Peter Hunt

The failed royal response to Prince Andrew’s Epstein scandal

(Getty images)

The royals are dab hands at navigating crises. They’ve had no choice but to develop the necessary skills. Their armoury of responses include hunkering down, ensuring the stiff upper lip doesn’t quiver and – when all else has failed – taking firm, corrective action. In the past, this rule book has served them well, as they’ve weathered, survived, and thrived during the many decades of the Queen’s reign.

The Epstein crisis – inflicted on them by the actions of a Prince who was once referred to by a senior diplomat as ‘His Buffoon Highness’ – is not responding to the normal Windsor treatment. For more than a decade, Prince Andrew has tried to escape the shadow of his association with the convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. When his efforts – including the disastrous Newsnight interview – failed, the institution took over.

Prince Andrew has insisted, repeatedly over the years, that these claims are false and without foundation. His denials have not delivered the closure he seeks.

Off stage, pulling the strings, Prince Charles ensured that his younger brother stepped down from being an active, plaque unveiling member of the family. Andrew’s statement in 2019 said it was for the ‘foreseeable future’. As far as Charles and others were concerned it was for ever, and a life of knitting (or some other such harmless, retirement hobby) awaited the former pilot who served in the Falklands War.

But there was an Andrew-sized flaw in this plan. For 21 months, he’s harboured hopes of redemption. With the help of advisers, he’s pursued his goal of returning to the frontline of royal duties.

After Prince Philip died, Andrew spoke on television about his father and played an active role in the funeral. These were mere baby steps. The giant steps necessary have eluded him and will continue to do so, while his relationship with Epstein – a relationship that demonstrated a catastrophic failure of judgement – continues to haunt him.

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