Princes at war: How Charles’ plans for a slimmed-down monarchy have ‘driven a dagger through Andrew’s heart’ – and sparked a Palace power struggle
Prince Andrew is angry that he and others in the family are being pushed to the margins of royal life due to Charles’ austerity-conscious plans
By Richard Kay and Geoffrey Levy
PUBLISHED: 22:00, 27 July 2012 | UPDATED: 23:33, 27 July 2012
Outside the gates of Buckingham Palace the post-Diamond-Jubilee glow remains as warm as ever. The Queen at 86 is more popular now than at any time in her reign, the monarchy’s future enthusiastically underwritten by the millions who turned out to celebrate last month.
But within palace walls the mood is chillingly different. Where there used to be brotherly harmony, there is now open hostility.
At a cocktail party in one of the royal palaces the other evening, Andrew was angrily telling a senior figure how he and others in the family are being pushed to the margins of royal life.
The ‘others’ include his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie. He sees it as an insult that they are being dissuaded from carrying out royal duties even though — as he fervently points out — they are the only two ‘blood princesses’ of their generation.
What has emerged is that he blames Charles for what is happening, rather than the Queen and Prince Philip. He sees Charles, who will be 64 in November, as effectively running the show, apparently having established an ‘understanding’ with their elderly parents that after the Jubilee he would have an enhanced say in ‘the firm’.
‘The idea was very simple, really,’ says a senior figure. ‘Charles was to be allowed to begin to initiate some of the changes in style he would want when he becomes king.’
That may still be many years away, but for a very long time the Prince has been talking of a ‘slimmed down’ monarchy more in tune with the modern world, and at last he has had the chance to begin to put his plans into effect.
But as a friend of the Duke of York says: ‘The speed and suddenness with which Charles has acted has taken Andrew’s breath away. It’s dreadfully high-handed.’
Certainly, Charles’s first act in reducing the role of all but the principal players on the royal stage could hardly have come any quicker or delivered its message more clearly.
On the final day of the Jubilee, when the service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral drew to a close, neither Andrew, Edward nor Anne were at the celebration lunch for 700 people given for the Queen by the livery companies at Westminster Hall.
Nor — more significantly — did they join the Queen at Buckingham Palace afterwards.
Charles and Camilla, William and Kate and Harry were all prominently at the lunch (Kate hosted one of the tables), after which they rode ceremonially in state landaus to the Palace.
Meanwhile, a po-faced Prince Andrew had been driven straight to Royal Lodge, his home in Windsor Great Park.
He, Anne and Edward had all been informed earlier that they would not be required to join the Queen on the Buckingham Palace balcony in front of a million people stretching down the Mall for the climactic Jubilee moment, the RAF flypast salute.
That balcony scene, when just one of the Queen’s four children took the salute with her, was one of the most significant moments of the entire Jubilee.
Instead of following tradition and the balcony being filled by the Royal Family, the flypast was taken by just five people in addition to the Queen herself — Prince Charles and Camilla, William and Kate, and Harry.
Prince Edward, who gave up a commercial career as a film-maker to join ‘the firm’ with his former public relations executive wife Sophie, is said to be as ‘dismayed’ by his brother Charles’s behaviour
What a contrast to the scene a decade earlier at the Golden Jubilee, when so many had crowded onto the balcony for a similar flypast. On that occasion Prince Philip made a point of ushering them all out, to the cheers of the festive crowds.
This time Philip was in hospital with a bladder infection. Many people close to the Royal Family feel that, had he been there, he would have countermanded Charles to ensure the occasion was seen as a family celebration.
So the new message — Charles’s message, according to Andrew’s friends — was there for all to see: here was the first day of the new order.
A slimmed-down monarchy would, in future, star only those key royals who really mattered: the monarch, the next in line, and his next in line. Plus, their spouses and the indispensable Harry.
Prince Edward, who gave up a commercial career as a film-maker to join ‘the firm’ with his former public relations executive wife Sophie, is said to be as ‘dismayed’ by his brother Charles’s behaviour.
Princess Anne, it must be said, is less troubled. She has always gone her own way and, pointedly, decided at their birth that her own children, Peter and Zara, would not be burdened with titles and would live their own, positively un-royal lives.
Prince Edward speaks during the Olympic Team Welcome Ceremony at the Olympic Park in London last week. He is said to be as ‘dismayed’ by his brother Charles’s behaviour
But for Andrew, according to one close figure, being excluded from the balcony scene was a sudden and totally unexpected demotion from front-rank to peripheral royal. It was ‘like a dagger to his heart and he hasn’t got over it’.
Andrew is known to have discussed the crisis with other members of the Royal Family who share his alarm that they are in danger of being phased out. ‘What they fear they see is Prince Charles creating a court within a court,’ says a long-serving royal aide.
Already their costly royal protection is being downgraded, with fresh moves to cut bodyguards entirely from ‘non-working’ royals.
Their resentment is increased by the way the ‘key’ royals are being pushed increasingly into the spotlight, particularly the former Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles, 65, who was so often given pole position next to the Queen over the Jubilee weekend and has subsequently made a blizzard of public appearances.
Some are known privately to compare the economies being made in security arrangements for the lesser royals with the ‘grandiose’ way in which Prince Charles himself is able to live.
‘It’s all right for Charles — he has endless bodyguards, police outriders, big cars, houses and no shortage of cash,’ declares one close figure. ‘Andrew has only to take a helicopter flight and the world falls in on “Air Miles Andy”.’
Such bitterness is undoubtedly exacerbated by the fact that the Duke of York is no longer being feted around the world by potentates and billionaires as Britain’s special international trade and investment envoy.
He stepped down from the post a year ago after much criticism about his diplomatic style, or lack of it, and after keeping company with questionable billionaires such as U.S. paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Yet if he is in danger of being pushed to the back of the royal show, Andrew, 52, is not letting it happen without fighting back. At least one serious interview with a broadsheet newspaper is planned in an attempt to re-establish his bonafides as an homme serieux.
And media attention will be guaranteed when he and Foreign Secretary William Hague’s wife Ffion abseil down Europe’s tallest building, the 1,016ft Shard (assisted, it should be said, by the Royal Marines) in aid of charity early in September.
As for Beatrice, who will be 24 in a few days, and Eugenie, 22, both are university-educated, charming girls and very popular with the Queen and the rest of the family.
But other than accompanying their father on the odd official visit they have not been written into the royal script nor offered any encouragement to take on official duties.
Both have recently indicated privately they don’t really want ‘official’ lives, preferring instead to make their own way outside royalty. This has to be taken with a pinch of salt, for it comes in the wake of their losing the 24-hour royal protection officers who used to cost the taxpayer £250,000 each annually. Under the new arrangements, they will have protection only on official occasions.
Beatrice in particular, who graduated from Goldsmith’s college last year with a 2:1 degree in History and the History of Ideas, is known to have passionately wanted to play an official role as well as have a private career.
Uncertain about consulting Uncle Charles, she went to see William and asked him what she could do to help ‘the firm’. But nothing has come of it.
This infuriated her father, who refuses to accept the prevailing view that there is dwindling enthusiasm up and down the country for heavily-guarded peripheral royals performing roles such as opening new academy schools and exhibitions.
His daughters, he privately argues, are fifth and sixth in line of succession to the throne, yet are being denied the status and respect to which they are entitled as royal princesses. He is confident they would make perfect deputies to step in on behalf of the Duchess of Cambridge if, and when, she becomes pregnant. Perhaps he has a point, but no bets are being placed that this appointment will be made.
For Charles has found an influential ally, and forged a powerful axis, with Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, who believes just as firmly that a healthy monarchy is one that has been slimmed down.
In previous years, the start of the Olympics would have been a time when all royal hands were called to the pump. Some of the peripheral figures will certainly be at events here and there, but their presence will be decidedly muted.
Some already have official roles. Former equestrian Olympian Princess Anne has been British representative on the International Olympic Committee for several years, and Edward is an ambassador of the Paralympics. Zara Phillips is in the British equestrian team.
But everyone knows that William and Kate, and bachelor Harry — especially at the girls’ beach volleyball — are the real stars that everyone wants to see. They are the guarantee of the Royal Family’s future.
The tragedy of Andrew and Charles is that it didn’t have to be like this. Charles has always been sympathetic towards his younger sibling, who received none of the glossy perks that automatically came to Charles as heir to the throne — an annual income of millions from the Duchy of Cornwall, for example.
Indeed, when Andrew left the Royal Navy in 2001, the Prince of Wales wanted him to come and work closely with him as an aide.
Such a move would have given Prince Andrew a permanent role of significance in royal life, but he chose instead to become a trade envoy for Britain.
As things stand, that may turn out to be the worst decision he ever made.