Between the lines

Prince Andrew escorts the Queen: the start of a royal rehabilitation?

Royals face criticism for ‘cynical’ and ‘distasteful’ move at Prince Philip memorial

The Queen’s decision to be escorted by Prince Andrew at a memorial service for the Duke of Edinburgh has prompted comment aplenty, including speculation that this was the start of the disgraced duke’s rehabilitation into public life.

The monarch held the prince’s outstretched forearm as she entered Westminster Abbey in what The Times called a “public show of support for her son, who no longer undertakes royal duties”.

A family source told the Daily Mail that his decision to place himself “front and centre”, travelling with the Queen, had caused “consternation”. The Duke of York appeared to refuse to hand over the Queen to the Dean of Westminster. Instead, the royal “clung to his 95-year-old mother” and “continued to escort her towards her seat in full view of the guests and media”.

Andrew has been “accused of completely misreading the public mood by playing such a prominent role just weeks after agreeing a multi-million-pound settlement with his rape accuser Virginia Giuffre, whose claims he has always denied”, added the Mail.

Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror wrote that this was a “cynical, gratuitously offensive attempt by the Queen to rehabilitate” her “shamed son Andrew”.

He added that “choosing to be escorted to and from Westminster Abbey by a man who paid a reported £12m to settle a sordid sex case to avoid court was deeply distasteful”.

Sean O’Grady of The Independent said it was “another PR blunder, and a particularly ghastly one,” adding that “plainly, whoever – individually or collectively – is responsible for this arm of the monarchy isn’t doing it very well”.

Mark Borkowski, a PR and royal commentator, was also disapproving. He told The Guardian that if Andrew was testing the water to establish in what capacity he could return to public life, it would be consistent with the combination of “hubris and arrogance” and poor judgment that Andrew had demonstrated in the past, such as with his BBC Newsnight interview.

He speculated that the decision to give the prince a prominent role reflected the Queen’s loyalty, but added that “if this is her gesture, it’s a colossal mistake if they’re using a memorial service to rehabilitate this soiled royal.”

Across the Atlantic, The New York Times said Andrew’s “conspicuous” public appearance was an “unmistakable message of support” from a 95-year-old mother for her disgraced son.

“It didn’t happen by happenstance,” Peter Hunt, a former royal correspondent for the BBC, told the paper. “There must have been thinking behind it.” Hunt added: “Did Charles and William attempt to intervene and did they fail?”

A somewhat more supportive voice came from GB News presenter Dan Wootton. “The Queen (God bless her) does things her way. Always,” he tweeted.

“Today be in no doubt that she sent a very clear message: Prince Andrew remains my favourite son and I back him all the way.” Wootton added that this was “an utterly fascinating insight into her loyalty and faith”.

The next question is whether Andrew will now make prominent appearances at any of the events to mark the Platinum Jubilee this summer. Asked by The Telegraph about this, a royal source replied: “Doubtful but too early to say.”

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