Prince Andrew’s 60th: how the royals will handle the celebrations
Bells will ring out at Westminster Abbey but Queen has cancelled party
Prince Andrew turns 60 tomorrow but his birthday celebrations have been overshadowed by the ongoing fallout over his links to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The Queen’s son has largely withdrawn from public life over his friendship with the late American financier, who was convicted of sexual offences against girls as young as 14 and who died in jail last August while waiting to be tried for sex trafficking minors.
One woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, alleges she was trafficked by Epstein and forced to have sex with Prince Andrew several times between 2001 and 2002. Andrew strongly denies this claim but gave up his public roles after a disastrous Newsnight interview in November in which he tried to clear his name.
Here is how the royals plan to mark what would normally be a jubilant celebration.
What will Andrew do on his birthday?
In late November, The Times reported that the Queen had cancelled a semi-public party she had planned to hold for the Duke of York and his charities at Buckingham Palace.
The Daily Express says the Duke will spend the day at home in Windsor “in private”, while Hello! magazine adds that his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, with whom he remains on good terms, and his children Beatrice and Eugenie are likely to be there.
The Queen is still expected to hold a “small family dinner” to mark the milestone, although the location has not been specified.
The Sun reports that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan declined an invitation to fly back to the UK from Canada, where they are currently living, to celebrate the birthday.
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Will there be any pageantry?
Andrew “is one of ten members of the royal family whose birthdays are ordinarily marked by the flag flying on state buildings”, says The Times. However, Downing Street has said this will stop now that he has stepped back from official duties.
Local councils can still choose to fly a flag for the Duke’s birthday, although Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has told the Liverpool Echo: “I don’t think that would be appropriate.”
Westminster Abbey still plans to ring its bells for Andrew at 1pm tomorrow. A spokesperson for the Abbey said: “The bells are rung for the birthdays of HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh; their children; and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children. There are no plans to change these arrangements.”
The Duke had also been due to be promoted to admiral in line with a “longstanding policy in which senior royals are treated as serving military members”, says the Times. But he has apparently asked to defer this until he returns to public duty.
Will that ever happen?
The Newsnight interview exposed the Duke to ridicule: he claimed to have a medical condition that prevented him from sweating and insisted he was out at Pizza Express in Woking for his daughter’s birthday on one of the nights that Roberts Giuffre claims they had sex.
Earlier this month, he was said to be “bewildered” at claims he had refused to co-operate with the FBI. Sources close to Andrew claimed he was “more than happy to talk”.
Whatever the outcome of the FBI investigation, Andrew is “unlikely ever to resume royal duties”, The Sunday Times says. Royal expert Penny Junor told the newspaper in November that the Duke was “absolutely finished”.