There is one little word among many uttered by Prince Andrew in his disastrous Newsnight interview that I keep coming back to. And it isn’t the word ‘honourable’, though that is the word he kept repeating in the hope we would accept the reason for him being in trouble is because he is “too honourable.” Fat chance.
The Prince may well live in another world from ours but how can anyone be too honourable? You either are, or you aren’t.
Yet that is the lame excuse he gave for spending four days staying with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein only a few months after the American billionaire was released from jail after a plea bargain which saw him admit to soliciting a minor for prostitution. What’s more Prince Andrew would have us believe he went for a walk in the park with Epstein for the sole purpose of saying it was ‘inappropriate’ to be seen together. And that, he said, was “the honourable and right thing to do.” Well no it wasn’t.
A man with a team of flunkies, some of whom advised him not to go to meet Epstein in New York, could have got someone else to cut the ties. He has spent his whole mollycoddled life getting others to do things for him. But then no honourable man would have ever done an ill advised interview about a monster like this and forget to mention the hundreds of young women who were trafficked and groomed for sexual gratification.
Sympathy would not have even come close to healing their wounds. But it would have been a start. That would have been the “honourable” thing to do.
But actually let’s forget the word ‘honourable’. The word I keep coming back to is ‘useful’. When pushed hard by Emily Maitlis, who by the way did a brilliant job, as to whether he now regretted his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein any normal human being would have said, ‘Yes, of course I do. I now know he was a evil man’. But so out of touch is this self absorbed man that he apparently told the Queen the interview went well. No better than that. It had been a “great success.” What planet does he live on?
But the low point for me - and there were many - was his answer that even now he still didn’t regret his friendship with Epstein because of the people he met or the opportunities he gave him. They were actually “very useful.” How cold. How dismissive of the victims. And how totally stupid. As if being a Prince doesn’t open enough doors.
Useful. It’s an interesting choice of words. Well Prince Andrew, here is a message from a monarchist. The monarchy only survives because it is ‘useful.’ And by and large it is. But at the moment you are the greatest danger to it since Oliver Cromwell. I will go further. Prince Andrew has put the monarchy in danger of being branded as an out of touch privileged institution. And if, as he says, he doesn’t believe it has been damaging to the Queen then he is more out of touch that I feared.
The Queen is adored by the vast majority of this country. A YouGov survey undertaken earlier this year showed that quite clearly. She has dedicated her life to her role with dignity and purpose. But she is also a mother and an elderly woman and one of her offspring has let her down badly.
She must be devastated. What’s more, her second born son languishes at the bottom of the pile in that very poll. I suspect far from improving his ratings, Prince Andrew’s popularity has slumped even further this week. And he only has himself to blame.
This interview was very different from the almost sycophantic TV appearances made by Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It was clear the questions then were well rehearsed. This latest Newsnight interview was ruthless. It had to be. But in agreeing to it Prince Andrew has effectively waved goodbye to his diplomatic immunity as a member of the Royal Family. Having agreed to speak to the public now he has no excuse not to speak to American investigators in the future. And he ought do it sooner rather than later.
Prince Andrew risks no longer being ‘useful’ to his family or his country. And if that is the case, the next monarch would do well to consider removing his status as a working Royal when he takes over the top job.
The Royal family is infinitely preferable to a Republic when you consider the mess the politicians have been making in the last couple of years. However, their greatest challenge is to remain ‘useful.’ Prince Andrew, at present, is anything but.