RICHARD KAY: The deal that no one imagined possible was made before Andrew even got to the castle

In the end, it was just the two of them: mother and son were talking quietly and agreeing on a future none of their worst nightmares could have dreamed of.

Had the extravagant ticking clock on the mantelpiece of the Queen’s private apartment at Windsor Castle, where they met yesterday, had moved back half a century as the Queen consoled schoolboy Andrew on a scraped knee, say, there wouldn’t have been a more intimate moment.

Here is Prince Andrew, the Queen’s favorite, who for the first 22 years of her life had exalted himself in the preeminent status of heir to the throne, effectively presenting his insignia of office.

This high rank of second in line of succession was, of course, long gone with the birth of her nephews William and Harry, and then declined further with the arrival of the brothers’ own families.

But now he had to give up the use of his birthright, HRH – His Royal Highness – the noble title that preceded his name on headers and official releases for nearly 62 years.

The deal had been made before Andrew arrived at his mother’s doorstep, a short drive from his own Windsor home, Royal Lodge. Officially, this was determined for him when a New York judge threw out his last real hope of avoiding trial catastrophe over allegations he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl.

The deal was made before Andrew arrived at his mother’s door, a short drive from his own Windsor home, Royal Lodge, writes RICHARD KAY

Unofficially, the handwriting had been on the wall since the calamity of his TV interview, in which he claimed he had no recollection of meeting his accuser Virginia Roberts and his account that they had sex in UK and US “hadn’t happened. ‘- only to make it worse by failing to offer a word of sympathy for Virginia or the other victims of his pedophile friend Jeffrey Epstein.

For the past two years, Andrew’s debacle has cast a long and deeply disturbing shadow over the royal family and its room for maneuver. At the same time, family sympathy for a prince too often given the benefit of the doubt has faded. As a public relations disaster unfolded, Andrew was at a crossroads.

The affection between the royal brothers and sisters runs deep. When one has an inner crisis, the others rush to his defense. It was the same when Prince Edward wavered about his membership in the Royal Marines and later when Charles was mired in a bitter war with Princess Diana.

For the royal family, blood is always thicker than water. But with the Duke of York, sentiment has been replaced by steely pragmatism. The endless twists and turns of his unsavory affair risk damaging the reputation of the institution of monarchy on a scale not seen since the abdication crisis of the 1930s.

The start of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Year forced royal hands. Yesterday it was made clear that there had been family conferences on Andrew’s issue of the kind not seen since the dark days of the War in Wales, when it was Prince Philip who had pushed the case to the head.

In Philip’s absence, the role of head of the family and domestic executor falls to Prince Charles. It’s about overcoming a natural aversion to confrontation.

However, he made no secret that when he took the throne, he envisioned a lean monarchy with fewer members, which he hoped would be more in tune with modern life.

For the royal family, blood is always thicker than water.  But with the Duke of York, sentiment has been replaced by steely pragmatism

For the royal family, blood is always thicker than water. But with the Duke of York, sentiment has been replaced by steely pragmatism

As part of his plan, the number of front row royals we would see at official ceremonies would be drastically reduced, with Andrew’s daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, with older family members exceeding needs. .

This at times led to tensions between the brothers with the understandably upset Andrew that his daughters, the only two blood princesses of their generation and with the HRH style, were sidelined.

When outcry over Andrew Newsnight’s blunder erupted, it was Charles who pleaded for his brother to step down from public office and retire from royal life. However, he has not abandoned Andrew, for whom he has always felt a strong bond of affection. Rather than turn his back on her, he offered her a shoulder to lean on.

It has always been like this. In the fallout that saw Andrew relinquish his post as itinerant trade ambassador, the prince considered finding a post for his brother on his own staff.

But he changed his mind, sadly confessing to a friend: “The problem with my brother is that he wants to be me.

Nonetheless, I understand that the two princes had a long, heart-to-heart conversation in which Andrew admitted his insanity over his friendship with Epstein but insisted he had done nothing wrong – beyond that. to show a serious lack of judgment.

Prince Andrew is seen with his arm around Virginia Roberts as Ghislaine Maxwell stands in the background, in a now infamous photo from early 2001

Prince Andrew is seen with his arm around Virginia Roberts as Ghislaine Maxwell stands in the background, in a now infamous photo from early 2001

He also vigorously protested his innocence in the face of allegations by Virginia Roberts who accused the prince of rape. But rather than be reassured by Andrew’s strategy over the past two years, Prince Charles was enraged. He has been powerless to act – until now.

Charles, however, did not act alone. The decision to force Andrew to relinquish his military titles and royal sponsorships also bears the imprint of Prince William. An increasingly articulate and influential family member, William recognized the risk to the reputation of the Royal Family posed by his uncle.

He is also, at 39, a man without the feeling of his father and whose relationship with Andrew is not so close.

The Queen appreciates William’s impact – as she did on Prince Harry’s wrath – not least because she recognizes that if the monarchy is to have a long-term future, it rests in her hands, not those of her. dad. She has also learned to appreciate her decision-making spirit, which she believes is so reminiscent of her beloved Philip.

Thanks to the foundations he has found through his marriage to Kate, William is also much more attuned to modern attitudes towards the Royal Family and their privileged lives.

On Monday, he was in Windsor to perform an investiture on behalf of his grandmother, and it may well be that these two wise men have discussed the public relations disaster facing the Royal Family over Andrew.

This unprecedented “sacking” of Andrew also required input from senior officials who have long called for a damage limitation program to protect the monarchy.

For Andrew, the loss of his military positions will be the most cruel cut of all. After all, he was born royal, so he can’t have RHS taken out – he just won’t use it.

But thanks to his two decades of service in the Navy, he enjoys the military side of royal life, and was especially proud to have inherited the post of colonel of the Grenadier Guards from his father, for example.

It was Andrew’s desire to wear formal service attire at his father’s funeral in April that prompted the decision that all royal men would wear morning coats instead.

Some will no doubt see the irony that Andrew is now joining Prince Harry in no longer able to wear a military uniform. For these are the only two royal princes who served in the wartime armed forces and saw the action – Harry in Afghanistan and Andrew in the Falklands.

It’s tempting to wonder what other humiliations can befall a man whose bravery as a helicopter pilot, deflecting Argentine missiles from British warships, has never been in doubt.

Will he, say, continue to live in the cozy luxury of the Royal Lodge with its staff of valets, butlers, maids and chefs? Suggestions that he could move away from Windsor, however, are far from the reality. The queen has become dependent on her almost daily visits.

And as the new grandfather, he wouldn’t want to be separated from his two daughters.

Which brings us to Fergie. So often the source of his troubles in the past, she was a resilient element that held him up through the darkest days.

Now, while he’s cut off from the only life he’s ever known, his role is more important than ever.

So, could remarriage be on the cards? It is perhaps the most sensible gesture he can take, the first step towards rebuilding his life.

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