World·Royal Fascinator

What's next for Prince Andrew?

Prince Andrew, who has stepped back from royal duties, has repeatedly denied the sexual assault allegation at the heart of a civil lawsuit launched against him recently. But in the eyes of observers, any return to a more public role appears unlikely.

Duke of York has repeatedly denied sexual assault allegation at heart of lawsuit recently launched against him

A civil lawsuit launched against Prince Andrew alleges that he sexually assaulted one of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime accusers when she was 17. He has repeatedly denied the allegation. (Chris Jackson/Reuters)

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The civil suit launched a few days ago against Prince Andrew may be new, but the allegations at its core — that he sexually assaulted one of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein's longtime accusers when she was 17 — are not.

And there is nothing new in how Queen Elizabeth's second son, who has repeatedly denied the allegations, has responded to the latest legal situation: with public silence.

That's not to say there's been silence around the suit filed by lawyers for Virginia Giuffre in Manhattan federal court.

"It has caused a media storm, as would be predictable," said Judith Rowbotham, a social and cultural scholar and visiting professor at the University of Plymouth in southwestern England, via email.

Rowbotham said it is highly unlikely that the suit came as a surprise to either Andrew or the Royal Family.

In this image taken from video issued by the BBC, Virginia Giuffre is shown during an interview that aired on Dec. 2, 2019, on the BBC's Panorama. (BBC Panorama/The Associated Press)

The official line, she said, is that this is a personal matter for Andrew, and not something for the Royal Family to handle in an institutional sense.

"He has his own team of legal advisers and there is no suggestion of any involvement from the Royal Household's legal retainers, further underlining that it is being handled as a purely private and personal matter for the prince." 

Andrew stepped back from official royal duties in the aftermath of his disastrous BBC interview in November 2019 about his friendship with Epstein.

The spectre of that interview, which was excoriated for its arrogance and Andrew's seemingly tone-deaf focus on himself, as well as the lack of empathy he showed for Epstein's victims, has hung over him ever since.

"If he hadn't done the interview, there would have been a lot of noise, [but] it would be more difficult … to keep the narrative going," British PR expert Mark Borkowski said in an interview.

While Andrew may have stepped back, there has also been a sense he may be interested in resuming a more public role. At the time of the death of his father, Prince Philip, in April, he spoke to the media — a move that in particular sparked speculation he might be eyeing a return.

Queen Elizabeth and her second son, Prince Andrew, arrive before the start of the racing at the Ascot Racecourse in Ascot, England, on June 21, 2018. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

But in the eyes of many observers, such a return is unlikely. Borkowski considers chances of it happening "very slim, microscopic."

"It's a story that is not going to go away. Any time he raises his head above the parapet … it's not a good look. And the tactic he deployed to supposedly draw a line over this has done anything but that."

Andrew's circumstances are hardly the first time a member of the Royal Family has been caught up in high-profile legal matters over the centuries.

The real question here, suggested Rowbotham, "is not whether or not Prince Andrew is guilty of something, but rather, how will public opinion view not only him, but also the wider Royal Family, as a result of the outcome — whatever it is — of the suit brought against him."

Looking back in time, she points to the case of George IV and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick. In 1820, he arranged to have her put on trial in the House of Lords for adultery.

"Public opinion was hotly engaged, with most people very firmly on Queen Caroline's side," said Rowbotham, who is also a legal and constitutional historian.

Ultimately, George IV didn't get his divorce, and both the monarch and the government survived.

"At that time, attitudes to the sexual mores of the elite were very different, but the public discerned an unfairness over suing the Queen for adultery when the King had, for years, been an open and flagrant adulterer himself," said Rowbotham.

Borkowski sees Andrew's situation as a "recurring scar" for the Royal Family.

"It makes it more difficult for the Royal Family to start rebuilding and projecting positively when we've still got these negative stories swirling around."

Rowbotham said the situation for Andrew, who is now ninth in the line of succession and essentially a minor royal, "is undoubtedly embarrassing and problematic for him, and for his family in the personal sense."

"But it is honestly difficult to see that it is a threat to the Royal Family as an institution surrounding the monarchy."

Many minor royals have been caught up in scandal over the years, she said, noting, for example, a previous Prince George of Cambridge in the 1800s. (This George had illegitimate children, mistresses and a mixed reputation regarding his time in the military.)

"While the family — with a lowercase F — may be affected [by Andrew's situation], the Royal Family will be in the long term not significantly affected," said Rowbotham.

A royal bid to help nature

Princess Charlotte holds a red admiral butterfly in Norfolk, England, as part of the Big Butterfly Count initiative that took place across the United Kingdom. (Duchess of Cambridge via The Associated Press)

The Royal Family's interest in the environment sometimes takes a big-picture approach, whether it is Prince Charles talking about sustainability and the threats associated with climate change, or Prince William's Earthshot Prize

But sometimes it's more little-picture — or family picture — as it was the other day when William and his wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, shared a photo of their six-year-old daughter Princess Charlotte holding a red admiral butterfly.

The picture in support of the Big Butterfly Count set off a lot of media buzz, perhaps in part because images of William and Kate's children are relatively few and far between.

The U.K.-wide citizen science project run by the Butterfly Conservation charity describes itself as the world's biggest survey of the delicate winged creatures and aims to help assess the health of the environment.

"Butterflies are key biodiversity indicators for scientists as they react very quickly to changes in their environment," Butterfly Conservation said on the count website. "Therefore, if their numbers are falling, then nature is in trouble. So tracking numbers of butterflies is crucial in the fight to conserve our natural world."

Fascinator readers are wondering ...

From time to time, we follow up on questions that pique the interest of readers so much so that they share them with The Royal Fascinator.

Deborah wrote in, asking: "Why is the Queen's husband a prince and not a King, but yet a King's wife is a Queen?"

Well, it comes down to "traditional gender stereotypes," Rowbotham said via email. "In both law and culture, the convention is that the husband is the ruler of the wife."

It's also not automatic that a woman marrying a British King would become Queen, although it has often been the case.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, shown here in 1860, were married 20 years earlier, but he never had the title of King. (Keystone/Getty Images)

"Convention has meant that female spouses of British Kings are usually given the status of Queen consort and crowned as such," said Rowbotham. "It is in the gift of the King. Caroline of Brunswick, usually dubbed Queen Caroline, was never so titled by George IV — and she was never labelled officially Queen consort."

The whole question of titles for spouses of monarchs has a deep and at times contentious history.

"Essentially, since the establishment of Henry VII on the English throne, Parliament has been involved in ratifying the succession. And over time, that has expanded into power to grant a title to a consort to the monarch who has succeeded by right of inheritance and parliamentary acclaim," said Rowbotham.

The first Queen regnant — a woman reigning in her own right — to have a husband was Mary I of England, who married Philip II of Spain in 1554, at a time when the Spanish were not popular in England. She died four years later, and was followed on the throne by her half-sister Elizabeth.

"Legally, a number of men who had married heiresses who died before their spouses had been able to claim their deceased wife's lands and possessions," said Rowbotham. "For the English, especially after the death of Mary when, from time to time after Elizabeth I had declined to marry her brother-in-law, it showed the problem of a King consort who might use that position to hang onto the crown after the death of the Queen regnant."

The issue of titles returned with other Queen regnants, including Mary II.

"Mary had no wish to be sole regnant, and her husband [William] was also not happy — so at the Convention Parliament 1689, it was agreed under the Declaration of Rights that they would rule as joint monarchs," said Rowbotham.

A fresco by Edward Matthew Ward shows the crown being offered to William and his wife Mary at Whitehall on Feb. 12, 1689. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

After Mary died in 1694, William continued as ruler of England and Scotland until his death eight years later. 

"The husband of the new Queen regnant, Anne, who was a Prince of Denmark, was not offered anything but a title of nobility, becoming Duke of Cumberland only," said Rowbotham.

"While her husband died in 1708, it is plain that neither the Scottish nor the English Parliaments (united at Westminster in 1707 under the Act of Union), had wanted to risk another male consort becoming sole monarch after the death of a Queen regnant."

The next Queen regnant was Victoria, and her husband — Albert, a German prince whom she married in 1840 — was never King.

"Victoria wished from the first that he be made King consort, but Parliament refused," said Rowbotham. 

At Victoria's insistence, he received the title of His Royal Highness in 1840.

"But she was not successful in gaining for him the formal title of Prince Consort until 1857, though he was popularly styled [with that title] before then," said Rowbotham.

Have a question? Drop a line to

Royally quotable

"I believe mentorship is one way to help women regain confidence and rebuild their economic strength." 

— Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as she launched a female mentorship program to mark her 40th birthday.

Royal reads

Queen Elizabeth takes part in an inspection of the Balaklava Company, 5th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, at the gates at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Aug. 9. (Jane Barlow/The Associated Press)
  • Queen Elizabeth was officially welcomed back to Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands, where she will spend her annual summer holiday. It's a place for which she holds a great fondness — the night before the funeral of her late husband, Prince Philip, in April, she shared a photo of them taken on the estate several years ago. [ITV]

  • New Zealand's governor general says Prince Harry and Meghan talked about moving to the South Pacific country during their 2018 visit there, more than a year before they stepped back from official duties. [The Guardian]

  • Safe to say this is more a piece of memorabilia than a snack: a slice from a 40-year-old wedding cake made for Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was sold at auction for 1,850 pounds. The cake was one of 23 prepared for their wedding on July 29, 1981. [BBC]

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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