With the Platinum Jubilee over, the wait was on for the next royal bun-fight that could unite us all in joyous celebration, and now we have it: the Duke of York is having a bad week.
First he was branded an “absolute fool” by a Frenchwoman who sued him over a debt relating to his Swiss ski chalet. Then, earlier this week, came the news that he was banned from taking part in the Garter Day procession around Windsor, waving regally to tourists and television cameras while dressed in blue velvet robes and a plumed hat. The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge appear to have considered the optics for a nanosecond before saying words to the effect of “over my dead body”.
They are said to have made their shared view known to the Queen, who reportedly took the final decision to ban Andrew. According to The Sun, the decision was made “in the best interests of the family but also the best interests of the Duke of York”. He would attend only the private aspects of the ceremony, including the investiture and the lunch, and was instructed to stay out of sight “for his own good”, the paper said.
Never one to take a hint, Prince Andrew is said to have planned to appear this week at Royal Ascot. Standing on his dignity as a “blood prince”, he no doubt hopes to process to the royal box in a horse-drawn carriage, perhaps thinking wistfully of the time he took his dear friends Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell to Ascot.
And, to add to the joyous awfulness, it has been reported that Andrew has been lobbying his 96-year-old mother to reinstate him as colonel of the Grenadier Guards. He was stripped of that honor, along with much else, in January, before paying millions to settle the sexual assault case brought against him by Virginia Giuffre. This successfully ended the PR horror show enfolding in a New York court but signally failed to clear Andrew’s name. Alas, the distinction appears beyond him.
“The colonelcy of the Grenadier Guards was his most coveted title and he wants it back,” reported The Telegraph, quoting an unnamed source. “Having remained a counsellor of state, he also believes that he should be included at royal and state events … [He wants] his position recognised and respected.”
He is said to want the Queen to restore his status as a “blood prince”, meaning he could once again attend official events. And the man with no bargaining chips allegedly wants his daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie — frequently referred to by him, inevitably, as “blood princesses” — to become “working” members of the royal family.
This may not be because they want to do any actual royal work. Indeed, there is little sign of any public appetite for them to do so. It is thought that he may be hoping that the “working royal” status will make them financially secure and cement their “right” to live in royal residencies. It is perhaps not lost on him that the Buckingham Palace balcony was reserved for “working royals” during the jubilee celebrations, and that his daughters were booted down The Mall to watch the flypast from a roof.
Standing on his dignity as a “blood prince”, he no doubt hopes to process to the royal box in a horse-drawn carriage.
Doubling down on the opprobrium he received for his unexpected role escorting the Queen at a memorial service for the Duke of Edinburgh, Andrew planned to attend the Platinum Jubilee service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s. Sadly for him, he tested positive for Covid. In the end he made not a single public appearance during the four-day jubilee celebrations, although Beatrice and Eugenie were said to have been given more prominence in the proceedings than they otherwise might have had, to placate him.
Andrew remains undaunted by a succession of disasters that would have felled anyone blessed with less self-importance and delusion. This is the man, after all, who wanted to wear an admiral’s uniform to his father’s funeral, and was reported to be having one made, in spite of not actually being an admiral. He was made an honorary vice admiral on his 55th birthday in 2015, and was due to become an admiral, as one does, on his 60th. He deferred the title while he tried and failed to clear his name of Giuffre’s allegations. In the end it was ruled that no military uniforms should be worn at the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Which brings us inexorably to the Garter Day service, and another uniform that he isn’t allowed to wear in front of cameras. What he does in the privacy of his own home is of course up to him, and indeed the image of him putting on his velvet robe and hat and parading up the hall is a haunting one. He remains a Knight of the Garter, an honor chosen personally by the Queen for those who have held public office, served the sovereign personally or contributed “in a particular way” to national life. Few could doubt that Andrew has indeed contributed to national life “in a particular way”.
Now 62, and still not an admiral, he is ninth in line to the throne and a counselor of state. This means that he could be asked to stand in for the Queen if she is temporarily incapacitated, but only if Prince Charles, Prince William and, one imagines, four-year-old Prince Louis, a Palace footman and a passing corgi are unavailable.
In a schedule that is, to his obvious chagrin, far from packed, Andrew’s next engagement might be welcoming home Ghislaine Maxwell, a prospect that may leave courtiers feeling faint. Due to be sentenced in New York this month for sex trafficking, she is reported to hope that she can spend the bulk of her sentence in a British prison.
Andrew memorably told Emily Maitlis in his Newsnight interview that he was “too honorable”, so he may feel that an honorable trip to see his old mucker in prison might liven things up, and who knows, maybe he’ll wear an admiral’s uniform. Why not? Experience shows that when it comes to Prince Andrew, the disgraced old Duke of York, you can’t rule anything out.
Hilary Rose is a longtime columnist for The Times of London, and the author of the weekly column How to Get Dressed