My husband and I don’t have much time to watch TV and our tastes are pretty different when we do. He loves televised baseball (yuk!) while I would much rather watch reruns of Downton Abbey. However, there are one or two programs that we do both enjoy and have committed to watching together when we can make the time. One of these rare shows that we both love is The Crown, now in its third season and covering the 1960-70s, which include some of the early years of my own life as I was born in 1966 in England.
This fascinating drama is based on actual events in the Queen and royal family’s life, and it makes clear that throughout her life, some members of her family made bad choices which potentially could have endangered the reputation and even the future of the British royal family. Some of these during her long lifetime have rocked the monarchy, starting with the abdication of her uncle King Edward VIII in 1936. Remember that our current queen was not expected to become the monarch since her uncle, Prince Edward, inherited the throne from King George V in 1936. The public assumed he would marry and have children of his own. However, he abdicated the throne later that year so he could marry a divorced American woman in what was seen as the scandal of the century. The abdication put Prince Edward’s brother, the current queen’s father, King George VI, on the throne. He died in 1952 when Elizabeth was only 25 years old and she then had to take on the heavy duties and burden of the monarchy.
Having survived the royal divorces experienced by her sister, Princess Margaret, and three of her four children, the Queen today at the age of 93 is still having to deal with the fallout from her family’s mistakes. The latest drama is that she has effectively fired (the British say ‘sacked’) her 59-year-old second eldest son, Prince Andrew (aka The Duke of York) due to his past association with Jeffrey Epstein. Although he is now only eighth in line to the throne, he was second in the line of succession until Prince Charles married and had sons with Princess Diana.
When I was growing up, the girls of my generation usually had a ‘crush’ on the handsome Prince Andrew who was a dashing naval officer and a hero in the Falklands war of the early 1980s. However, it all went downhill from there. Before he married the Duchess of York in 1986, he had a reputation as a playboy with some less than classy girlfriends. His embarrassing divorce from Sarah Ferguson (known widely as “Fergie”) in 1996 attracted a high level of media coverage due to his wife’s indiscretions, and he has been criticized for still having a relationship with her to this day, despite the way she humiliated him and the royal family. They still live under the same luxurious roof subsidized by the Queen and British taxpayer, and Fergie has publicly defended her ex-husband in recent weeks.
Encouraged by her older son and current heir to the throne Prince Charles, the Queen summoned Prince Andrew to Buckingham Palace recently and told him to stand down immediately from all royal duties because of his association with Epstein. The situation was made much worse by Prince Andrew’s decision last month to do a TV interview which was a PR disaster, notably because he demonstrated little empathy for Epstein’s victims. Prince Andrew is viewed as a key witness to Epstein’s crimes, despite his denials that he ever witnessed anything untoward. He is now being urged to speak to the FBI by flying to the US for formal interviews. If he refuses, Buckingham Palace is braced for the Duke of York to be issued with a subpoena to give evidence in the US. So, the Queen had little choice than to distance the royal family from her own son.
She did allow the Prince (who many believe to be her favorite son) to write his own statement in an attempt to allow him to bow out of public life gracefully: ‘I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.’ It has also been confirmed that he will lose his £250,000 ($323,000) taxpayer-funded annual salary and will only appear in public at family events. Don’t worry too much about him, though. His substantial income from the Queen’s private funds will remain intact and he can still live rent free in his luxurious royal property near Windsor Castle.
Most of the charities that he is involved in have also distanced themselves. Remember that non-profits in the UK compete for senior royals to be associated with them in order to raise their profile and credibility. His grown-up daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie are also likely to lose some of their royal duties and perks because of what, at best, was a grave misjudgement by this high-profile royal prince. The story will no doubt continue for some time to come.
I know that the Queen has had a life of great privilege, but her devotion to the well-being of her country and the monarchy must be difficult to say the least. I am a big fan of the Queen and believe that she has navigated a long lifetime of challenges with good judgement and grace.
I say goodbye this week with an appropriate quote from Queen Elizabeth herself “Like all best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements”.
God Bless America, and the British royal family!
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