It’s often said that the only religion the United Kingdom has left is our National Health Service - but for many, it’s the Queen. We know that the our monarch has a strong faith; in The Crown she is shown praying, while Prince Philip looks on sardonically and says something like ‘He won’t help you with this one!’ Ironically, that episode of The Crown - episode 4 of season 4 - is called ‘Favourites’ and dealt with the issue that every member of her family knows that of her four children, Prince Andrew was her favourite. As the Queen is constant above all, it’s entirely likely that he still is. Which must have made the action she took recently - stripping him of his military titles and His Royal Highness status as he prepares to defend himself against a civil case from the woman who alleges she was ‘trafficked’ to him while underage by the dead billionaire peodophile Jeffrey Epstein - all the more difficult for her. Not only is she head of the Church of England but colonel-in-chief of the British Armed Forces; when more than 150 Royal Navy, RAF and Army veterans sent her a petition calling on her to strip the Duke of York of all his military ranks and titles, there was no choice for her. She occupies a unique position where the mysticism and militarism of a country meet in one frail human, who must find the strength to cut out her favourite son in the name of duty.
It was the wily Prince Philip who christened the Royal Family ‘The Firm’ with its overtones of Mafia-style codes of honour, and the bonding of Prince Charles and Prince William - not previously a close relationship - over the excising of their brother/uncle from the institution has been swift and brutal. Facing the lawsuit as a private citizen will mean that only his lawyers are now on his side - and the best the Queen can do for him is pay the eventual bill, which will be enormous whether or not there is a settlement. The main goal will now be to keep him out of jail; though this seems a surreal idea - Prince behind bars! - the British monarchy only relatively recently stopped beheading errant members as a matter of course. A huge settlement and a modest admission of guilt seems most likely.
It’s ironic to think that Prince Andrew was once the favourite of the nation too. The Falklands War was the first time we’d seen a member of the ruling family actually fighting on the front-line; when Andrew took up with the attractive American actress Koo Stark, the nation chuckled indulgently: The Prince And The Showgirl! (How innocent, in the light of the ongoing antics of Harry and Meghan, this pairing seems now.) When ‘Randy Andy’ married a robust redhead, they seemed like a playful pair of over-excited Labradors; none too bright, but meaning well.
But like many couples - one thinks of the Clintons and the Sussexes - they brought out the worst in each other. Sarah, Duchess of York, turned out to be a lazy, grasping woman, seeing her elevation to the monarchy not as a privilege which brought duties, but something which made the world one big goody-bag. They both had too much time on their hands, and without duties became members of the idle rich, forever lounging on some shady yacht. When Ferguson was caught on camera non-sexually pimping her ex-husband out to a reporter pretending to be a businessman in 2010 for £500,000 (’Look after me and he'll look after you... you'll get it back tenfold. I can open any door you want’) the Queen attempted to put her favourite back on track by making him a trade envoy. But the dirt stuck; Randy Andy became Airmiles Andy, not there to promote his country but to hang out with the jet-set and pick up even more bad habits. And now they have been his undoing.
When we look at the Queen, we see a woman who has done nothing wrong during a long, unwanted reign; we see a time when self-pity and attention-seeking were the exception in public life, not the rule. There may well be a brutal reckoning for the House of Windsor to face when she is no longer there to protect it from a mutinous people, stripped now of all faith in authority. That her final years will be lived so sadly due to her Achilles heel makes us even more contemptuous of this favourite son, no matter what the eventual verdict.
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