Is Prince Andrew a walking advertisement for republicanism?
The Grand Old Duke of York is like a gift that keeps on giving, if the gift itself was an especially obnoxious one that nobody particularly wanted. Fresh from the recent revelations that his alleged sexual assault on Virginia Roberts Giuffre has led to her filing a civil case against him in New York, his name continues to be mud on both sides of the Atlantic. With everyone, that is, except his mother.
It has repeatedly, and increasingly mystifyingly, been said that Prince Andrew is the Queen’s favorite child. Many would find it hard to comprehend why she continues to support him so publicly. Yet, despite everything, he has not lost her favor. It was reported at the weekend that the Queen has ‘let it be known’ that she wishes the Duke of York for her son to continue to retain the ceremonial position of colonel of the Grenadier Guards, despite the ill feeling that this has engendered. As one disgruntled source said to the Sunday Times of London, ‘It is a very difficult, unsatisfactory situation… His position is not tenable or viable. How can you have a colonel who can’t perform the role? You can’t have a colonel who can’t do public duties.’
The relationship between the Queen and her less-loved eldest son Prince Charles is said to have been tested by the ongoing embarrassment around Andrew. After his disastrous Newsnight interview in 2019 and subsequent retreat from public life, Charles was said to be keen to phase his brother out of the picture, with one well-placed source being authorized to say ‘a way back for the duke is demonstrably not possible.’ Yet as long as his mother remains alive and in charge of ‘the Firm’, there is still some hope left for the Duke of York to claw back what little remains of his reputation, even as a humiliating court case looms ahead.
It is unlikely that the Queen has taken any advice about her family from anyone in decades, save her late husband Prince Philip. If challenged as to why not, she might respond that it has been under her careful stewardship that the British royal family has weathered scandals and intrigues and has remained not merely tolerated, but actively popular. Everything from the misadventures of Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson to, more notoriously and recently, the exploits of Meghan and Harry would have sunk a lesser organization. But it is likely that, widowed and now greatly advanced in years, her continued support for Prince Andrew represents the most serious personal blunder that she has made in her nearly 70-year long reign.
Nobody likes to be told that their favorite child is a pariah, and it is easy to see why the Queen has stood by the Duke of York as a mother. But as a head of state, her actions are far harder to comprehend. Not only has he brought shame and disgrace upon the British royal family by association, but he has also emboldened every would-be republican to step forward, point at him and say ‘are these really the unelected people that we want to be in charge of our country?’
It has often been suggested that, if there is any kind of republican movement in Britain, it is biding its time until after the Queen’s death to make its assault on the monarchy. It remains unclear who would be leading it, or funding it, or whether it would have any chance of success. But the continued presence of Prince Andrew in the newspapers is hugely damaging, and his mother’s loyalty, personally admirable though it is, needs to be checked, or it risks damaging the British royal family beyond recognition.
Americans may battle one another about race, microaggressions and correct pronoun usage but, having dispensed with George III and his descendants in 1776, at least they don’t have to worry about a monarchy.