After a difficult year, the last thing Britains royal family needed was the Duke of Yorks self-inflicted crisis

The unprecedented banishment of Prince Andrew to the outer reaches of the royal conglomerate, without a helpful future role or official actions, free- presumably- to spend more time with his golf clubs, comes at a critical time for the family.

After the calamities of the 1990 s and the patient rebuilding of reputation that followed, all seemed set fair simply 18 several months ago. The Queen was still soldiering stoically on into her 90 s, working on her red caskets of official newspapers every day as she had done for the previous seven decades and attending 293 participations during the year. Prince Harry had just married Meghan Markle to popular acclaim, apparently opening a brand-new period for the royal family. And the sequence was fasten to three generations, if they played their posters right.

How readily destabilising hesitations can intrude. From the Duke of Edinburgh’s car crash in January, through to Harry and Meghan’s evident unhappiness with their royal character and their cranny with Prince William and Duchess Kate, the great hopes of the royal family, it has been a difficult year, if not yet another annus horribilis like 1992. On top of that came Andrew’s self-inflicted crisis, which has angered other members of the family, specially Prince Charles, reopening age-old sores and shedding the smooth running of the institution into chaos.

Andrew’s fall from grace has had a slow motion inevitability. His relationship with the convicted child copulation delinquent Jeffrey Epstein had well known since the pair were envisioned strolling together in Central Park in 2011, but was ignored, especially once a Florida judge ruled that the allegations involving the prince were unnecessary to know. But following the latest complaints about Epstein and his suicide in prison in August, Andrew’s association with him is under an obligation to swam into view once more, even though no criminal allegations have been laid against him and he disclaims any personal wrongdoing.

His ill-judged television interview last weekend triggered his descend, highlighting as it did well documented flaws: his sense of right, freeloading, obtuseness and insensitivity. The British public can bear a lot from its royal family but resent exaggeration and superiority, especially over the expenditure of money and particularly from someone whose dedication to the common good has been sometimes hard to detect.

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Prince Andrew at a British trade bazaar in Kuwait in 2000. Photograph: Yasser Al-Zayyat/ AFP via Getty Images

The prince’s timing was also at fault: distracting courtesy from national elections( which royals are not supposed to do) and, from Charles’s point of view, deflecting more positive publicity from the Waleses’ trip to New Zealand- not that that was generating much excitement anyway.

Making contents worse: Andrew did not have the excuse that the interview was sprung on him. It was his decision to take part, evidently without proper briefing, rehearsal or forethought. Perhaps he believed he could wing it, despite his ill-concealed disdain for the media and the threats of his newly appointed communications adviser Jason Stein, who lasted four weeks before leaving for the City PR firm Finsbury. The future of his private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, who lobbied in the interests of the interview as a clear-the-air exercise must now be in doubt.

The royal family controls to a complex grid method , not only in terms of official trips (” whose turn is it to go to the west country? … when was the last visit to Leicester ?”) but also in their association with particular interests: William and Kate with the arts, Camilla, duchess of Cornwall with health and literacy issues.

Andrew’s turf was business. For a season he relished the name of British trade ambassador, causing him scope to travel in some solace and no little expenditure by chartered airplane to often agreeable regions throughout the world, a capacity he continued to carry out until this month, though he lost the title some time ago because of his association with Epstein. If the trade decisions were nebulous- did foreigners certainly sign transactions because Prince Andrew had turned up at a British delegation reception?- the contacts did him no trauma at all. One such is Timur Kulibayev, the son-in-law of the former dictator of Kazakhstan, who bought the Yorks’ derelict former marital dwelling near Ascot for PS15m- PS3m above the asking price- in 2008.

Years of the media humiliating the costs of his trip-ups- last year’s best effort was PS22, 208 for a three-day visit to Hungary- had no effect whatsoever.” The commerce capacity was perfect for him because he felt he was have implications ,” a former palace official was just telling me.” The difficulty with Yorkie is he can be very arrogant and sullen. I think that’s down to insecurity .”

Timeline

The Duke of York’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

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1999

Beginnings

Andrew is reported as having been initiated to Jeffrey Epstein through mutual friend Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell. Epstein apparently calls the Queen’s private Scottish retreat in Aberdeenshire

2000

Sightings

Andrew, Maxwell and Epstein are ensure together at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. Later in the year, Epstein and Maxwell attend a joint birthday party at Windsor castle hosted by the Queen

2001

Teenager claims

Virginia Giuffre, then aged 17, claims to have had sex with Andrew in Maxwell’s Belgravia home. Giuffre, whose surname was Roberts at the time of the alleged incidents, says she slept with Andrew on two further occasions, at Epstein’s New York home and at an “orgy” on his private island in the Caribbean

2008

Epstein jailed

Epstein is jailed for 18 several months after imploring guilty to prostituting minors

2010

Epstein freed

Soon after his freeing from jail, Epstein is visited by Andrew in New York. The pair are photographed together in Central Park. Footage rises year later, apparently filmed on 6 December, that appears to show Andrew inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion waving goodbye to a woman from behind a large door

2011

Backlash

Andrew retires his capacity as UK trade envoy following a furore over the Central Park photos

2015

Claims emerge

Allegations that Andrew had sex with Giuffre emerge in US court documents related to Epstein. The articles, filed in Florida, state that she was forced to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, which is under the age of consent in the state. Buckingham Palace repudiates the allegations.

The claims against Andrew are later struck from US civil court records following a federal judge’s decree

2019

More claims

Andrew is accused of sexual indecency by a second alleged Epstein victim, Johanna Sjoberg. She claims he stroked her breast inside the US billionaire’s Manhattan apartment in 2001. Buckingham Palace said the allegations were” categorically specious “.

On 10 August, Epstein is were dead in his jail cell, having killed himself after being charged with sexuality trafficking.

A pilot on Epstein’s private spurt later that month claims Andrew was a passenger on past flights with the financier and Roberts

20 November 2019

Prince Andrew announces he is to step back from public obediences ‘for foreseeable future’.

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The writing was really on the wall for Andrew’s future when companies started questioning their sponsorship of his Pitch @Palace initiative, a sort of Dragon’s Den with chandeliers, where young entrepreneurs once a year attend Buckingham Palace and existing their ideas to business leaders.

They would just want to be associated with someone tarred by affection with a notorious sex crook. Andrew also has links to more than 200 donations, 33 of which are involved with education and young people. He won’t immediately molted his honorary military designations, as an admiral( except perhaps as admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps ), honorary colonel of various regiments and an air commodore in the RAF, but they won’t like the defile either and he may have to stand down for the good of the services. Talk that Andrew’s purdah will only last a few months is wishful thinking: Epstein’s ghost will ever waver behind him now.

Andrew’s absence will leave a hole in the royal grid: who will fulfil the 394 commitments he be carried forward last year? Who will step in to his persona with business, particularly with Harry and Meghan likewise taking a back seat? The passion of Prince Charles and some advisers to slim down the working membership of the family to a smaller active core is being achieved by natural wastage , not design.

Age is also having its effect: the 98 year-old Duke of Edinburgh has retired, the Queen herself is slowing down at 93, Charles is 71 and even William is nearly 40:” He’s just another bald-pated bloke in a dres ,” one royal photographer mourned. The recent poll this week, YouGov for the Times, was foreboding: 54% supporting the sovereign, 20% not and 25% apathetic. The strategy will need a rethink if the royals are, in the Queen’s words, needing to be seen to be believed.

* Stephen Bates is the author of Royalty Inc: Britain’s Best-Known Brand( Aurum )