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Is Prince Andrew the most deluded man in Britain? Without knowing his precise views on Brexit (and one fears the worst) which could place him in a clear, unassailable lead, he must be in contention for this unhappy title.
First, he thought friendships with Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein were assets to the monarchy. Then he thought an interview with Emily Maitlis would clear up any unfortunate sweaty misunderstandings about all that. Then he paid a woman, Virginia Giuffre, who he says he never met, more than £10m to settle a court case. He also put forward the idea that he was the ideal person to work with victims of abuse.
Now, having lost his public role as a result of the scandal only a few months ago, he wants his job back – HRH, Colonel of the Grenadier Guards plus “working royal” status for his increasingly marginal daughters Beatrice and Eugenie (currently 10th and 12th in line to the throne), which means taxpayer funding for their lifestyle.
He’s been nagging his mum about it, and as she contemplates her family’s future, she’s sympathetic to him. She probably wants him rehabilitated, just as his elder brother Charles and Camilla were after the death of Diana (admittedly in radically different circumstances). Yet Prince Charles, so often a stranger to reality himself, is utterly opposed to such notions, not least because they will destabilise the public confidence the institution (ie he) will badly need in the post-Elizabethan era.
Part of Andrew’s road to recovery, it is reported, will be him taking the high road and being sequestered in Scotland to “rebuild”. With the best will in the world, I must say that my first reaction upon hearing this part of the comeback plan was “there goes the union”.
What on earth have the Scots done to deserve having their great nation turned into a dump for royal toxic waste? They’ve got a government they don’t want (a view shared increasingly south of the border to be fair), they’ve got a prime minister who ridicules their first minister as “that bloody wee Jimmy Krankie woman” and they’ve been torn out of the EU against their will. Haven’t they suffered enough at the hands of the English?
According to some tin-eared spin emanating from Buckingham Palace, the idea is as follows: “Clearly at some point soon, thought will have to be given as to how to support the duke as, away from the public gaze, he seeks slowly to rebuild his life in a different direction.
“There is, of course, a real awareness and sensitivity to public feelings. There is also recognition that the task of starting to support him as he begins to rebuild his life will be the first step on a long road and one that should not be played out every day in the glare of the public spotlight.”
Perhaps the flunkies and the men in moustaches down at Buck House should be told that Scotland has telephones these days, not to mention paparazzi, the internet, inquisitive journalists and a sense of shame. One wonders whether the Scottish government has been consulted about their becoming hosts to this ultimate English reject? I think not. The game’s a bogey, as I believe they say around Holyrood.
It’s interesting, though, because, in a possibly related move (though far from a conspiracy), the Archbishop of Canterbury the other day said much the same sort of thing. Justin Welby suggested the Duke of York is “seeking to make amends” and he encouraged “society” (that means you) to be more “open and forgiving” in general.
As if echoing the views of the Queen as a mother and as supreme head of the church, a committed Christian who had Andrew by her side at Prince Philip’s memorial service, Welby added: “At a big public occasion the Queen is fully entitled to have one of her children supporting her. Secondly, forgiveness really does matter. I think we have become a very, very unforgiving society. There’s a difference between consequences and forgiveness.”
Up to a point, your grace. There’s a part of any of us, Christian or not, that wants to forgive, if not forget, and finds stories of rehabilitation inspiring. Not this one, though. It all sounds a bit cynical, frankly, because there’s never been much evidence that Andrew does feel genuine contrition for what he has, or in his view, hasn’t done.
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The regrets seem to be less about the damage he’s done to the institute he represents, the family he is a part of, the country he purports to serve, but rather his own loss of personal standing and status. It’s because the things he seeks are all about him – the trappings of influence, the grand uniforms, people bowing to him, the trips to the Gulf and for golf, and his position in society, ie himself and for his daughters. They are not about much else, as far as can be judged.
It’s about pride, not forgiveness. As the Bible says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Prince Andrew is deluded. He’ll have to do and say and acknowledge an awful lot more to regain public respect than living in the comfort of Balmoral (presumably) doing not much for a few months (ie situation normal). He has to face up to the fact that his brother wants him kept as far out of the public gaze because he’s a liability to the monarchy, and the public don’t want him around. Neither, so far as can be judged, do the regiments he was associated with, nor perhaps to the people of York wish him to be “their” duke.
In a few days, at the annual Garter ceremony, along with Tony Blair, John Major, Mervyn King and various other members of the establishment, the Duke of York will be entitled to parade in fancy dress at Windsor Castle. Too soon, Andrew. Way too soon.