This was a ruthless palace policy, which alienated the royal family from one of their own.
There was no waiting to see if the prince andrew, the Duke of York, could clear his name at court. He has already lost the use of His Royal Highness and his military ties have been severed.
LOOK: Queen Elizabeth II withdraws Prince Andrew’s military titles and royal patronage over sex scandal
“Brutal”royal commentator Peter Hunt tweeted. “The Windsors have shown that when the institution is under threat, dynastic preservation trumps flesh and blood“.
It could also be seen as inevitable. Rather than face a host of uncomfortable questions about Prince Andrew’s future, Buckingham Palace went on a preemptive strike, effectively announcing that he will never play an official royal role again.
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The royal statement, in two brief sentences, transfers him after 61 years as a public figure to “private citizen”.
The merits of the civil court case aside, from a reputational perspective, this story has been like a leaky supertanker spouting bad news, and the royal family wants to prevent more damage from reaching their shores.
Royal historian Robert Lacey described it as Prince Andrew being “stripped of royalty“.
Damaging the “brand”
Will it be enough to shield the royals from toxic fallout, in a year when they want to focus on the Platinum Jubilee celebrations?
“There is great potential for it to contaminate the royal family in general,” says Professor Pauline Maclaran, author and expert on royal “branding.”
“From a brand perspective, the ‘Andrew thing’ has been hanging over them for a while and it’s only going to get worse,” says Maclaran, a Royal Holloway scholar at the University of London.
But ensure that the queen’s great personal popularity will allow her to stay above this, which in any case, will increase the sympathy of the public for her.
Maclaran predicts that the real strategy will be to loudly emphasize the positive to drown out the negative, like using the Duchess of Cambridge’s front-page charisma.
“They will try to maximize the young royals – William, Kate and their family. They will try to maximize the jubilee celebrations,” says Maclaran.
The Platinum Jubilee, which marks the 70-year reign of Elizabeth II, could be used to tap into a summer feel-good factor if the pandemic starts to subside, he says.
In terms of what happens from now on, Maclaran says the royals will want a settlement in the case as soon as possible, rather than the “slow torture” of months of negative headlines if it is disputed in court.
The royal family has weathered many storms before, he says, and they will survive this one too, not least because people can distinguish between the institution of the monarchy and the people who are part of it.
But the impact of negative public opinion should not be underestimated, suggests royal commentator Victoria Murphy.
“You have to remember that it was public opinion that led him to withdraw from his royal role after that disastrous television interview on Newsnight, which was long before Virginia Giuffre I would have filed this civil case,” says Murphy.
Regular opinion polls by the analysis firm YouGov have shown that the public is hostile to any return to a royal role for Prince Andrew, suggesting that the palace’s move coincides with the mood of the public.
“Pass of the time”
Gideon Benaim, a lawyer specializing in “protecting the reputation” of high-profile people, says: “The fact that Prince Andrew has been stripped of his titles is very damaging to him, but ultimately it is a good measure of the royal family to try to cover up the damage.
It also offers a glimmer of hope for Prince Andrew.
The duke has steadfastly maintained his innocence and Benaim says it’s not impossible that Prince Andrew will begin to repair his reputation one day.
The first step is try to solve the case as soon as possiblesays Benaim, of the Simkins law firm in London.
“The last thing the duke needs, and indeed the royal family will want, is a protracted litigation in which private and embarrassing details are aired in public,” he says.
A court case would mean hearing much more about Giuffre’s abuse claims and links to the sexual exploitation of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.
A deal would hinge on Giuffre being willing to negotiate a deal rather than demand a court trial, with enough money and a plea both sides can agree to. The question of an apology could be a sticking point.
disappearing from sight
For Prince Andrew, a deal also has its drawbacks, because the allegations would go unresolved.
“Certainly it’s not going to stop some from believing something happened and there’s no smoke without fire,” says Benaim.
If an agreement is reached, the reputation expert says that Prince Andrew should “disappear for a long period of time” before “testing the waters very gradually”.
“But it is much more difficult than it was 20 years ago,” he says.
The rapid spread of information on the internet, polarized and extreme opinions on social networks, make it much more difficult for people to move forward, Benaim believes.
There are still constitutional roles for Prince Andrew, including as “Councilor of State”. He remains one of only four royals who can carry out the monarch’s official duties if she is unable to perform the tasks herself.
He is still a “royal knight” of the Order of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry.
But Prince Andrew, who probably doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life being seen in grainy photos in Range Rovers in Windsor, faces big decisions with few good options.
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