Until tangling with Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis in the famous car-crash interview last November, Prince Andrew had led a charmed life, jetting around the world at taxpayers’ expense and dating supermodels. Now he is in forced retirement, hiding from the public and, metaphorically at least, on the run from the FBI.
Having already stepped back from public duties because of his association with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, it was announced last week that Andrew would not resume official duties. Then on Monday, it emerged that the US Department of Justice has filed a “mutual legal assistance” (MLA) request for him to be questioned. This was lodged with the Home Office, which means that it is part of a criminal investigation.
Andrew’s downfall has been a long time coming, but has been long delayed by the protection he has been given him throughout his life.
Known as a child for his temper tantrums, even the imperious Prince Philip called Andrew “The Boss”. But he was always his mother’s favourite.
On his birth, she wrote to her cousin, ‘the baby is adorable. All in all, he’s going to be terribly spoilt by all of us, I’m sure.’ Youthful misdemeanours at the Palace were overlooked, particularly when it involved the staff. As a four year old he was given a toy Aston Martin as driven by James Bond in Goldfinger and later he was rewarded by being taught to drive by former Formula One world champion Graham Hill.
He was not much loved by his teenage peers. At Gordonstoun, other pupils called him “boastful” and “big-headed”. One said: “He had a bit of the ‘I am the Prince’ about him.” But he soon turned the heads of girls. At the Montreal Olympics in 1976, one Canadian newspaper called him “six foot of sex appeal” and he was bombarded with requests for dates. He was just sixteen.
When he returned to Canada the following year to attended Lakefield College near Toronto, girls turned out at the airport chanting: “We want Andy.” And when he played rugby, they turned out on the touchline wearing sweat shirt bearing the slogans “I’m an Andy Windsor girl” and “Andy King”. He soon learnt to ditch his minder so that he could meet up alone with his latest conquest.
At the age of 18, he received his first handout by the state when parliament granted him £20,000 a year, worth £115,000 now, but that improve his performance at Gordonstoun. He lost interest in his A-levels and a fellow pupil said: “He spent all his time reading trashy magazines and comics.”
Unlike his father and elder brother, he failed to make head boy, or Guardian. Still he continued to be popular with the girls, taking at least one of “Andy’s Harem” to Sandringham for Christmas. Others were seen emerging with him from Annabel’s, Tramp or Tokyo Joe’s.
Although some found him charming in person when he took on his first official duties, he was gaffe prone with a callous disregard for the sensitivities of others. On one of his first official duties – a 1988 visit to Lockerbie, where eleven people had died on the ground when Pan Am Flight 103 crashed on the town, he told the grieving locals that the disaster had been “much worse” for the Americans, saying it had “only been a matter of time” before a plane fell out of the sky. Representing the Queen in Port Stanley days after the Falklands armistice and the death of 255 service men, he said, ‘It is a perfect place to bring my bride on honeymoon.’
He was no better with the employees. Royal bodyguard Ken Wharfe said he was once moved from a window seat on a plane from Balmoral because he was obstructing Andrew’s view. “His manners,” Wharfe said, “are just awful.”
Another aide said: “I’ve seen him treat his staff in a shocking, appalling way. He’s been incredibly rude to his personal protection officers, literally throwing things on the ground and demanding they ‘f---ing pick them up’. No social graces at all. Sure, if you’re a lady with blonde hair and big boobs, then I bet he is utterly charming.”
The Navy drill had little impact. In September 1979, he followed his father and elder brother into the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. “He played the big ‘I am the Prince’ routine all the time and seemed rather arrogant,” said one midshipman.
The wife of one of the instructors reflects: “Prince Charles is still remembered with tremendous affection, but Andrew isn’t popular with either the staff or his fellow cadets. He never lets you forget who he is.”
While Andrew got a lot of press for being a playboy, he did redeem himself in the public’s eyes for his tour as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands. When he returned back home it was to ‘Andymania’ due to his good looks. ‘HRH’ stood for ‘His Royal Hearthrob’ and girls swooned when during official visits.
His new status as a war hero was not even dented by his affair with American starlet Koo Stark, who he had met at Tramp. The Queen was quite taken with her, and Princess Margaret lent them her holiday home on Mustique.
Nevertheless, there was relief in royal circles when he broke up with Koo and married society girl Sarah Ferguson. The wedding was attended by Andrew’s showbiz buddies Billy Connolly, Pamela Stephenson, Elton John, Michael Caine, David Frost and Anthony Andrews.
The Duchess of York was soon criticized for having too many holidays and accepting too many free gifts, earning her the nickname “Freeloading Fergie”. The marriage did not last long but, though divorced, they continued to share Sunninghill Park, the two-storey red 50-room brick mansion they’d built in Berkshire. With a staff of eleven, it was mocked as “Southyork” after “Southfork”, the Texan oil tycoon’s ranch in the 1980s soap opera Dallas.
Although Andrew came off the navy’s active list in 2001, he continued to be promoted – making rear admiral in 2010, vice admiral five years later. In a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2011, the Queen invested Andrew as a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order to add to his glittering array of honours and medals, before the two of them settled down for a cosy chat over tea.
Andrew was appointed the UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment after being given a tongue lashing by Prince Philip for being “selfish and lazy”. This position was unpaid, but offered plenty of opportunities for lucrative sidelines. Otherwise he had to live on the £249,000 a year his mother gave him and his £20,000 a year Navy pension.
Soon dubbed “Air Miles Andy”, he eschewed scheduled airlines and took private jets around the world to schmooze dubious dictators and attend golf matches and football matches – not to mention girlfriends – around the world. The Foreign Office’s protocol department said he refused to stick to the agreed itinerary and “left a trail of glass in his wake”.
One official said: “He’s showing bad judgement about people. He’s rude, lashes out to lay down the law, and it’s so difficult to sell him.”
Complaints from British embassies about Andrew were not to be made in writing in their dispatches. Anything unfavourable was to be conveyed by telephone.
There were about his expenses. The National Audit Office reported that the prince’s flights alone in 2004 cost the taxpayer £565,000. “In terms of the return on investment to the UK,” Andrew said, “I would suggest that £500,000 is cheap at the price.”
Already he was associating with Epstein. He and former girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, who he met at university, were used partying among the jet set. At the York’s £13-million ski chalet in Verbier, bought with the help of the Bank of Mum, a young guest was making his breakfast tea when Andrew suddenly appeared.
“Andrew, would you like a cup?” asked the guest.
“I’m Prince Andrew to you,” his host snapped and walked off.
Andrew also splashed out £7.5 million to refurbish Royal Lodge, his thirty-room home in Windsor Great Park. He wears the latest £12,000, 18-carat Apple watch and he drives a Bentley with the personal number plate "DOY".
It is not known what business dealings Andrew had with Jeffery Epstein. It is known that Epstein gave money to Sarah Ferguson to help with her spiralling debts. The Duke and Duchess of York have since put their luxury Swiss chalet on the market for £18.3 million. It boasts a 650 square foot indoor swimming pool, sauna, sun terrace and bar, and is being sold to repay a £6.7 million debt to former owner Isabelle de Rouvre. How the mighty are fallen.
But there is more trouble on the way. Clearly the announcement that Prince Andrew was retiring was a way for the Palace to distance itself before the Department of Justice started asking questions. As this is a criminal matter, the target cannot be Epstein. He’s dead.
There have already been calls for Scotland Yard to investigate as, under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, it is illegal to procure a girl under 21 to have sexual intercourse with a third party anywhere in the world – Virginia Roberts Giuffre says she was 17 when she was allegedly brought to the UK by Ghislaine Maxwell to have sex with Prince Andrew, something which he has vehemently denied ever happened.
Through all the many ups and downs of his life, however, the Queen has always stood behind her son. Even after his disastrous interview with Maitlis, she accepted his explanation and stood beside him in public.
Part of his funding always came through her private Duchy of Lancaster income. And whenever she hears Andrew is by himself in Buckingham Palace, she sends him a hand-written note and he’ll change into a suit and goes up to see her. He’ll greet her with a bow, kissing her hand and both her cheeks.
"It’s a little ritual that she adores," palace’s aides confided. At Windsor, the Queen will also see him on Sundays after church for drinks before lunch at Royal Lodge. She particularly enjoys it when Beatrice and Eugenie are also there. If Fergie is up, too, she’ll go for a walk with her.
Prominently on her desk in Buckingham Palace is a photograph of Andrew in naval dress during the Falklands War. He was the son who put his life at risk defending her crown at war without hesitation and she still feels immensely proud of him.
For the Queen, the horrors of the Second World War are part of her formative memory, and Andrew has an unassailable place in her reign. It remains to be seen if this latest round of trouble for Andrew will change this. Loyalty is deeply important to the Queen and it is why the stakes have been raised so high now that the US has taken off the gloves by filing an official MLA request.
© 2020 by Nigel Cawthorne, Prince Andrew: Epstein and the Palace RRP £20 will be published on 11 June by Gibson Square and is available from books.telegraph.co.uk free of postage UK
- UPDATE - Johan Eliasch
- Contrary to an earlier version, Johan Eliasch did not own or lease the yacht on which Prince Andrew was photographed; Mr Eliasch did not organise Prince Andrew’s trip and Ghislaine Maxwell was not present. We are happy to clarify and apologise for these errors.