What life will be like for Prince Andrew as a royal outcast
By Anna Pasternak 23 November 2019 • 7:00am
Not since King Edward VIII went on national radio on December 11 1936 to declare that he was renouncing the throne to “marry the woman I love,” has a royal announcement left the nation so nonplussed. Prince Andrew’s statement this week that he was stepping down from the Firm – having reportedly been given his P45 by the boss, his mother, due to his “ill-judged” association with convicted paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein – has no royal precedent. Edward abdicated for love. He chose Mrs Simpson, an American divorcee whom the establishment would not countenance as his wife, over his country. His subjects, who adored him, were devastated.
Today, the country is not left dazed and betrayed by a conflicted monarch. Instead, we breathe a collective sigh of relief that after Prince Andrew’s astonishing Newsnight interview, the Queen will not be further embarrassed by the jaw-dropping behaviour of her favourite son. As always in the House of Windsor, it is duty over devotion to ensure survival of the Crown.
Instead, it is Andrew, who has been left reeling. As the gates of Buckingham Palace – with its incumbent power, prestige and protection – clang shut behind him, he faces an uncertain future as a royal outcast. Sadly, his family (Papa’s poor daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie) will also be tainted by his fall from grace, not to mention the loss of his £250,000 a year taxpayer-funded salary.
No longer able to claim a fully regal existence, it will yet be impossible for them to shake off their ermine-lined birth right. “Friends” may fast drop away, now that the tantalising proximity to the Palace is tarnished. It’s always a sobering experience in times of crisis to see who one’s real pals are. Worse, could be the gaping lack of purpose that will envelope the Duke of York’s life. What will he do now that all those public engagements, loftily recorded in the Court Circular, have evaporated?
Let alone the personal question of his identity and self-worth, heft from decades of regal rank and pompous position. Andrew’s weighty sense of entitlement will collapse around his shoulders, a bitter reminder of the gilded world now lost to him. The real work for Prince Andrew will not just be how he will fill his days but how will he live with himself, now that he has flunked The Firm, a job that was literally handed to him on a silver salver?
What Andrew’s antics reveal is that to remain a working royal, you need to do exactly that. Work. Keep your head down, tow the often deathly-dull ribbon cutting line with dignity and good grace. Be regal yet humble. You’ve never seen the hardest working royal, Princess Anne, stepping off a gazillionaires yacht.
Where the royals get into intractable difficulty is when they blur the lines of royalty and celebrity. Monarchy and money simply don’t mix. The waters always become murky when the lure of a billionaire’s A list existence corrupts judgement.
It’s not just Andrew with Epstein. You could almost hear the spasmodic coughing of courtiers when Princess Diana began cavorting with Dodi Fayed, on the playboy’s jets and yachts in the South of France. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may want to take note.
The reason that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge appear a safe pair of hands for the future of the monarchy, is that they carry out their duties with gentle aplomb, and stick with their Sloaney friends – the Turnip Toffs of Norfolk – as opposed to showing off at lavish celebrity-filled parties that reek of out-of-touch ostentation.
As yet, it appears that Andrew still does not fully comprehend the precariousness of his position. His aim to save his Pitch@Palace, an entrepreneurship scheme for start-up businesses – which was run as a commercial interest and not as a charity – has created more headaches as, once again, money is thornily mixed up with monarchy. He fully intended to fly to Bahrain this weekend to attend an event connected with the initiative, until his family warned it “was not a good idea.” On Thursday, royal sources said that Pitch would move to the Duke’s ‘private portfolio’, and that he would continue to be allowed to host events “on a commercial basis” at palaces and to maintain his private office at Buckingham Palace. Yet on Friday it was announced that he had stepped down from the scheme entirely.
Backlash | Institutions distance themselves from Prince Andrew
Since the Duke’s of York’s Newsnight interview was broadcast, several organisations have distanced themselves from him. They include:
- KPMG and Standard Chartered said they would not renew their sponsorship of the Duke’s entrepreneur-ship scheme Pitch@Palace.
- Barclays, Aon, Inmarsat, Cisco, Advertising Week Europe and Gravity Road were all locked in discussions as to whether or not to continue to back the project.
- BT pulled out of another entrepreneur-ship scheme run by the Duke, called the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA), saying it would only rejoin if there was a new patron.
- Prince Andrew is chancellor at the University of Huddersfield and at London Metropolitan University. Students at both institutions have lobbied for his removal.
- The Duke’s position as patron is also being considered at the English National Ballet and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
- Major charities that have called emergency meetings include the Outward Bound Trust, long a royal favourite, and the Jubilee Sailing Trust.
- The situation has affected the Duke’s work on the other side of the Atlantic, with the Canadian Canoe Museum, of which he is patron, telling The Telegraph that their board of directors was closely monitoring the situation.
- In Australia, Bond University, the University of Wollongong (UoW) and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have all said they would sever their ties with the Duke.
It will be a seismic blow to Andrew when it finally sinks in that it will never again be business as usual. Only decades of an almost monastic existence, filled with purely charitable good works can rehabilitate him now.
It never fully occurred to the Duke of Windsor what an aimless life he would live after the abdication. Still in his forties, after his marriage to Wallis Simpson, he yearned for gainful employment. Accustomed to detailed itineraries and imposed structure, idle restlessness gave him time to nurse his grievances against his family and dwell on injustices. You can imagine the Duke of York stewing at his home, Royal Lodge. You almost feel sorry for his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, with whom he co-habits, for how much bolstering and listening to his woes she is going to have to do.
As the Duchess of Windsor confided to Gore Vidal, years after her wedding to the Duke: “I remember like yesterday the morning after we married and I woke up and there was David standing by the bed with this innocent smile, saying… ‘and now what do we do?’ My heart sank. Here was someone whose every day had been arranged for him all his life and now I was the one who was going to take the place of the entire British government, trying to think up things for him to do”.
She, of course, decided that the best revenge against her flinty in-laws was a life lived well. The couple became major players among a dazzling, but ultimately unfulfilling, café society – attending balls and charity functions. “They are like people after a cataclysm or revolution, valiantly making the best of infinite luxury” said the writer James Pope-Hennessy. As Prince Andrew already knows to his cost, the glittering hue of celebrity can have a tawdry under-belly. Prince Charles described some of the Windsor’s circle as “the most dreadful American guests I have ever seen.”
Amid the cacophony of condemnation for Prince Andrew, I must confess that he once showed me a small kindness. When I was researching my book – an attempt to rehabilitate Wallis Simpson – I went to Royal Lodge with my husband, and our friend, the interior designer Nicky Haslam.
I wanted to soak up the atmosphere of the drawing room, where Edward VIII spent his last evening as king with his mother, Queen Mary, and his brothers. The Yorks gave us permission. We did not think that the Duke would be there when we arrived on that rainy Saturday afternoon in February, after a walk around the grounds of another Windsor royal residence, Fort Belvedere.
We were climbing out of our wellies, when some roly poly Yorkshire terriers waddled out to greet us, followed by, to our surprise, Andrew. He was an extremely affable host, showing us his home and its various treasures from many foreign tours. He was alone and seemed bored, so what was to be a fleeting visit, turned into over an hour’s private tour of Royal Lodge. One can’t help but feel he will now have plenty of time to spare should any future visitors knock on the door.