Prince Andrew defers military promotion to Admiral to mark his 60th birthday

Tania Snuggs, news reporter

The Duke of York has asked to defer a military promotion after stepping down from public duties in the wake of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

Prince Andrew was due to be promoted to Admiral on his 60th birthday later this month, in line with a longstanding policy that sees senior royals treated as serving military members.

But a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the duke had requested to forgo the planned promotion until he is able to fully resume royal duties.

"By convention, the Duke of York would be in line for military promotion on his 60th birthday," the spokeswoman said.

"Following the decision by His Royal Highness to step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, the Duke of York has asked the Ministry of Defence if this promotion might be deferred until such time that His Royal Highness returns to public duty."

Prince Andrew stepped back from public duties in December following controversy over his links to Epstein, a convicted paedophile who killed himself while in prison.

The royal was heavily criticised following a TV interview which probed his relationship with the billionaire and claims Epstein pressured Virginia Roberts Giuffre, then 17, to have sex with Prince Andrew.

The Duke of York denies the claims.

His decision comes after the government announced that councils will no longer be forced to fly flags to mark the duke's birthday - but the occasion will still be marked by the ringing of bells at Westminster Abbey.

The policy of flying Union flags on royal birthdays was being reviewed after local authorities were initially ordered to do so for Andrew, as is customary.

Critics described the celebration as "crass and offensive", which led to Downing Street saying it was looking into the matter.

A government spokesman said: "The Department of Culture, Media and Sport will be advising councils that there is no requirement to fly flags on 19 February following the decision by the Duke of York to step back from public duties for the foreseeable future."

The decision will also apply to other government buildings.

Certain royal birthdays, including the duke's, are traditionally celebrated by the ringing of bells at Westminster Abbey and this year will apparently be no different.

A spokeswoman for the landmark London church said: "Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar and the bells are rung for the birthdays of HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh; their children; and TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children.

"There are no plans to change these arrangements."

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Meanwhile, on Wednesday, an American lawyer representing some of Epstein's victims called for the UK to send Prince Andrew to the US to help with the investigation into the convicted sex offender.

In return, Lisa Bloom urged Washington to extradite Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a US diplomat who is charged with causing the death of teenager Harry Dunn.

The 19-year-old was killed in a crash outside an RAF base in Northamptonshire last August.