Seventeen months is clearly long enough, as far as Prince Andrew is concerned, to spend in the royal wilderness. While mourning the passing of his father, he’s made tentative steps to reclaim his position as one of the public faces of the House of Windsor. His private status, close to his mother, has never been under threat.
His first act, on this path to redemption, was an audacious one. He gave a television interview. Emily Maitlis was nowhere in sight and it passed off without incident. Indeed, it generated positive headlines with his account of how the Queen had described the death of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh as ‘having left a huge void in her life’. Andrew also told reporters Prince Philip was a ‘remarkable man’ and he ‘loved him as a father’.
A grieving son was back representing the Firm. Conveniently, some of the subsequent coverage carried his comments about his mother and made no reference to the way he had been forced to step down from royal duties over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender, and after his disastrous Maitlis interview on BBC Newsnight in November 2019.
Probably emboldened, the prince had time to turn his attention to his role during Saturday’s funeral service. Until his plan unravelled, he was set to wear a full ceremonial day dress, sword and mourning band. Andrew’s chosen uniform was that of admiral. In principle, he was entitled to it when he turned 60. In practice, the idea was put in the deep freeze while Epstein continued to cast a shadow over him.
The Queen’s favourite child clearly thought otherwise. According to the Times, he’d even asked his tailors to start making it. With the leak, to the papers, of his desire to upgrade his uniform to one with more lace and an extra star, ‘uniform gate’ was born. It highlighted the fact that if the status quo was maintained, Prince Harry – who had two tours of duty in Afghanistan – would be the loner in a suit among the senior royals, because he has lost his military titles.
Adapting to survive has served the royals well in recent years as they’ve navigated divorces and Diana’s death. To avoid the funeral being overshadowed by an unseemly row over uniforms, the men will now all wear suits.
Since Prince Philip died, his son has been dipping his toes in the waters of rehabilitation. He’s surrounded himself with people who tell him it’s deliverable. He’s desperate to return.
Aside from the rather fundamental question about whether such a goal is achievable for a prince whose judgement has let him down more than once in the past, there’s at least one significant impediment in his way. He promised, when he stepped down, to help the FBI with their Epstein investigation. This is still an outstanding matter, after 17 months. Andrew wants to write to them. The investigators want to see the whites of a prince’s eyes.
Until this is resolved, Prince Andrew’s re-entry into public life will stutter and stall. And his admiral’s uniform will remain at the tailors.
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