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Prince Andrew distressing the royals?

Silke Wünsch
August 13, 2021

After Harry and Meghan's accusations, and the recent death of Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth has now Prince Andrew to deal with. Can she withstand the pressure?

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, speaking on stage
Prince Andrew, the Duke of YorkImage: Steve Parsons/empics/picture alliance

US investment banker Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide in prison two years ago, but the sex offender's long shadow still has a hold on Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and the British monarch's second-youngest son. More than 20 years ago, he allegedly repeatedly sexually abused a 17-year-old girl with the help of Epstein. The alleged victim, 38-year-old Virginia Giuffre, has filed a lawsuit against the prince in US federal court. "I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me," Giuffre said in a statement. "The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions."

Virginia Giuffre, several people stand in front of microphones
Virginia Giuffre speaking to journalists in New York Image: Bebeto Matthews/AP/dpa/picture alliance

In 2019, Virginia Giuffre had wanted to hold the prince accountable in a trial concerning a pedophile ring Epstein is said to have set up for the sexual abuse of minors. In a BBC interview, the prince did not speak out in his defense as expected but dismantled himself in the most embarrassing manner. He resigned from his royal posts but denied all the accusations and to this day maintains that knew nothing about his friend Epstein's machinations. The trial in New York is expected to bring the truth to light.

'No crisis can shake her'

This is a sad first for Britain's royals, never before has a member of the family been sued. It is yet another blow for the 95-year-old queen after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, and allegations made by her grandson Harry and his wife, Meghan, about perceived racism in the royal family.

"One of Elizabeth's great virtues is that she can withstand any crisis," says Julia Melchior, a German expert on royal families. "Whether it's government crises or family crises, affairs of state, love affairs — it's almost like a soap opera in this family! It's so admirable that she stoically endures it all and continues to do her job."

The expert told DW, adding that the queen doesn't let herself be distracted but sticks to her calling: "No crisis can shake her."

smiling Prince Andrew stands next to a helicopter
The Duke of York served as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Every scandal is another drop in the bucket, Melchior concedes, but she adds that Prince Andrew does not represent the institution of royalty, he's a minor figure who is doing great damage to the family — "but the monarchy is not about to falter because of him."

Senior royals in 'the firm'

The queen's children and grandchildren have repeatedly triggered scandals in recent decades. Perhaps Queen Elizabeth II is partly to blame because she failed to reform "the firm," Julia Melchior says.

"The queen lives the model of the extended family serving the crown, and that's no longer modern, you can't expect family members to do that anymore," she says. "There's a nuclear family, that's the queen, the direct heir to the throne, Charles, then William and Kate and their children. All the others, they're supporting roles. They're expected to act like royalty, but in the end, they don't really have anything to do either."

Prince Andrew was once the royal family's golden boy, a war hero, celebrated like a pop star, number two in the line of succession, says Melchior. Then his brother Charles married, had sons — and Andrew dropped in the line of succession and faded into insignificance. This unfulfilled life, Melchior suspects, eventually led Andrew to join dubious groups like the people surrounding Epstein — it was his way of fighting the boredom.

Queen Elizabeth II at her desk
Queen Elizabeth II is distressed by her son's links to the Epstein caseImage: picture-alliance/abacaD. Nievere

"The fact that minor figures like Andrew or Prince Harry have no real benefit for the monarchy means that their behavior harms it," Melchior concludes. The other royal houses in Europe have come up with better solutions, they let those family members lead self-determined, middle-class lives, she adds.

Family get-together in Scotland

In the meantime, Prince Andrew has retreated to Scotland where Queen Elizabeth II traditionally spends her summer vacation at Balmoral Castle. They were joined by the prince's ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, their daughter Eugenie and her family. Crisis talks or simply a demonstration of a family holding together — that's a matter of speculation. However much Prince Andrew's behavior distresses the queen, she can distinguish well between her office as monarch and her role as a mother, says Melchior.

This article has been translated from German.