72 hours that led to Andrew’s downfall

 

For a scandal centred on such an unholy thing as a child sex offender, it is ironic that so much has played in and around churches.

On August 11, day after Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell of an apparent suicide, Andrew, the Duke of York attended church with his mother the Queen.

The duo were photographed grinning broadly in the back of her custom-made Bentley, which has especially large windows designed to better let the hoi polloi gawp at the passing royals.

It was a powerful sign of support on Her Majesty's behalf as her son faced renewed scrutiny over his friendship Epstein, a convicted sex offender.

So, there is a certain irony that last Sunday, November 18, Andrew again attended Church with his mother in the wake of another bombshell development in the Epstein scandal.

The night before, the Duke had given an excruciatingly toe-curling interview to the BBC about Epstein in which he said, among other things, he did not regret their friendship because it was "very useful" and that he stayed with the convicted sex offender in New York because it was "convenient".

While public reaction was swift and excoriating, Andrew was reportedly upbeat in the wake of the broadcast, convinced that his TV gambit had paid dividends and put paid to this latest personal crisis.

Clearly he was wildly wrong. Overnight, approximately 72-hours after ebulliently fronting up to church with mother, the Duke released a statement announcing, humiliatingly, that he was stepping down from his royal duties for the "foreseeable future," effectively resigning as a full-time working member of The Firm.

So how did Andrew go from hubris and self-congratulation to taking this historic and unprecedented move? How did so much change, so fast?

SATURDAY NIGHT: TUNING IN BUT TUNED OUT

Andrew had not seen the finished Newsnight piece until it aired on Saturday night (UK time), according to reports, though it had been filmed earlier in the week. He, like 1.7 million Britons, sat down to tune in to watch veteran journalist Emily Maitlis forensically grill him over his association with the convicted sex offender.

The reaction to the interview was swift and unanimous: the Duke had just royally stuffed up. Not once did he acknowledge Epstein's many, many victims or did he offer any modicum of compassion towards the young women who had suffered at the billionaire financier's hands.

Shock, anger and repugnance were the prevailing sentiments and social media went into overdrive, with #PrinceAndrew soon trending.

A screenshot from Andrew’s trainwreck interview. Picture: Supplied
A screenshot from Andrew’s trainwreck interview. Picture: Supplied

SUNDAY MORNING: 'A GREAT SUCCESS'

Disturbingly, hours later, on the Sunday morning Andrew was, The Sun reports, "cock-a-hoop" and gallingly thought he had done a smashing job. The eighth in line to the throne, per the same report, was "buoyant" when he joined his mother for the service at All Saints Chapel on the Windsor estate on that crisp Autumn morning.

There were already signs though, that this wasn't business as usual. Unlike in August, when the Queen arrived with Andrew in a pointed gesture of support, he arrived on foot while she rolled up in a chauffeured car.

Still, a friend told the paper: "The Duke went to church with the Queen and was heard telling her it's all been a great success. He thinks he's done the right thing and has put the criticism to rest. He was all smiles and was looking very buoyant and happy.

"He's told his friends and advisers he is delighted because he thought he acquitted himself well. He's cock-a-hoop. He seriously believes he's pulled off a master triumph. It's astonishing.

"No one has the heart to tell him that he's delusional - and this is the overall problem. He's surrounded by people who tell him what he wants to hear."

Andrew initially believed he had aced his interview. Picture: Will Oliver/EPA
Andrew initially believed he had aced his interview. Picture: Will Oliver/EPA

MONDAY: BUSINESS BLOW

Andrew's blinkered view was about to change.

While he might have been able to ignore public sentiment, the cold hard truth soon made itself known, and he could not discount the swift and brutal reaction of business leaders to his car crash interview.

Once the week started, high-profile charities and backers moved swiftly to distance themselves from Andrew.

On Monday, Cisco announced that it was severing ties with Andrew's signature initiative, pitch@palace. So too did pharmacy giant AstraZeneca, saying their three-year contract was set to expire at the end of this year and they were not planning on renewing it.

Also on Monday, the accountancy giant KPMG confirmed that it had decided not to renew its sponsorship of the program, which pairs young entrepreneurs with business leaders, though said the company had made the decision in August. Tuesday saw Standard Chartered follow suit.

A sponsor told The Telegraph: "It is the sponsors' view that the program itself can survive with a new patron, but only with a new patron."

Come Wednesday, telecom company BT announced they would no longer work with the Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (IDEA) set up by the Duke unless he was removed as patron.

The same day Barclays Bank said they were "concerned" about "the current situation".

The Outward Bound Trust, of which the royal is a patron, is planning an emergency board meeting. The student union of Huddersfield University, of which Andrew is the ceremonial head, passed a vote for him to step down from the role.

RMIT and Murdoch University in Perth have also subsequently cut ties with the pitch@palace program.

Meanwhile, the media storm over the interview showed no signs of abating. As of the time of writing, Andrew's behaviour has been front page news for five days straight, which is nearly unprecedented. However, without the backing of big business and various charity partners, Andrew's very ability to actually function as a working royal was called into question.

But other storm clouds were brewing for the embattled royal.

Andrew with daughter Eugenie and Beatrice. Picture: AP Photo/Gero Breloer, FILE
Andrew with daughter Eugenie and Beatrice. Picture: AP Photo/Gero Breloer, FILE

TUESDAY: 'N' WORD BOMBSHELL

Soon other damaging claims about the Duke emerged. On Tuesday former 10 Downing Street aide Rohan Silva alleged that Andrew had used the 'n' word in front of him.

Silva also alleged that during the same meeting at Buckingham Palace, the Duke had told him: "What you have got to remember is that you'll never get anywhere by playing the white man."

Then, former home secretary Jacqui Smith revealed that Andrew had made racist comments at an official state banquet. "I have to say the conversation left us slack-jawed with the things he felt it appropriate to say," Smith has said. "It was the state dinner for the Saudi royal family and he made racist comments about Arabs that were unbelievable."

The palace has denied the Duke used racist language on either occasion.

Likewise, his financial dealings have faced renewed focus, giving rise to questions about how a man who earns about $510,000 a year can afford a $25 million Swiss ski chalet, a $285,000 Patek Phillipe watch and a $22,000 gold Apple watch among many other expensive items.

As the week progressed, the pressure on Andrew, and by extension the Queen, only escalated. Interestingly, as all of this was playing out, other members of the royal family remained stonily silent and did not comment publicly.

Andrew might have hoped that he could weather the storm but by Wednesday (UK time) the writing was on the wall.

Within hours, Andrew’s financial backers and business associates began withdrawing their support. Picture: AP Photo/Olivier Matthys
Within hours, Andrew’s financial backers and business associates began withdrawing their support. Picture: AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

WEDNESDAY: BOWING OUT

While the Palace has refused to comment on when Andrew spoke to his mother, on Wednesday he was seen at Buckingham Palace, the first time he had stepped out in public since the interview aired.

The same day, in a statement published on the royal family's official Twitter account, Andrew announced that he was stepping away "from public duties for the foreseeable future".

Quite what happens next for Andrew is unclear however he will not entirely disappear from public view. A palace aide has told Vanity Fair, "He remains a member of the royal family, and as a Royal Colonel and a war veteran, he will still take part in Trooping the Colour and Remembrance Sunday."

Per the same report, he will continue with his pitch@palace initiative.

As a working royal, the cost of his official travel and staff has until now been met by the Sovereign Grant, though that will now cease.

Prince Andrew leaving Buckingham Palace where he resigned his royal duties. Picture: Gary Stone/The Sun
Prince Andrew leaving Buckingham Palace where he resigned his royal duties. Picture: Gary Stone/The Sun

What will happen to the people who have worked for him, some for many years, is unknown.

It is also not known who will cover the ongoing cost of his police security detail.

It cannot be underestimated how exceptional a situation this is. Usually members of the royal family only step back from their duties due to old age.

Wednesday was a big day for Her Majesty. Not only was it her 72nd wedding anniversary but the 27th anniversary of the Windsor Castle fire which personally devastated Her Majesty, destroying a great part of her favourite home. Now, thanks to her son, November 20 will bear miserable significance for another reason.

Last night, the Queen left Buckingham Palace to honour Sir David Attenborough with an award at London's Chatham House. At 93-years-old she is still working tirelessly to represent the British people while her 59-year-old son has been ignominiously forced from view.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and freelance writer with 15 years' experience working with a number of Australia's biggest titles.


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