It is a difficult time to be close to the Duke of York. Having attempted for months to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s sexual assault claim against him, it appears he will be cross-examined in a New York court later this year.
How have we got here? One wonders if it started in his upbringing. As a cute, giggly child, Andrew was always doted upon, spoiled even. That meant, once he became an adult, he was always a worry. Ever since he left the navy, it was clear he didn’t want a desk job. The question was always “what are we going to do about Andrew?” He was eventually made a trade envoy, a role that Prince Edward had previously excelled in.
Andrew always cosied up to the wrong people – “seedy billionaires”, as Prince Philip once put it – and the glitter and the glamour of super-rich swaggering types. Andrew befriended Jeffrey Epstein and became involved with him to an embarrassing degree. Notably, he made the categorical error of inviting Epstein, together with Ghislaine Maxwell, to Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday at Windsor Castle, and to Balmoral, where Epstein and Maxwell were photographed in one of the Queen’s private wood cabins.
The Duke of York has landed the royal family with a PR nightmare – his lawyers have used so many legal loopholes to escape his day in court that the perception he is guilty has increased. Of course, avoiding facing a judge in the short term was exactly what he was paying lawyers large sums to do (and, crucially, he never actually broke the law by doing so). It was not about the ultimate image implications, because Andrew doesn’t think long-term (arrogance, entitlement and believing nothing can touch you are some of the downsides to royalty).
It is hard for outsiders to understand why the royal family doesn’t simply drop Prince Andrew. His military titles and royal patronages have now been returned to the Queen; he will no longer use HRH in an official capacity. But to make a stronger statement on the matter is not how families, least of all the royal family, work: in times of trouble, their habit is to close ranks. The thing people forget is that the Queen has a strong Christian faith – to cast her favoured son out into the proverbial wilderness would go against her beliefs about forgiveness and be totally alien to her. So long as she is monarch, Andrew is protected.
How will it end? In all likelihood, this will drag out into legal procedures that will heap shame on Andrew, but not result in a prison sentence.
There is a tendency in some corners of Twitter to suggest Andrew marks the end for the monarchy. This might be a tempting conclusion, but it is overblown. Social media doesn’t represent how the country feels. The majority of the population just feels very sorry for the Queen.