HRH no more: Facing damaging sex abuse suit, queen distances royals from Prince Andrew

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s decision to strip Prince Andrew of his military titles and patronage was a brutal and humiliating damage control exercise, royal experts said on Friday.

The move to evict Andrew, the 95-year-old Queen’s second son, came a day after a judge in the United States admitted a civil lawsuit alleging he was sexually assaulted. The Duke of York will fight the case “as a private citizen,” Buckingham Palace said in an abrupt statement announcing the demotion.

The bombshell dominated UK front pages on Friday, even topping new revelations about an alleged lockdown defiance party at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s home, with royal observers viewing the Queen’s decision as an attempt to further embarrass the saga’s ability to embarrass the palace , to reduce.

“It’s quite brutal in a lot of ways – the Queen really puts one foot down and says this can’t go on like this,” said David McClure, a royal commentator and author. “It’s done a lot of damage to the reputation of the entire monarchy, not just Andrew, so the Queen really had to make a decision.”

It comes after two tough years for the monarch, who lost her husband, Prince Philip, and saw Prince Harry leave the family for a new life in the United States with Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, amid allegations of racism, which the family has vehemently denied.

Andrew will no longer be able to use “His Royal Highness” in any capacity, a royal source told NBC News. He will relinquish a dozen military titles and no longer be a patron of more than 100 organizations and clubs – although many have already severed ties with him. He retains his rank of Vice Admiral and remains ninth in line to the British throne.

Andrew served in the British Royal Navy and flew missions in the 1982 Falklands War between Britain and Argentina. He comes from a long line of British royals who have served in the armed forces and forged strong links with the military.

Hours before the palace’s statement on Thursday, anti-monarchy campaign group Republic released a letter signed by about 150 veterans urging the Queen to “take immediate steps to strip Prince Andrew of all his military ranks.”

“We understand he is your son,” the letter continued, but “these steps could have been taken at any time in the past 11 years. Please don’t leave it any longer.”

She did not, as Andrew’s motion to dismiss the civil suit increased the prospect of a lengthy trial.

Prince Andrew, seen here with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in June 2019, is the monarch’s second son and ninth in line to the throne. Max Mumby / Getty Images file

Virginia Giuffre, now 38, claims Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell trafficked her in the 1990s and forced her to have sex with Andrew, now 61. He has repeatedly denied the allegations and has ever met Giuffre, who was 17 at the time.

“It did not happen. I can tell you absolutely categorically that it never happened,” he told the BBC in 2019. “I don’t remember ever meeting that lady, not at all.”

Unless the case is settled out of court or otherwise dismissed, Andrew could be forced to testify at a high-profile trial beginning in the fall or winter.

“This is now about protecting the reputation of the royal family,” said BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell. “This is likely to be, and is already doing, significant reputational damage – it’s being pursued around the world.”

NBC News has reached out to Buckingham Palace and Andrew’s officials for comment.

A source close to Andrew said earlier this week: “This is a marathon, not a sprint, and the Duke will continue to defend himself against these claims.”

As the Queen’s second son who would likely never see the throne, Andrew’s active social life led to the British tabloids dubbing him “the party prince”.

But Giuffre’s allegations and Andrew’s relationship with Epstein and Maxwell have become one of the most toxic royal crises in decades.

The prince gave the BBC an interview in November 2019 which he hoped would clear his name but was widely viewed as a car accident which prompted further ridicule. Perhaps most notably, Andrew claimed that Giuffre’s memory of him sweating in a nightclub was false because an “adrenaline overdose” during the Falklands War meant he had lost the ability to sweat.

Prince Andrew says he has no recollection of this photo, which appeared to show Virginia Giuffre (then Roberts) with him and Ghislaine Maxwell at Maxwell’s London home.

In the ensuing excitement, Andrew announced that he would be retiring from his public duties “for the foreseeable future.” And Buckingham Palace appeared to distance itself from him, declining to make statements on his behalf and referring journalists to his own solicitors for comment.

Elsewhere, it has been a difficult time for the monarchy, with Harry and Meghan also retiring from “the company” in early 2020 after complaining about their treatment by the press and other royals themselves. They, too, were stripped of their patronage and titles.

Several royal commentators, as well as Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell, said Andrew has always been the Queen’s favorite son. He will forever be associated with the British Crown, but the Queen now appears to be distancing herself from him.

“The Queen says enough is enough – a firm decision had to be made,” McClure said. “It was inevitable. The only question is whether it should have come sooner.”

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