Amazingly, though some reporters here and there have tried it, the UK tabloids haven’t let up on Prince Andrew to resume their attacks on Meghan Markle. Probably because the public isn’t having it. It’s now been just over a week since Andrew’s interview about his friend, the dead rapist pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, aired on BBC Newsnight. He released a statement a few days later that he would be stepping back from royal duties for the “foreseeable future”. If you can believe it though, even after he announced that he was switching over to private mode for a while, he was still planning on going to Bahrain in support of his [email protected] initiative. Word is he had to be talked down from that after being told that it was a bad idea. You think?
This weekend, more tea was spilled about Prince Andrew in The Sunday Times. According to a source close to Andrew, he wants his daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, to assume responsibility for the work he’s been doing with his various patronages. Some of those charity leaders, however, aren’t so hot on the idea and “warned that Andrew should not treat patronages as a ‘dowry’ for his daughters’”. Great burn, especially because of Andrew’s reputation as someone who’s always traded on his titles, and who’s been a profligate spender in support of a certain lifestyle he thinks he’s entitled to.
The Times also reports that apparently the Queen feels “aggrieved” that it’s been widely assumed that she approved of Andrew’s shambolic interview with BBC Newsnight. Courtiers have been working hard to correct the record, insisting that Andrew told her he was going to do something but that he did not specify that it would be a televised sit-down interview. We are hearing now, and we are supposed to believe, that Andrew “hoodwinked” his mother, misrepresenting what he was doing with Newsnight; if the Queen and other courtiers had a better sense of what he was planning, the full royal protocol would have been put into place and not have resulted in what we saw. Basically they’re trying to distance Her Majesty from all this f-cksh-t, and we’ll come back to why in a moment.
We are also being told by The Times that Prince William was involved in at least part of the decision-making last week as he’s taking more and more of a leadership role in the family and that “he’s not a huge fan of his uncle Andrew”. Andrew has now been “booted” out of Buckingham Palace, his offices, where he worked on [email protected], now no longer headquartered under the royal roof. And, supposedly, the Queen has cancelled plans to celebrate his 60th birthday and his charities in February. This must be a huge disappointment. Because, as we know, Andrew loves a fancy party with all the regal bells and whistles.
But this is not just about Andrew, it’s also about the monarchy, the institution. They’re trying this hard to convince us that the Queen didn’t know about Prince Andrew’s Newsnight interview because she cannot be shown to have bad judgment, and in particular, bad judgement about a person who’s been her blindspot. At the same time, courtiers need to make sure that we believe that the monarchy will be left in good hands when her reign is over – which is why Prince Charles and now William are being described as having acted so decisively.
As Gaby Hinsliff posited in a piece in The Guardian a few days ago, Prince Andrew has become a major headache for the royal family and has “put the future of the monarchy in doubt”. Because it has exposed the institution to criticism about how it actually works.
“For the majority of Britons who are neither sworn republicans nor particularly ardent monarchists, the Queen is the one who really commands respect and affection, having earned the kind of trust that enables unelected power to be tolerated. But trust is not automatically inherited along with the crown. It is significant that Andrew’s resignation came after the Queen consulted her heir.”
Of course for the most part, the Queen, especially now at her age, is beloved – because she is steadfast, constant, principled. Over the last few months, however, there have been questions about her objectivity, about her prudence. Already there are some people wondering if this Prince Andrew situation has had an effect on the election – and the golden rule for British royals is that they have to keep their heads down and not interfere, not do anything during an election season that could disrupt the democratic process. The Andrew Problem speaks directly to the values she’s expected to uphold. And, as Gaby Hinsliff writes, “If the monarchy cannot put its house in order, it should not be surprised if the nation ultimately seeks to do it for them.”
This is a crisis that has been decades in the making. And to fix it, I wonder if they’ll need the young royals, ALL the young royals, now more than ever.