Colin Brazier: For the sake of the monarchy Prince Andrew must surrender his titles and get out of the spotlight
Here's the Brazier Angle...
I am one of them. One of the two thirds of Britons who are happy to be one of our sovereign’s subjects. Why? Because I believe the royal family is a good thing; a golden thread of patriotic continuity in a time of profound change.
I admire Her Majesty, while mindful that the institution itself – not her - is what really matters. Because the individuals are as quirky, as likeable and unlikeable as we are.
For every People’s Princess there is a Princess Margaret. And, unless they are cut short by early death – as with Diana - they evolve before our eyes.
Unlike our elected politicians, the royals hang around on public display, for decades. By the end of his life, Prince Philip was not the dazzling, dashing Duke of his youth.
And, though nobody under 40 can believe this, there was a time when the Duke of York was seen as a war-hero and the most eligible bachelor in the land. But that was thirty years ago, at least.
Now he’s a national joke, and a sick one at that. Regardless of what US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rules in response to a request by Andrew’s legal team to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s case against him – it’s over for the Duke.
Two thirds of those polled by YouGov in September said there was no role in public life for him. Regardless of what happens in the case involving his accuser. No way back. Not this week. Not next week. Not ever. So what to do with him?
He seems to be resisting advice to go to ground. After all, he might insist, he’s done nothing wrong – in the eyes of the law. But in the court of public opinion, it’s a different story.
This week we heard from a former Grenadier Guardsman who broke ranks to demand that Andrew no longer be his regiment’s honorary colonel. Officers in the Mess are said to be uncomfortable toasting his name. If that’s how they feel in the Household Division – backbone of the old Establishment - you can be sure it’s a view shared in the eight other military units where the Duke of York holds an honorary title.
At the weekend The Sunday Times reported that Andrew might see his HRH title mothballed. The Palace realises, even if Andrew doesn’t, that he’s doing the monarchy enormous damage. An institution which thinks decades ahead, is now seriously setting its mind to the Andrew problem. But I think it’s worse than they think.
Why do I say that? Because this isn’t 1940. Then, after the Abdication Crisis, the royals could dispatch the troublesome Duke of Windsor to the Bahamas, safe in the knowledge that what happened in the Caribbean stayed in the Caribbean. Now, in a world of smartphones, it’s much harder for Andrew to fall off the radar. Every time there’s another snatched picture of Prince Andrew, a fraction of a per cent is shaved off the monarchy’s approval ratings.
For enemies of the monarchy, these pictures – in the Range Rover, on the horse — are manna from heaven. He needs to disappear.
But first, he must issue a statement. Make it graceful not grudging. Explain Andrew, that though technically you’ve done nothing wrong, your lack of judgement historically is damaging something bigger than yourself. Repudiate your previous life. Surrender your honorary titles.Then, put yourself beyond the cameras. It can be done.
Not in Windsor, close to London, where the public can see you. But a remote farm perhaps, beyond the reach of the longest long-lens.
Cultivate flowers and discrete friendships. Read books, write poetry, paint water-colours. Do it all without complaint.
Channel your inner hermit.
In the twilight of her glorious reign, give the Queen an easy conscience about the future of the institution she has tended with such care and which many of us still treasure.
That’s the Brazier Angle.