During the eighteen months or so that King Charles has reigned in Britain, there is a great deal to commend him for. Two confidently delivered King’s speeches at Christmas; a genuine interest at dealing with his subjects that far exceeds the often rote “Have you come far?” formalism of his mother. There has even been a compassionate hand extended to his troublesome younger son — although this seems an uncertain and unhappy state of affairs, given Prince Harry’s volatility and near-obsession with court cases.
Yet there is one area in which King Charles might be commended on a personal level but deserves criticism in his role as monarch: his continued loyalty to his disgraced younger brother Prince Andrew. The revelations in the Epstein files may have been embarrassing rather than catastrophic for the Duke of York, but they are a reminder that the “playboy prince” was keeping louche company that a member of the monarchy should have known far better than to consort with. It has also brought home that this is a scandal that will continue to cause reputational damage both to Andrew and to the wider British royal family.
It is a Windsor trait that blood is, alas, thicker than water, and that ranks must be closed
It is surely time that the King should distance himself from the duke, both publicly and privately. This would show Charles to be a new kind of monarch, principled and prepared to act decisively when he needs to.
Alas, his reaction to the latest stories is a mixture of dither and stubbornness. It was reported last week that he was preparing to facilitate his brother’s departure from his grace and favor home of Royal Lodge on the Windsor estate, on the grounds that, as a non-working member of the royal family, he should be expected to fund his own security needs. The smaller — although still palatial — Frogmore Cottage was, at the time, put forward as being more appropriate for his requirements. But now it has now been reportedly decided that Andrew should be allowed to stay put.
An “associate” of the duke — for a man who staunchly denies any criminality, it is a pity that he must consort with people who refer to themselves in terms akin to Mafia henchmen – told the Times of London: “The duke has rights like any leaseholder in relation to that property so it’s not like anybody can say, ‘I’ve decided you’re going to move out.’ It’s a very unattractive proposition to withdraw security to kick out your brother and I’m sure the King would never allow that, even if it was suggested to him.”
For good measure, the loquacious source also told the paper that “the King is somebody with a high level of integrity. There are people in the royal household who would take a more aggressive stance, but in that family, blood is thicker than water.”
The lead proponent of this “more aggressive stance” is William, the Prince of Wales, who is rumored to be sick of his uncle and the continued embarrassment that he is causing “the Firm.” Most would take his side: a YouGov poll from late last year indicated that a mere 8 percent of the population viewed the duke positively, compared to 70 percent who disliked him.
Yet it is a Windsor trait that blood is, alas, thicker than water, and that ranks must be closed. There is precedent for this. The king’s grandfather George VI tolerated the treacherous and destabilizing behavior of his elder brother, the former Edward VIII-turned-Duke of Windsor, and ensured that despite his pro-Nazi sympathies, Edward was sent off to the Bahamas as governor to sit out World War Two.
Prince Andrew has not quite merited the same level of exile. But his uniquely charmless mixture of bullishness and arrogance has meant that most people in the UK, even those who might have fond memories of his halcyon days serving in the Falklands, are now thoroughly sick of him. The King should be mindful of public opinion when it comes to his indulgence of his brother’s antics, as the extended honeymoon that he is enjoying otherwise risks coming to a sudden and abrupt end. The consequences of that, for him and future monarchs, could be highly undesirable.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.