Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. What must Elizabeth II think, after watching Prince Andrew, already waist deep in Jeffrey Epstein’s bottomless pit of filth, trying to dig himself out in his disastrous BBC interview? No wonder Andrew has announced that he’s retiring from public duties so he can spend less time with his family.
In all my years as The Spectator’s royal correspondent — three months and counting — I’ve not seen such a more toe-curling, eye-watering backfire of an interview than Andrew’s since, well, late October, when Meghan and Harry stood in front of the cameras and moaned about how hard it is to stand in front of the cameras.
Uneasy lies the head that watches The Crown too. The third series launched on Netflix last weekend. We’re now in the late Sixties, and the royals, taking cataclysmically bad advice from the Duke of Edinburgh, have invited the enemy at the gates into the castle. The duke persuades the royal fam to allow the BBC to film them, with the cynical and impossible goal of convincing the public that the family are both entirely normal and also worth funding from the public purse. Of course the documentary is a total disaster because it exposes the family as out of touch and, as they used to say in the 12th century, entitled. The film is shown once and then buried in a basement vault far from the public eye. Which is where the rest of the royals would like to send Prince Andrew now.
The third series of The Crown, like the second, uses a classic device of medieval history and modern soap-opera: rival siblings. Not quite the ‘two households, both alike in dignity’ of the Montagues and Capulets, though. The queen runs a tight if luxurious ship, devoted to public service with a bit of gin drinking and horse-breeding at the weekend. Her younger sister Princess Margaret, played by Helena Bonham Carter in an apparent imitation of Joan Collins, wastes her life partying. But what else can you do when it’s your patriotic duty to wait around in case your sibling suddenly dies? Queen Elizabeth was the heir, and Princess Margaret the spare, just as Prince Charles is now the heir and Prince Andrew was, until Charles had a son, the spare.
The devil makes work for idle royals. A few years from now, we should have a clearer picture of whether, as Epstein’s pilot claims, the prince was a three-time passenger on the ‘Lolita Express’, and why, as Andrew claims, he went to New York to break off their friendship after Epstein’s wrist-slap sentence for procuring an underage girl for prostitution, and then stayed in Epstein’s house for four days. We’ll know because these events, in a fair world, would be the plotline of season eight of The Crown. They won’t be, of course, because the world is so unfair that monsters like Jeffrey Epstein can cheat justice and a chubby swinger like Andrew can let his media advisers anonymously claim that the photo of him and Virginia Giuffre Roberts is a fake because his fingers are ‘chubbier’ in real life, and then, when asked by the BBC’s Emily Maitlis if he believed the photo was fake, hem and haw in sub-statesmanlike fashion and effectively refuse to incriminate himself further by giving a clear opinion. Chubby cheeks is trying to cover his royal posterior, and it’s a revolting sight.
Andrew’s excuse is that Epstein’s house was ‘convenient’ for doing business in New York. Andrew is trying to trade a serious accusation, chumming around with Epstein the convicted pedophile and Ghislaine Maxwell his procuress, for a confession of the lesser offense of being a shameless freeloader with no morals. This is true: Andrew, when not known in his embarrassed homeland as ‘Randy Andy’, is known as ‘Air-Miles Andy’ for his willingness to fly anywhere in the world, ostensibly flying the flag for British business. He’d attend the opening of a bag of tortilla chips if he thought there was a free dip in it for him. How exactly did Andrew come to sell Sunninghill Park, a massive country estate outside London, to a Kazakh oligarch for £15m (about $20m) when the asking price was £12m and there were no other bidders?
What next for Randy Andy? Will he go further into reality television, like his ex-wife Sarah, Duchess of York, whose debts were paid by Epstein? Here’s a guess: he won’t be coming to the States much.
What Andrew should be doing now is assisting the FBI’s inquiries into Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. If a friend commits a terrible crime, you have a duty to do everything you can to repair and restitute. Anything else is an abuse of privilege, whether it’s the privilege of the royal or the rich. But Andrew, it appears, can’t see abuse when it’s right beneath his nose.