A version of this story appeared in the April 29 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
The sexual assault lawsuit against Prince Andrew has been settled, but he’s still very much on trial in the court of public opinion – and much of Britain has already reached its verdict.
The latest damning judgment against the Queen’s second son was handed down by councillors in the northern English city of York, who voted unanimously to strip the prince of his Freedom of the City on Wednesday.
This honor was bestowed upon him in 1987, and its removal sends a strong message: Andrew, the Duke of York, is unwanted in the place from which he takes his royal title.
The move was backed by parties across the political spectrum. The largest group on the council, the Liberal Democrats, said in a statement: “We have made it clear that it is not appropriate for Prince Andrew to represent York and its residents. The removal of this title sends the right message that we as a city stand with victims of abuse.”
Prince Andrew hasn’t been found guilty of any crime; he avoided a full trial by settling out of court with his accuser, Virginia Guiffre, who alleged Andrew sexually abused her at properties owned by wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Despite the conclusion to the civil case, Andrew’s lengthy association with Epstein has wrecked his reputation as a senior royal.
York councillor Darryl Smalley said the next logical step “would be for Prince Andrew to do the right thing and relinquish his title of Duke of York.”
That title was a wedding gift from the Queen, and it would require a vote in Britain’s Parliament to have it revoked. Nobody has tabled such a motion – yet. But if they do, and it passes, Elizabeth would need to sign it into law in her role as head of state. That would be the ultimate indignity for the prince, who’s already had to agree to stop using the title “His Royal Highness” after being stripped of his royal duties and patronages by his mother.
It may not get to that point. The member of Parliament for York Central, Rachael Maskell, has suggested Andrew could voluntarily relinquish his title.
There is no suggestion from Prince Andrew that he plans to do that. If he did, his last remaining title would be “Prince,” which is a birthright for any son of the monarch. Again, an Act of Parliament would be required to take it away.
Andrew was stripped of his military titles and charity patronages in February. A royal source told CNN at the time that he would no longer use the style “His Royal Highness” in any official capacity, adding that the decision was “widely discussed” among the royal family.
Neither Buckingham Palace nor Andrew’s personal spokesperson had any comment to make on the council vote in York, but the fact the prince keeps grabbing headlines ahead of the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations in June will be frustrating for those involved in the build-up.
And it remains to be seen whether the royal family are inclined to cede to pressure against Andrew, or take the opposite path by attempting to gradually reintroduce him to public life.
While he no longer has an official role, he is still part of the family. That’s why we saw Andrew at Prince Philip’s memorial service, which was televised but was primarily a family event. Eyebrows were raised when Andrew emerged, walking his mother down the aisle to her seat – a reminder that public anger won’t dictate every decision the palace makes.
The family will now be considering whether or how to integrate Andrew into the jubilee events. The current thinking is that he won’t be involved in the more formal and official proceedings, but we may see him when the family makes its traditional appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Another tough royal tour in the Caribbean.
Prince Edward and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex have become the second royal couple in a matter of weeks to face awkward questions about the monarchy’s place in the world while touring the Caribbean.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister told the pair that the nation wants to “one day become a republic” in a face-to-face meeting on Monday, months after Barbados took the step and cut formal ties with the Queen.
Edward, Queen Elizabeth’s youngest child, laughed nervously in response to the comments, according to UK news agency PA Media, which was on the trip.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne also brought up the question of compensation for slavery, an issue that has frequently cropped up in protests in recent months.
Edward and Sophie faced small but consistent demonstrations on the fringes of their official engagements during the multi-nation tour. In St. Lucia, a small group of activists picketed a royal walkabout. One protester told PA: “We want reparations now. The Queen of England needs to apologize for slavery.”
The couple already canceled one leg of their tour at the last minute, abruptly announcing last week that they wouldn’t visit Grenada. No reason was given for the postponement.
Royal tours have long attracted activists, but the tone of these demonstrations has shifted in recent months as the concept of republicanism has moved into the realm of reality in some nations.
It would once have been extraordinary for a Commonwealth leader to tell senior royals, in front of the press, that they want to leave the monarchy behind. But Edward and Sophie must have expected the issue would crop up this time around.
Their trip follows a disastrous tour to the Caribbean by Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge in March. That visit was derailed by large protests and clumsy photo-ops by the pair. While the Wessexes’ visit hasn’t prompted the same backlash, it does show the complex concerns that royals must navigate when they tour the Commonwealth.
The royal family’s links to slavery date back to the 16th century. Queen Elizabeth I provided slave merchant John Hawkins with her own vessel “specifically for the purpose of capturing Africans on the West African coast,” according to an article in the UK’s national archives. Subsequent members of the royal family invested heavily in the slave trade, and many of the grand stately homes in Britain today were built on the profits of slavery and colonial exploitation.
Prince William addressed the topic during his March trip, discussing Britain’s historical role in slavery in his only speech during the couple’s stop in Jamaica, denouncing the “abhorrent” practice and expressing his “profound sorrow.”
But some protesters are demanding a more concrete response, like a formal apology from the royals, or reparation payments to countries affected.
In parts of the Commonwealth, the legacy of slavery remains front and center, and as those questions persist, the monarchy’s global reach could recede further.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
The Queen is back at Windsor.
Elizabeth II was in a cheery mood as she returned to Windsor Castle after a week-long break at her Sandringham estate. The Queen met with the President of Switzerland on Thursday and could attend the state opening of Parliament in two weeks’ time, ahead of her jubilee celebrations in early June. Observers will be relieved to see her back at work. In the past few months, the Queen has suffered from Covid and was forced to pull out of Easter services due to mobility problems.
Charles hails journalists in Ukraine.
“You’re incredible, but it can’t be easy.” That’s what Prince Charles told BBC reporters Lyse Doucet and Clive Myrie, who have spent several weeks in Ukraine covering Russia’s invasion, while visiting the broadcaster’s London headquarters on Thursday. He was there to toast the 90th anniversary of the BBC World Service, and praised reporters for providing the “impartial truth” from conflict zones. “It takes a hell of a lot of courage,” he added while speaking with Doucet. The future of the BBC, and particularly its global output, has come under question since the British government cut funding to the network in January.
Ed Sheeran and corgi puppets sign up to cheer the Queen.
Details are emerging about the public festival that will mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee in June – and it’s sounding like an eclectic show. A musical tribute by Ed Sheeran will form part of the £15 million Platinum Jubilee Pageant, it was confirmed on Tuesday. A pack of corgi puppets will also take center stage, in what organizers say will be a scene of “humorous chaos” on The Mall outside Buckingham Palace. Other highlights include singer Cliff Richard, an aerial artist suspended under a giant helium balloon, a group of maypole dancers and a moving wedding cake that will play Bollywood hits. We’ll reserve judgment until the big day.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Breaking news: Prince Charles and Camilla try their hand at broadcasting from the set of BBC News in London. Charles said he had watched reporters “shivering on the roofs” during their reporting from Ukraine.
Prince Harry gave a powerful speech to competitors to close the Invictus Games in the Netherlands. The tournament he founded was twice postponed due to the pandemic and finally held its fifth edition this month in The Hague.