The decline and fall of Prince Andrew

14 January 2022

5:25 AM

14 January 2022

5:25 AM

The final judgement, when it came, was phrased with admirable economy. This evening’s statement from Buckingham Palace said simply that:

With The Queen’s approval and agreement, The Duke of York’s military affiliations and Royal patronages have been returned to The Queen. The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.

In 42 words, Prince Andrew’s royal career has been extinguished forever. He has been reduced from being someone who was once second in line to the throne to being nothing more than a private citizen, and a publicly disgraced one at that.

It is not unprecedented that someone should be cast out of the inner circle in this fashion. Prince Harry’s departure from the Royal Family was conveyed with a similarly brutal use of language, when it was announced that:

The Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of The Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.

But this was at least softened with the statement that:

While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family.

No such mercy has been offered to the Duke of York. Instead, his expulsion from ‘the Firm’, drawn out by stages since 2019, is now complete. Whatever happens with the civil case that has been brought by Virginia Giuffre, there is no way back for him. He has been shown, in the most definite of ways, that the Queen’s patience with him has now been extinguished.

It should not have come as a complete surprise. Last year, well-placed royal sources suggested that, should the Duke’s motion to have the case thrown out fail to succeed, he would quickly find himself placed in a situation where he was no longer allowed to embarrass his family any longer. And given the widespread scepticism with which Judge Kaplan treated the arguments that his lawyers put forward, most observers were unsurprised by yesterday’s ruling. The only question now is what happens next.

Prince Andrew may attempt to offer Giuffre an out-of-court settlement of sufficient attractiveness for her to halt the proceedings in their tracks. This would spare him the humiliation of the deposition process, which could see his children and ex-wife Sarah Ferguson interviewed. He must be rueing the day that he agreed to his disastrous Newsnight appearance with Emily Maitlis, which established his lack of contrition and ridiculous excuses within the court of public opinion. He has subsequently seen any sympathy that he might have attracted evaporate entirely. And he knows that, should the case in New York go against him, it could open the door to the possibility of a criminal prosecution: something unprecedented in the history of the Royal Family.

At times like this, unnamed ‘friends’ of the Duke of York would usually be expected to offer supportive comments to the papers. They might brief the media that his perennial (and uncritically reported as fact) status as the Queen’s favourite child would mean that he could rely on a financial safety cushion, to say nothing of a continued place at royal appearances and ceremonies. But no friends or supporters have come forward, either because there are none or because they have been barred from doing so. Instead, Prince Andrew begins the hardest year of his life isolated, excommunicated and without any hope of a reprieve, in the certain knowledge that matters could yet worsen.

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