The blindingly obvious continues to evade Prince Andrew. There is no way back to public life for the son of a monarch and the ninth in line to the throne. Blinkered, he used the days after his father’s death to dip his toes in the waters of public redemption.
His efforts, especially his attempt to wear the uniform of an admiral on the day of the funeral, raised eyebrows – not least amongst some senior royals. Their concern, hidden for months behind palace walls, is on very public display in the Sunday Times. We now know that William, a king in waiting, sees his uncle as a ‘threat’ to the royal family.
His intervention will add a frisson to the family Christmas gathering. For make no mistake, this article is giving us an insight into William’s thinking. While he’s afforded plausible deniability, the ‘sources’ and ‘friends’ who provided the stark assessment of the risk posed by Prince Andrew, won’t have gone rogue.
When a William ‘source’ or ‘friend’ goes off piste or off message, they also go off into the wilderness. The prince maintains a message control that Alastair Campbell would envy.
It’s clear William has embraced the blindingly obvious about the permanence of Andrew’s removal from the world of walkabouts and plaque unveiling. He’s said to be particularly perturbed by his uncle’s perceived ‘ungracious and ungrateful’ attitude towards his position which the younger prince sees as a ‘risk’ and a ‘threat’.
While the cause of William’s concern is obvious, the timing of his ‘no fingerprints’ public briefing is less so – Andrew will be preoccupied, for months to come, with more pressing matters than an entry about him in the Court Circular.
As attractive as an appearance on the Buckingham Palace balcony clearly is to Prince Andrew, he still has to resolve the Virginia Giuffre legal action and her claim that she was brought to the UK, aged 17, to have sex with him. His repeated denials haven’t yet made them go away. And the report in the Sunday Times that police have spoken to Ms Giuffre leaves open the possibility of a criminal investigation here into her claims.
Andrew is fighting battles on several fronts as his catastrophic failure of judgement over his enduring friendship with Jeffrey Epstein takes its toll. His nephew has opened a new front and it’s one where the uncle will be the vanquished, not the victor – retirement, not return is the future that awaits Andrew in the royal firmament where William holds sway.
The Sunday Times article serves as a fresh reminder of the tried and tested way the royals disseminate their views on sensitive or controversial topics. TV interviews are eschewed in favour of off the record conversations with journalists, via third parties.
Since November 2019, when the Queen’s son stepped back from public duties, Charles, William, Harry, Meghan, Anne, Edward and Sophie have all been interviewed by broadcasters and newspapers.
Not one of them was asked about Prince Andrew.
In the future, will broadcasters and newspaper reporters be emboldened to quiz the next Windsor they interview if they see Andrew as a threat to the institution they serve?
I’m not holding my breath.