LONDON — Six weeks ago, Prince Andrew agreed to a multi-million dollar legal settlement with a woman who accused him of raping her when she was a teenager. On Tuesday, he accompanied his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, to a memorial service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the life of her late husband, Prince Philip.
The Prince’s very striking public appearance on the Queen’s arm, his first since Philip’s funeral last April, sent an unmistakable statement of support from a 95-year-old mother for her disgraced son. But some royal onlookers found it absurd, as she stripped Andrew of his military titles and nearly banned him from public life after he was swept by the sexual abuse lawsuit.
Andrew’s sudden resurgence came days after an issue-prone tour of the Caribbean by Prince William and his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, in which the couple faced backlash over issues of racial justice and rising sentiment to reject the Queen as head of state. in Jamaica and other former colonies.
“It didn’t happen by chance,” said Peter Hunt, a former royal correspondent for the BBC, of Andrew’s role. “There has to be a thought behind it. You have to come to the conclusion that it was an opportunity for her to actively support her son, to point out that he has not been found guilty of anything.”
While Andrew admitted no guilt in the settlement with the woman, Virginia Giuffre, he agreed to pay her, as well as a charity “to support victims’ rights,” an amount that British tabloid magazines said was well over $10 million. † He praised Mrs. Giuffre for her courage in coming forward to talk about her treatment by the financier and sexual predator, Jeffrey Epstein, with whom the prince was friends.
Royal guards often say that the Queen is especially fond of Andrew, whose past as a helicopter pilot reflects her husband’s military service.
But after Andrew, 62, failed to convince a federal judge in Manhattan to dismiss the lawsuit, Buckingham Palace decided to distance himself from him. It announced that he would be relinquishing his military titles and royal charities, as well as the title of “His Royal Highness.” He would defend himself as a private citizen, the palace added, and would “continue not to perform any public duties”.
At the time, palace officials described this punishment as permanent and said it came after extensive deliberations within the family. There would be no way for Andrew, known as the Duke of York, to rehabilitate himself. It is not known whether Prince Charles, the heir apparent, or his eldest son, Prince William, second in line, were involved in planning Tuesday’s ceremony.
“Did Charles and William try to intervene and fail? Or have they not bothered to raise it?” said Mr Hunt. “I’d be surprised if no one raised it,” he added, referring to the palace’s wider staff.
Ultimately, of course, the decision was up to the Queen, for whom this was a very solemn, emotional ceremony. Philip, who died last April at the age of 99, was buried in an austere funeral at Windsor Castle, under strict Covid restrictions, limiting attendance to 30 people and forcing the Queen to mourn her husband of 73, masked and alone in a choir stall in St. George’s Chapel.
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Tuesday’s service featured a much larger guest list, including filmmaker David Attenborough, who had links with Philip on environmental issues. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who now live in California, were not present.
Whether the Queen would make the journey from her hometown of Windsor was unclear until the last minute. It was the first public occasion she attended outside of one of her residences since October last year, when she abruptly canceled several performances amid what officials said was exhaustion. In February, Elizabeth tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Queen appeared weak but determined in Westminster Abbey, a walking stick in her right hand as Andrew led her from the entrance of the Poets’ Yard to the front row. The service was kept short, 45 minutes. Elizabeth looked at one point with tears in her eyes, but she stood up and down and sang several hymns.