Behind the scenes

The fallout of stripping Prince Andrew’s royal titles

‘Brutal’ decision rules out return to public life for the duke – and may sound warning to Prince Harry

The Queen has forced Prince Andrew to give up his military titles and patronages as he faces a civil trial over allegations of sexual abuse.

The Telegraph reported that the Duke of York was “summoned to Windsor Castle for a 45-minute meeting with his mother” yesterday, after a New York judge dismissed an appeal by his lawyers to have the case dropped.

“With the Queen’s approval and agreement, the Duke of York’s military affiliations and royal patronages have been returned to the Queen,” Buckingham Palace subsequently announced in a statement. “The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”

Although the statement was brief, the significance for Andrew and the monarchy is considerable. “In just 49 words, the Queen ended any hopes the Duke of York may have harboured of a return to royal life,” wrote The Telegraph’s associate editor Camilla Tominey

 Andrew’s titles “will never be returned – regardless of the outcome of any future legal proceedings”, she continued. “Instead, they will be redistributed to other members of the Royal Family.”

The “brutality” of the Palace statement showed the institution’s “ruthlessness”, said The Guardian, and represented a “seismic blow to Andrew’s status”

“I don’t know what the Richter scale goes up to but this is a big earthquake,” a source told the paper, adding: “This is the most serious step they could have taken.”

Although Andrew is expected to retain his dukedom and his military rank of vice admiral, he will no longer use the title of His Royal Highness (HRH) in any official capacity. 

“Losing the HRH style would be the most emotionally damaging because he was born a royal highness,” the source added.

BBC royal correspondent Sean Coughlan agreed that the move was “brutal”. The Royal Family is being “firmly distanced from the toxic fallout” of the allegations by Virginia Roberts Giuffre against Andrew, for whom “the door is being closed on a return to public life”, Coughlan wrote.

Widely quoted Palace sources said the “ruthless and swift” decision to strip Andrew of titles had been “widely discussed” within the family following his failed bid to get the US case thrown out. According to the Daily Mail, princes Charles and William “demanded Andrew’s exile”.

Although Andrew is losing his royal patronages and more than a dozen ceremonial military roles, he is “unlikely” to be prevented from using the title of Duke of York, said Sky News. Royal commentator and biographer Christopher Warwick explained that while the Queen can appoint dukes, it takes an Act of Parliament to remove their titles, “which wouldn’t cover Andrew or the monarchy in glory”.

The “humiliating blow” to Andrew of losing his other titles “signals that the Queen has finally given up her patience” with her second son, said The Times’ royal correspondent Valentine Low. But Low asked: “How much does this achieve?”

The move “clearly answers some of the criticism of the Royal Family, that they were protecting Andrew at the cost of the dignity of the regiments that he represented”, but “it won’t stop the headlines”. 

“The court case lumbers on,” Low added. “There is nothing that the Queen can do about that.”

Her decision to strip her embattled son of his titles means that Andrew is now a “private citizen” who will fund the legal battle to clear his name from his own pocket.

But he is “not cash rich”, said the Daily Mail, and “is certainly not rich enough to afford the £5m to £6m estimated legal bill he is likely to be left with as a result of his decision to fight this case”. 

Royal insiders insisted it was “inconceivable” that the Queen would contribute to a financial settlement with Andrew’s accuser.

Some sources and pundits also suggested that the Queen might be sending a veiled message to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, amid strained relations after the couple quit their royal roles in 2020. 

The Telegraph’s Tominey said that “some could view the unequivocal and somewhat uncompromising nature of the announcement as a shot across the bows as Prince Harry prepares to release his autobiography in the autumn”.

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