Voices: Once he was the late Queen’s ‘favourite’ – but what does the future hold now for Prince Andrew?

·4-min read

What to do with the King’s brother? The future of Prince Andrew isn’t the most pressing concern of the nation – or even the royal family – but for as long as the nation’s constitution and identity is tied up with the Windsor family, Andrew will present a conundrum, as well as a permanent, ineradicable embarrassment.

The late Queen was often said to be especially fond of Andrew and keen to see him rehabilitated even in his darkest hours. She was said to have paid his legal bills in the Virginia Giuffre case. She sometimes chose to make those little public gestures of loyalty to him, so we would see him looking after her at Prince Philip’s memorial service or travelling next to her in a car.

Such was her prestige that these misjudgements passed without much criticism. He was, after all, her son, not just some random celeb. However, whatever protection and support his mother provided to the Duke of York is now gone.

Prince Andrew faces an even lonelier future now his brother is King. In recent years, Charles and his close team – including Prince William – made no secret of the fact that they wanted The Firm slimmed down. There would be no official role, sovereign grant funds or even royal money for the Duke’s daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie.

Whatever their merits, they would not be high-profile “working royals”. Even before his fall from grace, Andrew too was looking towards a more peripheral status. Now, with the practical loss of his “HRH” and his various charitable and military patronages, he looks set to be rather brutally ostracised.

As well as losing his mum, Andrew has lost his greatest ally in the royal court. It has to be said, though, that it was the Queen, always putting the institution first, who made him “step back” from almost all of his public roles in 2019.

The difference between his brother, the King, and his mother, the late Queen, was that she clung to the hope that a suitable legal outcome and the passage of time might gradually allow Andrew to be rehabilitated. He himself, as so often the victim of delusion, voiced the idea in his interview with Emily Maitlis, that he might do charity work with the victims of sexual exploitation. He wasn’t being ironic.

So he’s disgraced, and no path to restoring his reputation has been discovered. He was, once, extremely popular – when he married Sarah Ferguson in 1986 he was something of a dishy idol. No longer. There is no way back.

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That’s because he can’t admit any offences, in the spirit and the terms of the legal settlement, and thus any talk of repentance is impossible. In a way, he is trapped by the outcome of the Giuffre case. In an ideal world he’d not be seen in public at all, at least in any official capacity.

But even though most of his roles, titles and grandiose uniforms are gone, he is still the King’s brother, the future King’s uncle and the late Queen’s second son. In other words, he is still a member of The Family, even if no longer The Firm.

So he will probably make a low-key appearance at the Queen’s funeral, he might well appear as a sentry at the lying in state, as is traditional, and, possibly, at his brother’s coronation. That, though, will pretty much be it for the prince. Obscurity beckons – and more time with his family (including his ex-wife) and playing golf.

Like the Duke of Windsor before him, Mark Phillips, Sarah Ferguson – and, arguably, Prince Harry and Meghan now – the royal family can be ruthless about marginalising those it finds inconvenient. Only Princess Diana, with her superstar charisma, didn’t “go quietly”, as she put it, and couldn’t be made to. She was the exception, though.

In the coming years, Andrew will be an increasingly shadowy, ghostly figure, glimpsed only at funerals, at which point younger members of the population will ask who he is. King Charles has a tough enough job as it is living up to his mother’s reign. He doesn’t want distractions. But we should always remember that it is Andrew, and no one else, who’s responsible for his downfall.