The extraordinary sight of Prince Andrew walking down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile behind the queen’s coffin Monday, as if he hadn’t recently paid millions of dollars to settle a sex assault case, was hard to take.
Indeed, one young man, identified so far only as Rory, was sufficiently angered by the sight of this shameless normalization of Andrew’s behavior to yell, “Andrew, You’re a sick old man.” He was promptly dragged away and arrested.
On Tuesday, it was announced he had been charged with breaching the peace. A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “A 22-year-old man was arrested and charged in connection with a breach of the peace on the Royal Mile around 2.50pm on Monday. He was released on an undertaking to appear at Edinburgh sheriff court at a later date and a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal.”
But Rory’s work was done.
Andrew is yet again sunk.
One royal source told The Daily Beast that Andrew’s presence at events this week should not be interpreted as King Charles endorsing his return to public life and that he would largely “disappear” from view after the funeral rites for the queen are complete.
Right up until those words rang out through Edinburgh’s otherwise silent and awestruck streets, and then reverberated millions of times over on social media and online newsfeeds, it was possible to believe that somehow, someway, Andrew was going to get away with parlaying the global outpouring of sorrow and respect for his mother into a second chance at public life for himself.
The omens for the rehabilitation of Andrew had, until that moment, been looking good.
His brother King Charles, whose contempt for Andrew and his lifestyle goes back decades, had been surprisingly indulgent; firstly, he had allowed Andrew to travel up to Scotland in an official RAF jet with his heir, Prince William and Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie.
There was little doubt that Andrew, never one to waste a good crisis, appeared to be seeking using the death of his mother to apply a coat of whitewash to his image, whether that be affectionately comforting his daughter under the glare of the cameras at Balmoral or adopting the queen’s corgis.
British sentimentality about dogs is well documented, and the queen’s corgis are probably the most famous pets in the land.
Make no this mistake, this was not a quiet gesture to help out the family. Andrew’s team have shouted it from the rooftops, with friends briefing journalists, including the Daily Beast: “The corgis will return to live at Royal Lodge with the Duke and the Duchess (Andrew and Sarah). It was the Duchess who found the puppies which were gifted to Her Majesty by the Duke. The Duchess bonded with HM over dog walking and riding horses and even after her divorce, she would continue her great friendship with HM, by walking the dogs and chatting.”
By taking the dogs, Andrew may be hoping he can convince one or two percent of the population to “move on” from the sex abuse and rape allegations he paid millions of dollars to settle earlier this year, without admitting liability.
To everyone’s great surprise it was announced on Monday that Prince Andrew would play a central role in all the major events of the next week: he would be in attendance at no fewer than five key ceremonial events including today’s procession and service of thanksgiving, a Procession to Westminster Hall on Wednesday followed by a service of prayer and reflection; the “Vigil of the Princes” at Westminster Hall, the State Funeral in London and subsequent Committal Service at St George’s Chapel Windsor.
Most astonishing of all, however, was a briefing given to journalists Monday at which it was revealed that Andrew would be permitted to wear his coveted military uniform for the “Vigil of the Princes—while Prince Harry would not.
Some readers may recall that military uniforms were a huge issue at the funeral of Prince Philip, when all mourners were ordered to wear regular suits, to spare Harry the only senior male royal to have no affiliation to the armed forces, the shame of being the odd man out in civvies.
Andrew, incredibly, still holds a naval title of vice admiral, and although he will not be allowed to wear his uniform to all the events (the palace have said military uniforms are for working royals only, without providing a rationale) an official palace source said he would be allowed to dress in his military finery “as a special mark of respect for Her Majesty the Queen at the final vigil in Westminster Hall.”
Prince Harry might be forgiven if he were to conclude his family were being somewhat inconsistent.
On Thursday, he had to get his own plane, was told not to bring his wife to Scotland and ate dinner apart from his father and brother. By Saturday, his father was giving a TV address saying: “I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.”
On Sunday, Harry rather nobly agreed to a joint appearance with William only to have William’s team relentlessly spin to the media that it was all William’s idea.
And on Monday, he was basically told that Andrew gets a special mark of respect, but he doesn’t.
Harry, one might well deduce judging by a tweet sent by his unofficial spokesperson Omid Scobie, has taken the news of Uncle Andrew’s generous treatment in comparison to his own badly.
So, as of 2:50pm, as the solemn procession left the official royal residence in Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, headed for St Giles’ Cathedral, and he took his place alongside his siblings, Prince Andrew could have been feeling fairly delighted with how things were going. But, with those six words, “Rory” firebombed and sank the tattered craft of Andrew’s hopes.
There are some who would say that parading Andrew down the streets of Scotland was perhaps not the smartest opening move in governing the Scots by King Charles. The country has a strong nationalist movement, and while millions of citizens respect the queen, only 45% support the monarchy compared to 62% across the whole of the UK (including Scotland).
Andrew is a walking (if not talking) piece of reputational damage—which Rory will have reminded the royals all too loudly about.
“The way that kid reacted should remind the royals that the public would be quite happy to never see Prince Andrew again,” one former royal household member told The Daily Beast. “He is an unpleasant, arrogant man with no support in the institution. Including him in the events of this week is a mistake. This is not a family funeral. It is a state affair. She may be his mother—but she’s everyone’s queen.”