There was a moment earlier this year where Prince Andrew truly believed he was building the path towards a comeback.
Stripped of his titles and relegated to a retired life at home, sources tell me in early spring the prospectless Duke of York held a series of meetings with his lawyer and members of his team – all third party employees, since the Palace refuse to deal with him anymore – to discuss potential routes back into the public eye.
“Not that he ever thought he would be a working royal again,” a close source tells me, “but he did discuss creating duties of his own, through philanthropic efforts and being seen as the supportive son of the Queen… These would contribute to rehabilitating his image. Not as the Duke of York, but simply as a man who wanted to do good.”
His return to a somewhat public role was also dependent on a continued proximity to his former position as a working royal. Though his military honours had been taken away and use of “HRH” banned, there was one role he had left at his disposal: Knight of the Garter.
Walking in the Garter Day procession in June—marking one of the most honourable orders of chivalry—would have put him front and centre once again. It was going to plan until, at the 11th hour, senior family members intervened, not wanting his presence to overshadow Camilla’s debut as Royal Lady of the Order of the Garter or bring further embarrassment to 'The Firm'.
We saw little of Andrew since that moment until a few weeks ago, when he adopted a visible role in the ceremonial proceedings following the death of the Queen. Thanking well-wishers outside Balmoral Castle, it was one of the few moments he genuinely had the right to be a part of.
“He would be sorely mistaken if he believes that might parlay into anything else,” a palace source explained to me last week. “He had every right to be part of each family event, but there was a conscious effort [behind the scenes]—within the institution and the family—to ensure he didn’t take advantage of the situation.” (Down to every last detail, including the optics of taking custody of the late monarch’s two dogs, which a York representative only named Sarah Ferguson in media briefings confirming the decision.)
Without the soft spot of the Queen at his disposal – it was no secret that Andrew was her favourite child, the door is now shut tighter than ever for the prince. Though King Charles III has sympathy for his brother, I’m told, the newly-minted sovereign will “never” allow him to set foot near the family business again.
So much so that Andrew may soon be stripped of his final link to the Crown—his role as a Councillor of State, which still allows the prince to deputise for the King should he be unable to work due to illness or absence abroad.
Last month, it was reported that Charles is considering rewriting the 85-year-old Regency Act to exclude non-working members of the Royal Family – meaning Andrew, Prince Harry and Princess Beatrice would be off the list.
There is every reason extra effort is going into ensuring Andrew remains out of sight. While his fall from grace began with his friendship with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and convicted trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, it crescendoed with his multi-million settlement to Virginia Giuffre after she filed a civil case alleging him of sexually assaulting her as a teenager.
Though he consistently denied the allegations, he also consistently showed little empathy towards the countless young women and girls whose lives were destroyed.
There is also speculation that Maxwell could try to reduce her 20-year prison sentence by becoming a government witness in any broader investigation into the social circle of Epstein, potentially thrusting Andrew into the limelight again.
This week, a new documentary, Banished: Prince Andrew, reveals more details of Andrew’s life of bad decisions and “womanising”. Alongside suggestions that he was a sex addict, the production not only presents the eighth-in-line to the throne as a predator but also as a man who pursued a depraved friendship with Epstein and Maxwell so they could help him fulfil needs he was unable to satisfy elsewhere.
I recently saw a preview and the archive interview with a masseuse who claims Andrew greeted her with the line, “Hey, nice a**. Do you take it up the a**?” is as stomach churning today as it was the first time around.
Whether any of this makes headlines in the British press will be another story altogether. Most newspapers seem to still be obsessively focused on stale tales about the Duchess of Sussexes’ supposed workplace “bullying” (the latest revelations still failing to provide any anecdotes or proof of said behaviour).
But whether the latest Andrew revelations get attention or not, none of this changes the bleak outlook for him. To the majority of the world, they will never see him as anything other than the man who continued a disturbing friendship with a convicted paedophile and paid out millions to an underaged rape accuser—and there’s no coming back from that.
Watch: Prince Andrew says he will miss Queen Elizabeth's advice and humour