The queen was at her most relaxed. Casually dressed in a red twinset, her smile for the camera shows a happy monarch at peace with life. Click. Taking the photos was her son, Andrew. The occasion was her 60th birthday.
He was 26. Friends remember how he wondered about his mother and wondered ‘how will I be at 60’. Now we know it.
There will be no easy smile for the cameras as Prince Andrew reaches that milestone today. At the age of 60 he should be approaching an era where he is seen as one of the oldest statesmen of the Royal Family, a prince of experience respected by people, admired by the new generations of royals.
Instead, he is confronted with a future of shame. Even if he walks his daughter, Beatrice, down the aisle in the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace at the end of May, the curious eyes of the congregation will be focused on him as much as on the bride.
We do not need to ask how it came to that, how the Queen’s favorite son sacrificed the nation’s respect.
It was not his love of women, but his love of money that brought him into the unpleasant company of multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
There will be no easy smile for the cameras as Prince Andrew reaches that milestone today (pictured with the queen in January)
As he so naively acknowledged in the Newsnight interview that his downfall caused, the most important aspect of his friendship with the American sex offender was his dinner parties that brought him close to important people.
How different this anniversary should have been. A lover of military gold braid, like all royals, Andrew should have celebrated his birthday with the equipment of a full admiral (on his 55th birthday he was only raised as vice admiral).
It is clear that this further increase could never have happened with things as they are, but he was allowed to let him know that he had “postponed” the honor, which is his mother’s gift.
Flags to mark his birthday would have flown out of public buildings across the length and breadth of the country. Now they will not, although the bells of Westminster Abbey will ring on the occasion of the occasion.
It was not his love of women, but his love of money that brought him into the unsavory company of multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein (photo)
Imagine the look on his face at the birthday party that the queen would have given him at Buckingham Palace as guests raised their glasses to his good health.
There will be a celebration, but nothing on the originally planned scale: instead of Buckingham Palace there is a family dinner at Royal Lodge, his home in Windsor Great Park, for about a dozen, while a group of friends have said they want to organize too something.
But it is one thing to be at an event and something completely different to find a sufficient number of guests to attend. Shakespeare’s Diary in the Mail revealed yesterday that additional invitations had to be sent for the Royal Lodge dinner after a number of guests discovered that they were ‘unavailable’.
So what people will think of Prince Andrew on his 60th birthday is: where is he going from here?
His withdrawal from public life could not have come at a worse time for the royal family, with Harry and Meghan now definitely on the scene.
But few believe that this will speed up his return to formal duties. “He could be out of circulation for years,” is the opinion of a senior figure. “As long as Epstein’s name is in the air, Andrew’s will be associated with him.”
He will of course rely on Fergie, the ex-wife from whom he has never really been divorced and who has always been happy to lean on him.
At 40, he had a milestone birthday party by the queen at Windsor Castle, with the guests Ghislaine Maxwell (photo), accompanied by a certain Jeffrey Epstein
In the only official position he attended – a dinner on the occasion of the Chinese New Year organized by the Chinese ambassador in his official residence – Fergie accompanied him.
In the evenings he spent most of his time at Royal Lodge. To make matters worse, the weather is so wet that he has barely been able to dispel his frustrations on the golf course. Not that he mainly wants to be seen. “We call it being in the bunker,” says one of his circle. “His main priority is to protect the children.”
Meanwhile, it is very ironic that there is now a sparkling new building on the site of Sunninghill Park, the former marital home that the Queen gave him and Fergie as a wedding gift and where they lived when Beatrice and her sister, Eugenie, were small.
If ever a deal was the precursor to Andrew’s problems, it was the curious case of the £ 15 million that Kazakhstan oligarch Timur Kulibayev paid him, while his asking price was only £ 12 million.
But then these were the people with whom Andrew spent so much of his time. The sale enabled him to purchase the £ 13 million ski chalet in Verbier, in the Swiss Alps, that was registered in the common names of him and his ex-wife. Normally he would have been there already, but Verbier is a place where you are ‘seen’ and inevitably photographed by the paparazzi.
“Andrew is very bruised by what happened, so it is not surprising if he has become rather withdrawn,” says one of his old friends.
Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts at the Ghislaine Maxwell mansion on March 13, 2001
A place where he did not retire is Buckingham Palace. He is the only one of the Queen’s children who still has an apartment and an office in ‘Buck House’ and has been there often.
But like his diary, his office is now empty, the staff gone, including Amanda Thirsk, the dedicated private secretary who allegedly played a decisive role in convincing him that doing the Emily Maitlis interview was a good idea .
She now runs Pitch @ Palace, Andrew’s’ Dragons’ Den ‘project, which connects starting companies, primarily in the technology sector, with investors.
She does it without the man who invented it: Andrew. Even his name has been removed from the homepage of the website.
Pitch, according to a senior palace figure, was “a neat invention that gave the impression that he was still a trade envoy for Great Britain, a vehicle for him traveling the world. And of course it all appeared in the Court Circular, making it look busy. “
In many ways, Pitch replaced his beloved role as international trade envoy, which he lost in 2011. The line between his official position and his private interests threatened to fade and the Epstein scandal sealed his destiny. What is certain now is that Andrew will never realize his dream of getting Pitch into the US
Who could have imagined such a scenario when the prince grew up? After all, he was a boy who really loved school days at Gordonstoun, who hated Prince Charles so much that he called it famous “Colditz in kilts”
So the future looks rather bleak for the Duke of York, although for how long no one knows.
Who could have imagined such a scenario when the prince grew up? After all, he was a boy who really loved school days at Gordonstoun, who hated Prince Charles so much that he called it famous “Colditz in kilts.”
By 20, Andrew had been with the Navy for a year at the start of a distinguished career, culminating in his service as a helicopter pilot during the Falklands war, flying dangerous fake missions that lured Argentinian missiles away from the fleet.
At the age of 30 he was about to become a father for the second time after four years of marriage with the former Sarah Ferguson.
At 40, he received a milestone birthday party by the Queen at Windsor Castle, where guests were Ghislaine Maxwell, who was accompanied by a particular Jeffrey Epstein.
His marriage ended in 1996, he was going through a mid-life crisis, dating a series of beautiful girls and visiting night clubs. Within a year of his 40th birthday, he had left the navy with the rank of commander and soon had the offer to be taken over as a trade envoy for Britain.
Ten years later, at the age of 50, he was about to lose his trading role, and Fergie again lived with him in the former home of the Queen Mother, Royal Lodge, which he had inherited and refurbished. So far, so good.
Now, when he turns 60, Fergie stays under his roof and Epstein, although dead, remains a constant reminder of his lack of judgment. Just like the public perception of the infamous photo that allegedly shows the Prince with one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Roberts. Andrew denies every mistake.
One has the right to wonder if Prince Andrew will ever see his association with Epstein, who killed himself in a New York prison last summer, in that light. Unlike his older brother Charles, Andrew is not an introspection. “He does things and afterwards thinks about it,” says a courtier.
At the age of 30 he was about to become a father for the second time after four years of marriage with the former Sarah Ferguson
Throughout his life, Andrew has of course known that he occupies a special place in his mother’s affections. Unlike Charles and Anne, who were born when she was still Princess Elizabeth, Andrew was the son who came by when the Queen reigned for most of a decade.
He was named after his paternal grandfather, the disbanded gambler Prince Andrew of Greece, who saw little of his son Prince Philip and died without money on the French Riviera.
“The queen knew the ropes by that time and could give him all the time that Charles says he doesn’t understand,” says a former courtier. “She enjoyed taking care of him that she had even shortened her trip abroad.”
During bathing time she put on an apron and bathed him and she would rock him to sleep. At Windsor Castle, he was allowed to race through the wide corridors with his bike and skittle along it, while his mother covered her red boxes with government papers.
On Saturday during tea time, he and his parents – Charles and Anne were at school – were watching the BBC Grandstand sports program on television.
“Such maternal closeness has never changed,” says a former court lady. “The queen always forgave him when he was a child, and his blunders when he was older. They are just as close today as they once were. “
All of this explains what a friend describes as “Andrew’s despair about what he did to his mother.”
The biggest shame on his 60th birthday comes from the certain knowledge that his mother will always forgive him regardless of his shortcomings.