A version of this story appeared in the February 18 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
When British newspapers go in for the kill, they don’t hold back.
On Wednesday, the Sun newspaper splashed the headline: “His Final Disgrace,” the Daily Mail called it the “Duke’s Final ‘£10 million’ Humiliation” and The Daily Star declared him a “Royal wrong ‘un.”
If Prince Andrew had hoped to end the stream of negative headlines coming out of his civil sexual assault case by settling out of court for an undisclosed sum, it didn’t work.
That’s because the UK’s media no longer had to wait for a verdict before passing their own judgment on the Duke of York’s character. Throughout the case, Andrew has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing but the move has left some wondering why he would settle if he has no memory of ever meeting his accuser Virginia Giuffre – as he claims. And he previously vowed to clear his name at trial.
Neither Andrew nor Giuffre would comment beyond the settlement statement filed with the court, but royal commentators conclude that the prince had to stop the drip-drip of salacious revelations in the Queen’s platinum jubilee year, which is meant to be about celebrating – not berating – the monarchy.
The other reason for the relentless headlines lies in the fact that Buckingham Palace isn’t dousing the firestorm either, instead redirecting queries to the duke and his legal team. The Queen had already showed how far she was willing to go to distance the institution from her son by stripping him of his remaining military titles and roles last month.
With the case over, the lingering queries surround how Andrew is funding the deal, which British media estimates is upwards of £10 million ($13.6 million). More specifically, the bones of contention are over whether the Queen helped foot the bill, and if she did, was public money involved?
A flurry of politicians, academics and commentators are demanding transparency over the financial sources behind the settlement.
It’s inconceivable that the Queen would use the Sovereign Grant – which comes from the taxpayer – to pay her son’s legal fees. The palace would need to declare it and it would certainly be viewed as a misuse of public money. The institution would be well aware of this and, as such, would not entertain the idea. The problem is that we won’t know conclusively until the official accounts are published next year.
Some have speculated that the Queen and Prince Charles could have contributed using their personal incomes from their private estates and investments. The handling of those finances doesn’t need to be publicly revealed, though they do choose to declare some of it.
Andrew may have his own money or may have gone to the private sector to secure the funds. At this point, it is just not clear and in the vacuum a narrative of possible wrongdoing is emerging. Until it’s made clear where the money has come from, the whole family’s finances will be under scrutiny.
Labour member of parliament Andy McDonald told the BBC he would be raising the issue in the House of Commons, saying: “We don’t know the precise figure but there is a risk that this will be at the public’s expense so we need to have that resolved. We need to know exactly where this money is coming from.”
Separately, allegations of corruption at the top of Prince Charles’ charitable network resurfaced this week after the Met Police announced it was launching an investigation into an alleged cash-for-honors scandal. A spokesperson for the Prince of Wales referred us to a previous statement, maintaining that he “had no knowledge of the alleged offer of honors or British citizenship on the basis of donation to his charities.” Regardless, the investigation couldn’t have come at a worse time for the family.
Royal finances are notoriously confusing because both public and private money play into them, but the palace does go to great lengths to clarify how taxpayer funds are used. Now it is under pressure to do so sooner rather than later as the questions over how Andrew covered his substantial legal costs will only get louder.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Smiling Queen gets on with the job as sons’ woes rumble on.
Elizabeth II put on a brave face as scandals continue to roil her children this week. She completed her first in-person engagement since returning to Windsor on Wednesday. The occasion was also her first appearance since her family was caught up in a Covid scare.
In a bright floral-patterned dress, the monarch held an audience with the outgoing Defence Services Secretary, Rear Admiral James Macleod, and his successor, Major General Eldon Millar.
The Queen’s health has been closely scrutinized since late last year when she retreated from public events on advice from doctors to rest after an overnight hospital stay for an undisclosed reason. Fresh concern was renewed in the past few days as multiple family members self-isolated after testing positive for the virus. However, Wednesday’s event would suggest the Queen has avoided contracting the virus despite seeing her son Charles “recently.”
The Queen, who this month marked the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne, appeared in good spirits throughout the engagement. Standing in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle, she called out “ha, I’m here!” with a chuckle as the two secretaries entered the room. Asked how she was, the Queen quipped: “Well, as you can see, I can’t move,” while gesturing to her leg, with her walking stick in hand. A royal source told CNN the Queen is believed to have been feeling slightly stiff rather than injured or unwell.
The secretaries joked about the palace’s tight security presence, revealing they had struggled to get past her dog Candy outside.
“I noticed you’ve got Candy keeping guard because, as we came down the corridor, she was not going to let us get anywhere near you,” Macleod said. “She gave a little growl as we came in,” Millar added.
The Queen responded in surprise, “Oh really? Did she? She doesn’t normally growl.”
The in-person audience was the only face-to-face engagement the Queen conducted in a busy week of royal duties. On Thursday, she virtually received ambassadors from Finland and Jordan, having held a privy council meeting and her weekly phone call with the Prime Minister in addition to other virtual meetings earlier in the week.
A royal source had told us last week that the Queen would be resuming her regular royal duties upon returning to Windsor, with her diary expected to continue as a mix of both virtual and in-person events.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Duchess of Cornwall is the latest royal to self-isolate, testing positive for the virus days after her husband. Charles confirmed he had contracted the virus for a second time last week. A royal source said the duchess is triple vaccinated and will continue to follow all government guidelines and review engagements on that basis.
ROYAL TEA BREAK
Harry enjoys star-studded Super Bowl.
Prince Harry reunited with his cousin Princess Eugenie over the weekend. The pair were spotted enjoying all the Super Bowl action at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, on Sunday evening. The NFL’s UK Twitter account revealed their presence, posting a photo of the royals with the caption: “Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie in the house at #SBLVI.” The pair – who are known to be particularly close – were pictured in a private box, donning face coverings in line with current Los Angeles County rules which call for KN95 masks at large outdoor events. Several other celebs were spotted maskless, sparking cries of “hypocrisy” on social media.
IN THE ROYAL DIARY
Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge will visit Copenhagen next Tuesday for a two-day working visit with her organization, The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood. It’s the first time Kate has traveled abroad for work relating to her foundation. During the visit, she’s expected to “spend time learning about how Denmark has created an enabling culture for early childhood development, specifically how it has promoted infant mental wellbeing alongside physical health, and how it harnesses the power of nature, relationships and playful learning in the first five years of life,” according to Kensington Palace. She will also be meeting with Danish royals, with Queen Margrethe II due to welcome the duchess officially on the second day of the trip. Like Britain’s Queen, the Danish monarch is also celebrating a jubilee this year – her 50th anniversary on the throne.