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October 17, 2021
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What the last kerfuffle over Prince Andrew tells us about the queen

What the last kerfuffle over Prince Andrew tells us about the queen

Spending 70 years in the same public service job is definitely worth commemorating. On June 2, the United Kingdom will do just that by celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee with four days of festivities.

There’s not a 95-year-old private citizen in the world — let alone a public figure — who is going to change their ways.

As with previous jubilee celebrations, there also will be a medal ceremony. Honorees will include front-line workers and emergency service members, such as police, fire, prison and armed services staff members, who have completed five years of service to the monarchy. Included among the recipients will be royal family members who have served at least one year. That would naturally include the queen’s third child, Prince Andrew, Duke of York — even though he’s facing a lawsuit alleging sexual assault.

The furor that broke out after it was reported that Andrew might be among the Platinum Jubilee medal recipients was utterly predictable. But just as predictable is that the queen would include him. If you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to how the queen operates — even though she has given you seven decades to observe her.

Queen Elizabeth II is one of the world’s longest-reigning monarchs, and even if she weren’t, there’s not a 95-year-old private citizen in the world — let alone a public figure — who is going to change their ways.

Her ways were established back in the speech she gave on the radio on her 21st birthday in 1947 — five years before she ascended to the throne in 1952 and six years before her formal coronation — in which she addressed the Commonwealth nations (today, 15 countries outside the U.K. that still pay allegiance to the queen as their sovereign) and stated, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Duty and service have always come first for the queen. Before anything else. Nothing in the oath she took at her 1953 coronation provides any wiggle room for putting her personal feelings first or allowing herself to be swayed by public opinion.

That’s why — whether or not you believe that Andrew is, in fact, the queen’s favorite child (news flash: Netflix’s “The Crown” is not a documentary) — it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the queen does, indeed, decide to present Andrew with the medal. The medals are awarded for public service, and Andrew did, indeed, serve with honors in the Falklands War and was deemed a hero. He also received medals at the queen’s previous Jubilee celebrations.

And the queen has held fast to her disregard for public opinion in times more trying for the royal family than these. Over the last seven decades on the throne, the queen has had to weather a myriad of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune surrounding her family. From the scandal surrounding her sister Margaret’s desire to marry her divorced lover, Peter Townsend, to staying in her Balmoral vacation home rather than immediately returning to London after the sudden death of Diana to the recent brouhaha over Prince Harry and Meghan’s exit from the royal family, she has remained unbowed.

She even survived Andrew’s earlier scandals, including his divorce from Sarah Ferguson (aka Fergie), who was photographed topless with a man sucking her toes during her separation but before her divorce from Andrew.

The latest Andrew imbroglio is, of course, much worse — and potentially criminal. The now-61-year-old prince has been back in the spotlight over the last couple of years after he was accused of having sex with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, then 17, in 2001 as part of a sex-trafficking ring run by the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. He has maintained his innocence.

Following a disastrous interview with the BBC in November 2019 about his relationship with Epstein, including his visit to the disgraced financier after his 2010 conviction, and his response to Giuffre’s allegations, Andrew stepped down from public duties.

Giuffre has now filed a sexual assault lawsuit against him in federal court in Manhattan, to which he has until Oct. 29 to send a response. According to Giuffre’s attorney, the proceedings are likely to take place around the Jubilee celebrations. The timing couldn’t be more disastrous.

So there’s another reason the queen is unlikely to be moved to tamp down the public outcry by denying her son a symbolic medal. Far more damning for her than awarding the medal would be to leave Andrew off the honors list, because it would almost certainly be seen as making a public statement about him by default.

Even if she thinks he’s guilty, she could still see that as beside the point: Whatever the queen thinks privately about her family members, she will never share those thoughts publicly, either implicitly or explicitly. Denying Andrew this medal would be tantamount to her admitting his guilt. And despite the attempts by the public and the media to put her family scandals at center stage over her royal duties, the queen never has and never will allow that to happen.

She also has a long track record of managing to survive all her decisions that have pitted her against public sentiment. Despite everything, a U.K. poll in April revealed that the queen’s approval rating stood at 85 percent. Not that the queen would even dream of making decisions based on public approval ratings.

For better or for worse, she has maintained the promise she made on her 21st birthday and upheld the oath she took at her coronation. It can’t be an easy path for her to tread; there must be so many things she wants to say but doesn’t. She has remained steadfast throughout.

As William Shakespeare so eloquently opined in “Henry IV, Part 2,” “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Kelly Hartog

Kelly Hartog is an award-winning journalist, editor and book coach living in Los Angeles. She was born in London and remains a loyal subject of Queen Elizabeth II.

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