When the dramatic account emerged two weeks ago of how the Duke of York had been reduced to tears when he was told by his brother Charles, then the Prince of Wales, that he would never return to public duties, it raised an intriguing question. Why had Prince Andrew not figured that out already?

He was, according to The Mail on Sunday on November 5, “blindsided” by the outcome of the meeting and “utterly bereft”. But ever since he had been forced to step down from royal duties there had been repeated reports that there was no way back for Andrew. Was he the only person in the country not to have got the message?

Now the answer has emerged. The duke was too slow to accept his fate because his closest advisers kept telling him they would find a way for him to return to his royal role.

His mother, the late Queen, also failed to make it clear to him that his days as a working member of the royal family were well and truly over as a result of his relationship with the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Andrew’s belief that he could redeem himself continued even after Virginia Giuffre sued him for sexual assault and he was stripped of his remaining patronages and military affiliations. The case was settled out of court this year and Andrew paid a multi-million-dollar sum to Giuffre, although without accepting guilt.

According to reports, the duke is in “bad shape” and finding it hard to see what his life will be like from now on. He still lives at Royal Lodge in Windsor, under the same roof as his former wife, Sarah Ferguson, but in a different wing of the house. He goes out riding, and his family comes to visit him.

The duke was too slow to accept his fate because his closest advisers kept telling him they would find a way for him to return to his royal role.

He sees his grandchildren. He is thought to watch a lot of television, including the golf and the cricket, and reads a bit. But he is not thought to have many friends.

The meeting between the two brothers took place one morning at Birkhall, Charles’s Scottish home near Balmoral, shortly before the Queen died. No one else was present.

“Naïve as it may sound, he always had hopes of regaining his position as a senior royal,” a source told The Mail on Sunday. “At the meeting, Charles told him that he can go off and have a good life, a nice life, but that his public life as a royal is at an end. He was told: ‘You have to accept this.’ ”

A royal source said it was not the first time that Andrew had been told that, adding: “But sometimes people do not hear things.”

A source close to the duke has said that the meeting was less dramatic than portrayed two weeks ago, although they agree that it did take place. The source said: “Talk of a tearful exchange with his brother is overblown.”

Another well-placed source said that the meeting between the two brothers was both necessary and important, adding: “The fact is that the duke has been slow to accept where he is.” That, they said, was down to the influence of his advisers, who are led by his lawyer Gary Bloxsome, a criminal solicitor.

The duke had been promised that they could “get him back to work”, a promise, the source said, that they had no way of keeping. The duke was also given repeated optimistic briefings about everything from his own legal fight against Giuffre to Ghislaine Maxwell’s prospects of fighting off the child sex trafficking charges against her. She was found guilty in December last year, and later sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

A royal source said it was not the first time that Andrew had been told that, adding: “But sometimes people do not hear things.”

The result of all those assurances was to give the duke an unrealistic sense of his prospects of returning to work. Although Charles, as Prince of Wales, had made it clear that there was no way back for Andrew, the late Queen did not do enough to disabuse him of his fantasy that he could stage a comeback, the source said. She was his greatest supporter, and found it hard to tell him the blunt truth in a way that he would understand. Ferguson is said to be privately realistic, but does not tell the duke what he does not want to hear.

Although the message has finally sunk in, there was news last week that will have made Andrew question whether he played his hand well.

At the end of a three-year legal battle between Giuffre and the distinguished US lawyer Alan Dershowitz, she admitted that she may have been wrong to accuse him of sexual abuse. She said in a statement that she was very young at the time and had been in a stressful and traumatic environment. “I now recognize I may have made a mistake in identifying Mr Dershowitz,” she said.

In April 2019, Giuffre sued Dershowitz for defamation and emotional distress after he called her a “complete, total liar”. Dershowitz counter-sued and the case had been due to go to trial next year in New York. The lawsuits have now been dismissed with no costs or fee awarded to either party.

Dershowitz, a Harvard emeritus law professor who consistently denied all Giuffre’s allegations of sexual misconduct, said: “I commend her for finally coming forward and acknowledging that she may have made a mistake in identifying me because of the trauma that she went through.”

Lawyers have said that as Giuffre’s case against Andrew has been settled, there is nothing he can do about it now. Instead, he must work out what to do with the rest of his life.

Andrew Lownie, who is writing a biography of the duke, suggested that he should get involved in charity work. “He needs to work his passage back. He needs to show that he is doing something worthwhile, and not just watching films and playing golf,” he said. “At the moment he is toxic, nobody wants to be associated with him. He needs to get his hands dirty, even starting somewhere right at the bottom. But whether that will mesh with his personality is another question.”

A spokeswoman for the Duke of York declined to comment.

Valentine Low is the royal correspondent for The Times of London