Voices: Prince Andrew might be ‘homeless’? Bring out the world’s smallest violin
I don’t suppose Prince Andrew is ever actually going to end up billeted to the Suites Hotel, Knowsley, like a sort of regal refugee – skint, subsisting on his Royal Navy pension while a baying crowd of “concerned parents” burn a police van outside, objecting to his relative proximity to their daughters.
Hard-faced as King Charles III can undoubtedly be towards his younger brother, news that the Duke of York is about to be rendered “homeless” is surely wide of the mark.
All that’s really going to happen is that Andrew is going to be gently persuaded to vacate “Royal Lodge”, the £30m mansion in Windsor (complete with 98 acres) that he acquired from the estate of the late Queen Mother in 2002 for a reported £1m (he must have found himself a very helpful estate agent).
He can’t afford the upkeep on the 30-room pad he shares with his ex-wife Sarah (odd arrangement) without the subvention of about £250,000 a year that he received from the late Queen. Charles is seemingly less indulgent.
With the Midas touch for PR that Andrew has always displayed, the story of his distress was leaked to the Sunday papers, and the entire country, indeed Commonwealth, immediately turned to eBay and Amazon to source the world’s smallest violin to express appropriate solidarity for the blue-blooded plutocrat’s plight. Even as we speak, loyal craftspeople from Vanuatu to Belize may be fashioning such artefacts so that they might come together at the coronation to form a miniature string quartet and play some mournful music.
Alas, even Martin Lewis can’t offer many tips to help cut the heating bills for the handsome grade II-listed Queen Anne-style house. There are no more billionaire friends to ask for assistance, even though Andrew was, if anything, too loyal to them.
Boris Johnson, expert in the art of the posh scrounge – and himself shortly to acquire a modest £4m house of his own – didn’t return the call. However, I’m sure “30p Lee” Anderson MP could show his ex-royal highness how to make a bit of snap (East Midlands miners’ slang for a small meal) for the price of a stamp.
Like so many struggling with the cost of living crisis, the prince will have to live within his means and find accommodation suited to the size of his family. Does he really need all that space when he no longer has any official functions – and when not many of the great and good would now accept an invitation to a shooting weekend with him? In effect, the King has copied the DWP and landed Andrew with 30-bedrooms’ worth of “bedroom tax”.
I’ve no doubt that, somewhere in the vast inventory of royal properties and grace-and-favour homes, rooms for a retired sailor and roving UK trade representative, within reach of a golf course, could be found. Admittedly, there would need to be a larger-than-average garden, and kennelling for the pack of corgis and dorgis left by his late mother, all of which command a higher place in the nation’s affections than the man-who-never-quite-met-Virginia-Giuffre-nee-Roberts.
We need not be so concerned for Andrew. He’ll manage. If he had any sense (I know) he’d engage himself in quiet charity work as privately as possible, and try to work himself back to some form of redemption. It’s his only option.
Of course, he won’t, so his brother is stuck with finding something for him to do, and so where to put him, plus his wife and daughters. On genetic form, Andrew will be kicking around for another 30 years or so, and might easily outlive the king. He’s a much bigger problem than Harry and Meghan.
The one encouraging thing to arise from this little brouhaha is that it shows that the king is prepared to be ruthless, at least with others, in ensuring that the institution he heads isn’t perceived to be profligate and out of touch.
In that respect, he is very much following (and continuing) the example of his mother, who summed up the challenge of a hereditary monarchy many years ago: it “exists only with the support and consent of the people”.
Andrew is not someone who helps bolster that support and consent – or possibly even understands the concept, if his behaviour in recent years is anything to go by.