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The Queen has sought to distance the monarchy from the Duke of York by stripping him of his military affiliations and royal patronages as the fallout from his sexual assault case continues.
In a devastating blow to Prince Andrew, who was born His Royal Highness, Buckingham Palace also said he would no longer use the HRH royal style in any official capacity.
The move means Andrew has been completely removed from official royal life as he prepares to fight a civil lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre after a US judge rejected his attempt to have the case against him dismissed.
Norman Baker, a commentator on royal matters and a former government minister, said the prince had been “well and truly been chucked under the royal bus”, but the royal family “could not escape the immense damage” the case would do.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Thursday: “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.”
The Buckingham Palace statement does not say that the duke has been stripped of his HRH title, but that he will no longer use the style His Royal Highness in any official capacity.
The decision to take back the duke’s military affiliations and royal patronages had been widely discussed among senior members of the royal family, including the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge.
The duke’s roles have been handed back to the Queen with immediate effect for redistribution to other members of the royal family. Sources stressed that they would not be returned to Andrew.
As ninth in line to the throne, and the fourth-most senior adult in the line of succession, Andrew will remain as a counsellor of state, able to undertake official duties if the sovereign is temporarily incapacitated through illness or abroad.
The dramatic move came hours after more than 150 military veterans wrote to the Queen to ask her to strip Andrew of his honorary military roles amid what they described as their “upset and anger”. The palace had said earlier on Thursday that it had no comment on their open letter.
Writing to her in her capacity as head of state and commander-in-chief of the army, navy and air force, an open letter from former members of each of the services said that it was “untenable” for the Duke of York to retain his position.
“Were this any other senior military officer it is inconceivable that he would still be in post,” they say in the letter, sent the day after Lewis Kaplan, a Manhattan judge, rejected Prince Andrew’s efforts to dismiss Giuffre’s sexual assault lawsuit against him.
Andrew had indicated he intend to continue to contest the allegations against him. A source close to the duke said: “Given the robustness with which Judge Kaplan greeted our arguments, we are unsurprised by the ruling. However it was not a judgment on the merits of Ms Giuffre’s allegations. This is a marathon not a sprint and the duke will continue to defend himself against these claims”.
Giuffre, now 38, says she was forced into sex at 17 with the duke by associates of his, the late sex offender and financier, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell, the British media heiress who was convicted in New York last month of sex-trafficking girls for Epstein. The duke denies the allegations against him.
(January 1, 1999)
In the early 90s, Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, met investment banker and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Their relationship was initially romantic, but it evolved into something more akin to Maxwell being a confidante and personal assistant.
Prince Andrew was reportedly introduced to Epstein through Maxwell in 1999, and Epstein reportedly visited the Queen’s private retreat in Aberdeenshire.
Some have suggested the introduction was made earlier. A 2011 letter to the Times of London from the prince’s then private secretary, Alastair Watson, suggests Andrew and Epstein knew each other from the early 90s.
(January 1, 2000)
Andrew, Maxwell and Epstein are seen together at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Later that year, Epstein and Maxwell attend a joint birthday party at Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen.
(January 1, 2001)
Andrew and Epstein holiday together and are pictured on a yacht in Phuket, Thailand, surrounded by topless women. The Times of London reported the prince’s holiday was paid for by Epstein.
In the same year, Virginia Giuffre, then 17, claims to have had sex with Andrew in Maxwell’s home in Belgravia, London. Giuffre, whose surname was Roberts at the time of the alleged incidents, says she slept with Andrew twice more, at Epstein’s New York home and at an “orgy” on his private island in the Caribbean.
(January 1, 2008)
Epstein is jailed for 18 months by a Florida state court after pleading guilty to prostituting minors.
(January 1, 2010)
Soon after his release, Epstein is visited by Andrew in New York. The pair are photographed together in Central Park. Footage emerges years later, reportedly shot on 6 December, that appears to show Andrew inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion waving goodbye to a woman from behind a door.
(January 1, 2011)
Andrew quits his role as UK trade envoy following a furore over the Central Park photos.
(January 1, 2015)
Allegations that Andrew had sex with Giuffre emerge in court documents in Florida related to Epstein. The papers say she was forced to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, which is below the age of consent under Florida law. Buckingham Palace denies the allegations. The claims against Andrew are later struck from US civil court records following a federal judge’s ruling.
(January 1, 2019)
Andrew is accused of sexual impropriety by a second alleged Epstein victim, Johanna Sjoberg. She claims he touched her breast at the billionaire’s Manhattan apartment in 2001. Buckingham Palace says the allegations are "categorically untrue".
(August 10, 2019)
Epstein is found dead in his jail cell after being re-arrested and charged with sex trafficking. A medical examiner says the death was a suicide. A pilot on Epstein’s private jet later that month claims Andrew was a passenger on past flights with the financier and Giuffre.
(November 20, 2019)
Andrew takes part in a disastrous BBC TV interview during which he claims he could not have had sex with Giuffre because he was at home after a visit to Pizza Express in Woking, and that her description of his dancing with her beforehand could not be true because he was unable to sweat, and that he had "no recollection of ever meeting this lady". After several days of negative reaction, Andrew announces he is to step back from public duties "for the foreseeable future".
(January 27, 2020)
US prosecutor Geoffrey Berman gives a public statement suggesting there has been "zero cooperation" with the investigation from Andrew.
(June 8, 2020)
After Berman again claims Andrew has "completely shut the door" on cooperating with the US investigation in March, lawyers for the prince insist he has repeatedly offered to cooperate and accuse US prosecutors of misleading the public and breaching confidentiality.
(July 2, 2020)
Maxwell, who has seldom been seen in public in recent years, is arrested by the FBI on charges related to Epstein. Unsealed testimony from a 2015 civil case reveal a series of claims about her role in Epstein's sex-trafficking ring, including allegations that she trained underage girls as sex slaves.
(September 24, 2021)
US officials confirm that Prince Andrew has received court papers relating to a sexual assault civil lawsuit from Giuffre, seeking damages. Her lawyers had earlier said the duke had officially been served with the papers, but his legal team had disputed the claim. Two weeks later, a court in New York granted his lawyers permission to see the confidential settlement agreement between Giuffre and Epstein.
(October 11, 2021)
The Metropolitan police in London say they are taking no further action after a review of the allegations that Prince Andrew assaulted Giuffre. In August, the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, had said “no one is above the law” and that she had asked her team to look at the material again.
(December 30, 2021)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial ends with a guilty verdict on five of the six counts she faced.
(January 12, 2022)
A judge in New York rejects Prince Andrew’s attempt to throw out the sexual abuse civil lawsuit brought against him by Giuffre. The prince's lawyers had attempted to argue that Giuffre’s 2009 settlement with Epstein shielded the duke from her taking legal action against him.
(January 13, 2022)
Queen Elizabeth II strips her son of a range of military affiliations and royal patronages after more than 150 military veterans write to describe their “upset and anger”.
It is understood the decision was taken by mutual agreement between the Queen and Andrew, but the ultimate decision would have fallen to the monarch.
As a former Royal Navy officer who served in the Falklands war, the loss of his association with the military units and regiments, the most prestigious being colonel of the Grenadier Guards, will be keenly felt by Andrew.
The palace had said previously that the duke’s military appointments were in abeyance after he stepped down from public duties in 2019.
But he still retained the roles, leaving eight British regiments, including the Grenadier Guards, where he had held the title of colonel, in limbo for more than two years.
His other British honorary military titles were: honorary air commodore of RAF Lossiemouth; colonel-in-chief of the Royal Irish Regiment; colonel-in-chief of the Small Arms School Corps; commodore-in-chief of the Fleet Air Arm; royal colonel of the Royal Highland Fusiliers; deputy colonel-in-chief of the Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own) and royal colonel of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Andrew was due to be promoted to admiral on his 60th birthday in 2020, but asked to defer this after stepping down from public duties. While his military affiliations – which are in the gift of the Queen – are returned, it is understood Andrew, as a former member of the armed services, will retain his current military rank of vice admiral.
The veterans said in their letter, which was partly coordinated by the campaign group Republic: “Officers of the British armed forces must adhere to the very highest standards of probity, honesty and honourable conduct.
“These are standards which Prince Andrew has fallen well short of. It is hard not to see, when senior officers are reportedly describing him as ‘toxic’, that he has brought the services he is associated with into disrepute.
“We are therefore asking that you take immediate steps to strip Prince Andrew of all his military ranks and titles and, if necessary, that he be dishonourably discharged.”
The letter concluded with a pointed and personal request to the Queen, who has long been reported to regard Andrew as her “favourite” son. It stated: “We understand that he is your son, but we write to you in your capacity as head of state and as commander-in-chief of the army, navy and air force. These steps could have been taken at any time in the past 11 years. Please do not leave it any longer.”
One of the veterans who signed the letter, Neil Kelly, a former corporal in the Army Intelligence Corps, told the Guardian after the Palace’s decision that he believed the letter had been a factor, but that the judge’s decision had also “clearly weighed heavily”.
“I heard the news at the same time as I was reading a piece in the Guardian saying the House of Windsor was looking for a way to distance themselves from Andrew, so I did get the impression that something could change.
“I didn’t immediately make the association with the letter but it must have been a contributory factor.”
Another veteran, Nicholas Alderton, who was a senior aircraftman in the RAF, said he was “very pleased” at the decision by the palace, adding: “I am a member of Republic anyway but having seen the coverage over the past couple of weeks and moths and the way in which Andrew seemed to be trying to hide behind the process, I really felt as an ex-serviceman that he was bringing things into disrepute.”
Judge Lewis Kaplan’s ruling means Andrew will remain embroiled in lengthy – and embarrassing – legal proceedings for the foreseeable future.