The NYT: The Prince Andrew debacle has diminished the Queen’s power

Tonight, the BBC will air their Panorama interview with Virginia Roberts. While the Prince Andrew conversation isn’t dominating headlines like it was two weeks ago, it’s still a big story. Which is why it’s very strange that the New York Times did a story quoting from various “royal experts” about how Andrew is a minor story at this point and how it’s all about how Prince Charles is the Shadow King. I mean, granted, Shadow King Charles is a big deal, but… I also think these royal experts seem to have a vested interest in toeing the “company line” that poor Queen Elizabeth got hoodwinked by poor dull Andrew or whatever. You can read the full NYT piece here (it was on the front page for much of Sunday). Some highlights:

The Queen is welcoming Donald Trump to the palace: On Tuesday, there’s a big gathering of NATO leaders in London, and that will be the setting for this: “…With the 93-year-old queen fading into history as her 71-year-old son and heir, Prince Charles, moves aggressively to assert his control, most conspicuously in trying to mop up the recent scandal that engulfed his younger brother, Prince Andrew.

The streamlining of the royal family: In the aftermath of Prince Andrew’s disastrous BBC interview, in which he showed no empathy for the teenage victims of Mr. Epstein and offered dubious defenses of his own conduct, Prince Charles called his mother from New Zealand to press her to strip his brother of his public duties. The Prince of Wales was said to be worried that the scandal had spiraled so rapidly that it was threatening to eclipse this month’s general election in Britain, the Times of London reported. Prince Charles has long pushed for a more streamlined royal family, with fewer members carrying out official duties, drawing from the public purse, or generating damaging publicity. But the Prince Andrew debacle is the most visible sign yet that the shift has begun to happen. Some British papers all but implored the heir to take de facto control.

The “Shadow King”: The Times argued that the monarchy “needs a firmer grip at the center.” “This can only come from Prince Charles,” it said. “Although he has faced his own set of scandals, he has already taken on a greater role and can do more, in effect acting as king-in-waiting.” Valentine Low, who covers the royal family for that newspaper, said that under the aging queen, “there are all these different entities in the family, and they operate in silos. Andrew is a minor silo. But you occasionally get a crisis where you need leadership from the center.”

There’s no political figure to guide the Queen: “Politics, as we see at the moment, are grubby, dishonest and chaotic,” said Penny Junor, a royal biographer. “The monarchy is a rock of stability that has served this country well in times of crisis. But we’re coming to the end of a pretty troubled year, which adds to the woes of the family.”

Why the Queen’s power seems diminished: Royal watchers said her grip on internal matters had weakened for several reasons. Her husband, Prince Philip, who functioned as the family disciplinarian, is 98 and lives in retirement at Sandringham, one of the royal estates. In January, after striking a car in his Land Rover, he claimed he had been blinded by the sun, in what proved a harbinger of a troubled year for the monarchy. The queen had lost another trusted counselor in 2017 when her longtime private secretary, Christopher Geidt, left after an internal power struggle. Mr. Geidt, people with ties to the palace said, had put himself on a collision course with Prince Andrew and Prince Charles by trying to centralize control under the queen. The queen’s current private secretary, Edward Young, is a less forceful presence, these people said. By contrast, the private secretary to Prince Charles, Clive Alderton, is a formidable former ambassador to Morocco who is expected to help the prince navigate his accession to the throne.

Royal reporters are desperate to bring the conversation back to the Sussexes: What Buckingham Palace needs to worry more about, royal watchers said, is Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Reports of strain between him and his brother, Prince William, and of Meghan’s struggles to adapt to her new life, are more damaging because these young royals symbolize the House of Windsor’s future, not its messy past. “For them to be breaking away from the family,” Ms. Junor said, “does have implications for the future of the monarchy.”

[From The New York Times]

I disagree with many of the so-called experts quoted here. While Andrew’s power (pre-interview) was already minor, I think everything that’s unfolded with Andrew this year has been a major story because of the Queen’s actions and inactions. These royal experts want to forget that the Queen was doing church-ride photo-ops with Andrew throughout the summer, just as they want to minimize the fact that she was in the loop for his BBC interview. This whole Andrew debacle has been revealing the Queen’s weaknesses. Her weakness of character, her weakness for her favorite son, her political weakness, her communications weakness, and her staffing weakness.

A few more Andrew stories – Robert Lacey says Andrew’s royal existence will be “wiped out.” We’ll see – I bet the Queen still believes that Andrew should be allowed to do a lot of royal events. Oh, and Andrew apparently passed on confidential government memos to his shady friends back when he was the “trade ambassador.”

Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red and Backgrid.

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