranged for her in the front row of the central nave.
“No protocol was broken,” according to royal etiquette and protocol expert William Hanson, one of the most quoted in the UK media. “There is no rule that prevents the monarch from being assisted to walk by one of her children,” he says. “But from a public image perspective, I think attention was diverted from what was supposed to be a very serious purpose: commemorating the life of the Duke of Edinburgh,” Hanson adds.
Hanson’s is a subtle way of accusing the Duke of York of ruining the event. Others have been less nuanced, such as former editor of The Sun, Dan Wooton: “Is Prince Andrew really so cretinous and conniving that he would allow his mother to risk her impeccable reputation to aid his delusional fantasies of a comeback?” Wooton wondered this week in the pages of the Daily Mail. “Sadly, the answer is, absolutely, without any doubt.”
Wooton, however, does not reproach the monarch in the slightest. Neither does UK media staple The Times, which gives credit to Elizabeth II for walking to her seat on her son’s arm at the Westminster ceremony. Both Wooton and The Times suggest that Andrew has taken advantage of his mother’s sentimentality in her later years.
“People forget that the queen has a deep Christian faith. To cast her favorite son out would go against her belief in forgiveness and would be completely alien to her. As long as she is the monarch, Andrew will be protected,” explains Ingrid Seward, who edits Majesty magazine and is the author of one of the most rigorous biographies of Prince Philip.
According to tracking by the poll company YouGov, only 12% of British citizens have any positive feelings towards Prince Andrew, who fought in the Falklands War and for a time was the most popular member of the British royalty.
His public image has been shattered since the public learned the lurid details of his relationship with Epstein.
Nothing seems to indicate that in early June, when the central events of the Platinum Jubilee will take place, Andrew will have a prominent role in any of the ceremonies. The Times suggests that he may appear at the June 3 service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
But it will be the moment when the royal family appears on the Buckingham balcony, during the “Trooping The Colour” events (the official celebration of the Queen’s birthday) on June 3, when the extent of Elizabeth II’s maternal protection will finally be tested.