The U.K. got its first new monarch in a lifetime yesterday, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the passing of the crown to the Charles formerly known as Prince. Somber times for some, exuberant times for the very online, and presumably pretty stressful times for one man — disgraced Prince Andrew. For years, Andrew’s status as mummy’s favourite boy kept him salaried and housed on a Crown Estate. While the queen was still alive, the Duke of York seemed intent on clawing back some kind of public role, but King Charles III’s reign is expected to bring changes both for the monarchy in general and Andrew in particular.
“As long as the queen is around, it might be possible for him to keep sneaking back in,” journalist and royal biographer Tina Brown said of Andrew in an April interview, referring to the duke’s then-recent surprise photo opps with his mother, “but it’s not going to work when Charles is king or when William is king. He is going to have absolutely no truck with Andrew.” (Although William did let Andrew ride shotgun on the Range Rover ride to Balmoral as the family rushed to pay final respects.)
Just a day since the announcement of the queen’s death, however, it’s not clear exactly what happens to Andrew next. There are exhaustively detailed royal protocols to execute in coming days that probably take priority. Still, we know that the queen held a glowing opinion of the duke that their family members do not share. Points of contention include Andrew’s ties to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein — which the prince seemingly didn’t sever even after Epstein’s predation became globally known — and his well-documented friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, recently convicted for her role in Epstein’s sex-trafficking scheme. Relatedly, there are allegations that the prince had sex with minors whom Epstein trafficked, in particular Virginia Giuffre, who accused the duke of raping her. Both Andrew and Buckingham Palace denied the allegations, but the queen is believed to have paid some $13 million to settle Giuffre’s lawsuit earlier this year.
According to various tabloid reports, the royal family worried that Andrew’s legal battle would tarnish the Platinum Jubbly and encouraged a settlement because they wanted to sidestep a media circus. Possibly, they were thinking of the acutely embarrassing interview Andrew granted the BBC in 2019 attempting to clear his name but, ultimately, courting ridicule with wild defenses about his temporary sweatlessness and a Pizza Express in Woking. Setting aside the allegations of serious sex crimes, Andrew has a habit of blundering into scandal: shady real-estate dealings, suspicious associates, and a reputation for buffoonery that is rumored to have made him an easy mark for Epstein and a thorn in the royal family’s side.
Yet against seemingly considerable odds, he remained his mother’s favorite. “There was an unbreakable bond between them, and she must have been devastated when his name was dragged through the mud,” royal expert and historian of the queen’s house purse Phil Dampier recently told the Daily Mail. “He only had himself to blame, of course, and it’s difficult to feel sympathy for him, but as a mother, she always supported him.”
Conveniently situated at the Royal Lodge, Andrew was close to Windsor Castle and would see his mother “on an almost daily basis,” Dampier said. He bought the queen her first cell phone and replacement corgis and apparently made her laugh. He was, per the Mail, “the spare she had for herself once she had produced the heir,” and the pair enjoyed an improbably warm relationship. Although the queen issued some public punishments over the years — the stripping of Andrew’s HRH and military titles amid rape allegations, the rumored firing from his official duties after the BBC fiasco, the revocation of his trade-envoy title in response to tabloid photos of an Epstein visit — Dampier, at least, believes the queen might have welcomed him back into the fold if she had been younger. And maybe if the aforementioned heir hadn’t been in her ear reportedly lobbying her to please cut Andrew out of the picture.
After the duke muscled his way into prime position at Prince Philip’s memorial service in March — stepping in to escort the queen down the center aisle at Westminster Abbey — Charles and William reportedly expressed “regret and consternation.” Fast forward a few months, and Andrew is conspicuously absent at the Platinum Jubbly thanksgiving service thanks to a conveniently timed case of COVID-19. More than a week later, he was scheduled for a public appearance at the Order of the Garter; his name was printed in the program. He didn’t show, relegated to a “private lunch” instead. Although the duke’s camp billed this as a “personal decision,” other royal sources said William and his dad presented a united front to the queen. Some claimed William refused to attend if his uncle was there; others said Charles issued a firm request. In the end, Andrew wound up sidelined.
Maybe this offers some indication of the road ahead. Although the prince may walk behind the queen’s coffin and take part in her vigil as she lies in state, The Herald reports that “Charles and William are expected to want the aftermath of the Queen’s funeral to signal the end of Andrew’s public appearances.” Not even the monarch can take away his dukedom — only Parliament can — but Charles does now decide where his relatives get to live and what sort of salary he wants to provide. The Herald notes that Andrew “signed a 75-year lease” on the Royal Lodge in 2003 and would probably have to be repaid for the millions of pounds he has sunk into renovations if he were to move. Before her death, the queen seemingly supplied the bulk of Andrew’s mysterious income from her private Duchy of Lancaster income — that, too, now falls to Charles’s discretion.
But if (or when) Andrew finds his circumstances reduced, the most probable outcome for the duke would appear to be life “in the royal wilderness,” as The Herald puts it. Certain royal experts have speculated that casting Andrew out would do more harm than good, allowing him to embark on projects like writing a book and going back on TV. Keeping him quiet and out of the public eye likely works out better for them than setting him loose on the world. But when do members of the royal family ever take the kind of decisive action even the most extreme circumstances seem to call for? Their whole deal is staying silent and carrying on. Prince Andrew may be “reputationally toast,” as media lawyer Mark Stephens told the Daily Mail, and he may “never appear on a royal balcony ever again,” but I personally suspect that he and his horrible teddy-bear collection are staying right where they are. Here’s hoping we hear less about them.