What to do with a problem like Andy?
It’s the question now being mulled over in the minds of courtiers in the corridors of Buckingham Palace. With Ghislaine Maxwell now heading for the slammer, the world’s attention is shifting back to (the allegedly) randy Prince Andrew and his years-long affiliation with noted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Prince Andrew’s prolonged travails come at a particularly delicate time for the British monarchy. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, although still beloved, is now in her mid-90s, with Prince Charles remaining a Marmite figure and Princes William and Harry locked in a cold war of sorts. The once-mighty ‘Firm’ now looks vulnerable.
In this context, the black hole opened up by Prince Andrew’s association with Epstein represents an existential threat to the monarchy. Even an ardent monarchist would be at a loss to explain why the Queen (via the taxpayer) should be footing the multi million pound legal bills of a Prince who spouts nonsense explanations when pressed about his purported sexual dealings with a minor (‘I can’t sweat!’, ‘It couldn’t have been me, I was at a Pizza Express!’) or his association with Epstein, a man who hunted and used hundreds of young girls to gratify himself sexually. Instead of facing these claims down, probably because he can’t, as evidenced by the 2019 horror show interview with Emily Maitlis, Prince Andrew is now looking for legal loopholes to spare further royal blushes.
For its part, the Royal Family appears to be preparing for the worst. The papers are starting to be populated with stories of a Prince Andrew containment plan. The calculation is clearly that Andrew is a liability and must be dealt with as such.
But how to insulate the British Monarchy from its rogue Prince? In one sense it should be easy, given Andrew is nowhere (for practical purposes, anyway) in the line of succession. The trouble is, Andrew is widely considered to be his mother’s favourite. Will the Queen really want to exile her preferred child?
No matter what happens to Prince Andrew, the Royal Family faces a reckoning. Queen Elizabeth II has been the one constant in the sea of Britain’s post-war change. She has been there through Suez, through entry into Europe, through the IMF bailout, through the Winter of Discontent, through the Big Bang, Cool Britannia and Brexit. When she goes, her subjects in Britain and across the Commonwealth will be taking a good hard look at the Crown and what it offers.
And what happens if they decide, as Barbados has recently done, that the pageantry and constitutional order are no longer worth the price of admission? Rue Britannia…