mission creep

Is Prince Andrew planning on disappearing from public life … or not?

Prince Andrew
Andrew, Duke of York (Photo: Shutterstock)

Weeks after he settled the civil sexual assault case with Virginia Giuffre, and reports he was to disappear from public life, Queen Elizabeth’s son, Andrew, the Duke of York was very visible at yesterday’s memorial service for his father, Prince Philip.

His participation has divided public opinion and left some wondering if he’s planning on more public appearances.

At the time of Prince Philip’s death a year ago, and because of Covid restrictions, the royal family was only able to hold a small funeral service with 30 guests. Yesterday, a much larger service was held at Westminster Abbey in London.

Although speakers paid tribute to the late Prince, observers were more interested in the state of the Queen’s health and the role played by her son, Andrew.

This was the 95-year-old monarch’s first public engagement this year, following poor health and mobility issues. The service was timed to run for only 45 minutes out of consideration for this.

It was known that Andrew planned to attend the event, but many were surprised that he played a more prominent role than the Queen’s other children.

In the fallout following his friendship with the late, convicted sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, and the case with Giuffre, Andrew was stripped of his honorary military titles and other patronages, and barred from being called “His Royal Highness”.

Many wondered if he’d be sitting somewhere in the congregation. However, not only did he accompany his mother from Windsor Castle to the abbey in London, but he then walked her down the aisle to their front-row positions. It had previously been thought the Queen would be walked down the aisle by the Dean of Westminster.

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Few commentators would begrudge Andrew, who has never been formally charged with wrongdoing and has always denied having sex with Giuffre when she was 17, from attending his own father’s memorial service. However, even the normally more pro-Royal UK press raised an eyebrow at Andrew’s active role.

The Daily Mail says a source says Senior Royals “reluctantly agreed” Andrew accompanying the Queen to the church as they live close to one another. However, the source says they were “dismayed” at him walking her down the aisle.

The unnamed source said, “It would be a great shame if the service was overshadowed by all of this. There is a strong sense of regret that this has happened.”

Veteran Royal Correspondent Jennie Bond said in the Express it could only have been done with the Queen’s blessing.

“This was her way of quietly showing ‘OK, he messed up really badly, this was a disgrace, but he is my son’.”

Another royal correspondent, Peter Hunt said, “It didn’t happen by chance. He could have sat in the congregation with others, with his relatives, but they actively decided that he would have this role of supporting her … She’s very clearly stating that he has a role at family occasions.”

In the Independent, Sean O’Grady wrote that Andrew, “Somehow managed to steal the show, and in the worst possible way.”

“It’s another PR blunder, and a particularly ghastly one.”

“The service was one of those confused and confusing moments where the institution of the monarchy, its state role and its frankly political aspects collided with deeply personal aspects of family life.”

Lisa Bloom, a lawyer representing eight Epstein victims, was also critical of Andrew’s public role, contrasting it with his public promise to demonstrate regret over his involvement Epstein: “We are watching. We are waiting. As he resumes public appearances, it appears that, like his promise to cooperate with law enforcement, this will be yet another broken promise.”

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Andrew’s former wife, Sarah Ferguson, did not attend the event. She famously had a frosty relationship with her late father-in-law for many years, although it’s thought it thawed somewhat before his death. Also not in attendance were Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who live in California.

After yesterday’s leading role at the memorial, some are left wondering if Andrew is on “mission creep”, back to a role in public life. Is he planning to attend any of the many public engagements being held this summer to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee?

Mark Borkowski, a PR and royal commentator, said it was possibly Andrew testing the waters for a mis-judged return: “Make no mistake, Andrew would be determined to come back into public life.”

On Twitter, many expressed shock at Andrew’s role yesterday. However, others pointed to the family nature of the event.