In Depth

Why Prince Andrew is the Queen’s favourite son

Monarch’s third child said to be ‘the spare she had for herself once she had produced the heir’

Once seen as Britain’s “playboy prince” and a Falklands war hero, revelations over Prince Andrew’s friendship with the billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein has meant a spectacular fall from grace for the man often described as the Queen’s “favourite son”.

Now that a civil court case brought against him by accuser Virginia Giuffre is to go ahead, the Queen has stripped the Duke of York of his titles, including the use of HRH, and will redistribute his patronages across the Royal Family.

In a short statement released by Buckingham Palace, the Queen effectively moved him from “61 years as a public figure to a ‘private citizen’”, reported the BBC

A close relationship

The closeness between Prince Andrew and the Queen is said to go back to his early childhood.

Elizabeth, who by the time of Andrew’s birth in 1960 had been on the throne for seven years, was able to spend much more time with her younger children, Andrew and Edward. 

“When Prince Charles and Princess Anne were born, the Queen wasn’t able to spend the time with them that she would have wished to,” Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator, told CNN.  

By the time Andrew was born, the Queen “was able to give him more attention and Andrew was someone with whom she's had a particular affinity”, Fitzwilliams added.

According to The Telegraph, one royal insider has described Prince Andrew as “the spare she had for herself once she had produced the heir”.

While the Queen is reported to have found Prince Charles “emotionally complicated” she found Andrew to be “straightforward” and “the more glass-half-full of the pair” who could “make her laugh and raise the family’s spirits”.

Edward and Andrew were also kept much closer to home and were sent to Heatherdown Preparatory School, near Ascot, “so they could be educated nearer to Windsor Castle”.

“The Queen made time for those children,” one royal source told the newspaper. “She used to turn up at the school with one bodyguard and drive herself sometimes. She would attend sports days and various matches.” 

The birth of Prince Andrew is also said to have coincided with a revitalisation of the Queen’s marriage with Prince Philip, according to HistoryExtra. The site claimed that she associated Andrew with the “re-booting of her marriage and a happy time in her life”.

Falklands war

Unlike Prince Charles, who initially read archaeology and anthropology, and later history, at Cambridge University, Andrew followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the Navy in 1979. He trained as a helicopter pilot, no doubt a point of “great pride” for both his parents, said The Telegraph.  

Andrew was aboard HMS Invincible as one of the pilots of its ten Sea King helicopters when Argentina invaded the Falklands, and he saw live action during the conflict. 

“Andrew’s public image at the time of the Falklands War did much to further the idea that the crown and the British people were in the fight together,” historian Ed Owens told HistoryExta. 

“Having then arrived as a royal celebrity in his own right, Andrew’s image evolved, and it wasn’t long before he was presented as a ‘playboy prince’ fond of parties and female company.”

On his return from the war, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh welcomed his vessel home to Portsmouth. “He came back a hero and was very much the golden boy of the royal family,” royal expert Katie Nicholl told The Mirror.

Queen’s sadness

More than two years on from Prince Andrew’s disastrous Newsnight interview, where he failed to convincingly explain his associations with Epstein, the Queen has finally been forced to act.

The conviction of Epstein’s close associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, on sex trafficking charges was said to be a “game-changer” in the Queen’s decision to strip her son of many of the trappings of royalty, according to The Sunday Times

The feeling up until that point had been that Andrew should “be allowed the opportunity to clear his name and that to strip him of his titles during a legal case would indicate presumption of guilt”, said the paper. 

“Look at the 2001 picture [of Andrew, a young Virginia Roberts and Maxwell] now,” a senior royal source told the paper. “In that Newsnight interview, it’s not just one rogue person [Epstein] he’s talking about, but also a friendship with someone who’s a convicted sex trafficker and a victim. Look at it in that light. Everyone [in the family] wants to be supportive, but he’s associated with the wrong people.”

After consultation with heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his son William, the Queen made the “final decision” to remove Andrew from public life, seemingly for ever. It was a decision said to have caused “genuine sadness” for the Queen and was hers alone to make. “Never assume she just rubber-stamps stuff,” said a courtier.

It is likely that Andrew will also be pulled from all Platinum Jubilee celebrations, due to begin in the summer. 

“The plan is for him to be invisible during celebrations,” a source told The Sun newspaper.

The Mirror’s royal editor Russell Myers said there would be “nervousness” in the Palace that Andrew’s trial could overshadow the celebrations, with some key dates of the civil case set to clash with Platinum Jubilee events.

“Certainly, I don’t think Andrew will be anywhere near the public celebrations, banished from the balcony, banished from any public outing,” Myers told the Pod Save the Queen podcast.

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