LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s decision to strip Prince Andrew of his military titles and patronage was a brutal and humiliating exercise in damage limitation, royal experts said on Friday.
The decision to deport Andrew, the Queen’s 95-year-old second son, came a day after a judge in the United States cleared a civil suit accusing him of sexual abuse. The Duke of York will fight the case “as a private citizen”, Buckingham Palace said in an abrupt statement announcing the demotion.
The bombshell dominated Britain’s front pages on Friday, surpassing even new revelations of an alleged party flouting the lockdown at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s home, with royal watchers seeing the Queen’s decision as a bid to cut back on the saga further embarrass the palate.
“It’s quite brutal in many ways – the Queen is really putting her foot down and saying this can’t go on,” said David McClure, royal commentator and author. “It’s become hugely damaging in terms of the reputation of the whole monarchy, not just Andrew, so the Queen really had to make a decision.”
It comes after two difficult years for the monarch, who lost her husband Prince Philip and saw Prince Harry leave the family for a new life in the US with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, amid accusations of racism which the family vehemently denied.
Andrew will no longer be able to use “His Royal Highness” in any capacity, a royal source told NBC News. He will relinquish a dozen military titles and will no longer sponsor more than 100 organizations and clubs – although many had already cut ties with him. He retains his rank of vice-admiral and remains ninth in line to the British throne.
Andrew served in Britain’s Royal Navy, serving in the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina in 1982. He comes from a long line of British royals who served in the forces armies and forged close ties with the military.
Hours before the Palace statement on Thursday, the anti-monarchy campaign group Republic published a letter signed by some 150 veterans asking the Queen to “take immediate action to strip Prince Andrew of all military ranks”.
“We understand that he is your son,” the letter continues, but “these actions could have been taken at any time during the past eleven years. Please don’t leave it any longer.
She did not, with Andrew’s failed attempt to dismiss the civil case raising the prospect of a lengthy court case.
Virginia Giuffre, now 38, claims Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell trafficked her and forced her to have sex with Andrew, now 61, in the 1990s. repeatedly denied the allegations and that he never met Giuffre, who was 17 at the time.
” This does not happen. I can absolutely tell you categorically that never happened,” he told the BBC in 2019. “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none at all.
If the case is not settled or otherwise dismissed, Andrew could be forced to testify in a high-profile trial beginning in the fall or winter.
“Now it’s about protecting the reputation of the royal family,” said BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell. “It is likely to do, and is already doing, considerable reputational damage – it is followed around the world.”
NBC News has contacted Buckingham Palace and representatives for Andrew for comment.
A source close to Andrew said earlier this week: ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint and the Duke will continue to defend against these claims.
As the Queen’s second son who would probably never see the throne, Andrew’s active social life led the British tabloid press to call him ‘the prince of the party’.
But Giuffre’s allegations and Andrew’s relationship with Epstein and Maxwell have become one of the most toxic royal crises in decades.
The prince gave an interview to the BBC in November 2019 in which he hoped to clear his name, but was widely seen as a car accident which invited further ridicule. Perhaps most notably, Andrew claimed that Giuffre’s recollection of him sweating in a nightclub was false because an “adrenaline overdose” during the Falklands War meant he had lost the ability to sweat.
In the ensuing fury, Andrew announced he was stepping down from public duties “for the foreseeable future”. And Buckingham Palace appeared to distance itself from him, refusing to make statements on his behalf and referring reporters to his own lawyers for comment.
It was a tough time for the monarchy elsewhere, with Harry and Meghan also stepping away from ‘the business’ at the start of 2020 after complaining about their treatment from the press and other senior royals. themselves. They too were stripped of their patronages and titles.
Several royal commentators, as well as Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell, said Andrew was still the Queen’s favorite son. He will forever be associated with the British crown, but the Queen has now appeared to distance herself from him.
“The Queen says enough is enough – a firm decision had to be made,” McClure said. “It was inevitable. The only question is whether it should have happened sooner.