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 contacts of the imperial firm, without a useful future capacity or official bookings, free- apparently- to spend more time with his golf clubs, comes at a crucial time for the family.

After the tragedies of the 1990 s and the patient rebuilding of reputation that followed, all seemed set fair merely 18 months back. The Queen was still soldiering stoically on into her 90 s, working on her red boxes of official papers every day as she had done for the previous seven decades and attending 293 bookings during the year. Prince Harry had just married Meghan Markle to favourite acclaim, apparently starting a new period for the royal family. And the sequence was assure to three generations, if they played their placards right.

How easily destabilising hesitations can pry. From the Duke of Edinburgh’s car crash in January, through to Harry and Meghan’s evident unhappiness with their imperial persona and their fissure 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, especially Prince Charles, reopening age-old abscess and hurling the smooth running of the institution into chaos.

Andrew’s fall from grace has had a slow motion inevitability. His relationship with the imprisoned babe sexuality crook Jeffrey Epstein had been 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 was bound to float into view once more, even though no criminal accusations have been laid against him and he disclaims any personal wrongdoing.

His ill-judged television interview last weekend triggered his tumble, spotlighting as it did well documented mistakes: his gumption of entitlement, freeloading, obtuseness and insensitivity. The British public can bear a lot from its royal family but resent extravagance and arrogance, specially 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 swap carnival in Kuwait in 2000. Photograph: Yasser Al-Zayyat/ AFP via Getty Images

The prince’s timing was also at fault: confusing attention from the general election( which imperials are not supposed to do now) and, from Charles’s point of view, deflecting more positive publicity from the Waleses’ visit to New Zealand- not that that was generating much excitement anyway.

Making things worse: Andrew did not have the condone that the interview was sprung on him. It was his decision to take part, plainly without proper briefing, recital or foresight. Perhaps he believed he could wing it, despite his ill-concealed disdain for the media and the cautions of his newly appointed communications consultant 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 operates to a complex grid structure , not only in terms of official sees (” 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 time he basked the claim of British trade ambassador, passing him scope to travel in some consolation and no little overhead by chartered aircraft to often agreeable parts of the world, a persona he continued to carry out until this month, though he lost the title some time ago because of his association with Epstein. If the commerce upshots were nebulous- did foreigners genuinely signed bargains because Prince Andrew had turned up at a British delegation reception?- the contacts did him no impairment at all. One such is Timur Kulibayev, the son-in-law of the former authoritarian of Kazakhstan, who bought the Yorks’ derelict former marital home near Ascot for PS15m- PS3m above the asking price- in 2008.

Years of the media ridiculing 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 trade character was perfect for him because he felt he was be adversely affected ,” a former palace official told me.” The trouble with Yorkie is he can be very arrogant and petulant. 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 introduced to Jeffrey Epstein through mutual friend Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of newspaper financier Robert Maxwell. Epstein apparently sees the Queen’s private Scottish retreat in Aberdeenshire

2000

Sightings

Andrew, Maxwell and Epstein are assured 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 writing of the alleged facts, says she slept with Andrew on two further moments, 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 months after pleading guilty to prostituting minors

2010

Epstein freed

Soon after his exhaust from penitentiary, Epstein is visited by Andrew in New York. The duo are photographed together in Central Park. Footage rises year later, apparently hit on 6 December, that appears to show Andrew inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion beckon 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 sexuality with Giuffre emerge in US court documents related to Epstein. The newspapers, 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 government. Buckingham Palace disavows the allegations.

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

2019

More claims

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

On 10 August, Epstein is found dead in his jail cell, having kill herself after being charged against copulation trafficking.

A pilot on Epstein’s private aircraft 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 tariffs ‘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 present their ideas to business leaders.

They would seldom want to be associated with someone tarred by relationship with a notorious copulation wrongdoer. Andrew also has links to more than 200 kindness, 33 of which are involved with education and young people. He won’t immediately molted his honorary armed claims, as an admiral( except perhaps as admiral of the Sea Cadet Corps ), honorary colonel of various platoons and an breath commodore in the RAF, but they won’t like the adulterate 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 poise behind him now.

Andrew’s absence will leave a hole in the royal grid: who will fulfil the 394 participations he be put into practice last year? Who will step in to his capacity with business, particularly with Harry and Meghan also taking a back seat? The ambition of Prince Charles and some consultants 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 gist: 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 bloke in a clothing ,” one royal photographer lamented. The recent poll this week, YouGov for the Times, was grim: 54% supporting the sovereign, 20% not and 25% indifferent. The programme will need a rethink if the imperials are, in the Queen’s paroles, needing to be seen to be believed.

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