It was described as a “family decision.”
But there is a sense that it may have been more like an edict or decree, with some in the Royal Family — particularly Princes Charles and William — doing whatever they could to ensure someone else — Prince Andrew — stayed well out of public view.
Andrew, who settled a civil sexual abuse lawsuit recently and had repeatedly denied the allegations at the heart of it, was at private events associated with the Order of the Garter, a high-profile annual royal occasion. But there was no sign of him in the public procession associated with the ceremony the other day.
While it’s hard to know exactly what calculations played out behind palace walls, it’s widely reported that Charles and William were behind the decision to keep Andrew out of sight on Garter Day — a move that came after an order of service for the event was printed, indicating he would be in the procession.
“It’s very clear that the direct line of the Royal Family is not interested in scandals involving junior members of the Royal Family overshadowing their own work and public role,” Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris said in an interview.
This all comes in a period of transition for the House of Windsor, with signs pointing to a slimmed-down monarchy in the future, focused particularly on those in the direct line of succession.
At the same time, there are hints that the 62-year-old Andrew, who now sits at No. 9 in the line, may want to resume some kind of public role after having lost his military affiliations and royal patronages amid the sex abuse lawsuit.
“Prince Andrew’s disappearance from public life shows that the Royal Family is taking this seriously,” said Harris.
“However, there has been some evidence that Prince Andrew is eager to retain at least some of his military commissions, for instance. So it’s clearly been a struggle to ensure that he stays completely out of the public eye.”
Andrew’s reputation sank like a stone, particularly after his disastrous 2019 interview with the BBC over his friendship with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. There’s little sense it has recovered.
“He just doesn’t get it,” British PR expert Mark Borkowski said in an interview.
“He clearly thinks that he has so much more to give and … he’s not recognizing that the public opinion has banished him.”
Charles and William see that, said Borkowski, “and what the Royal Family has clearly telegraphed through all these recent celebrations … is that it’s going to be a very different Royal Family under Charles. [And it will be an] even more slimmed-down version of the Royal Family that will be presided over by King William.”
In a sense, Andrew is “embedding an image of an old Royal Family,” said Borkowski. And in some ways, he said, people “respect more what Charles and William are trying to do to modernize the Royal Family,” even as Andrew is like an “albatross around the neck.”
Still, there is the question of just what Andrew’s future might hold for him.
“It remains to be seen if Prince Andrew will be completely ignored or if the Royal Family will simply find a way to keep him occupied out of the public eye,” said Harris, noting for example the possibility of having him manage royal estates, such as Balmoral or Sandringham.
All this comes as there are signals that two other junior members of the Royal Family, who also courted controversy, will retire from public life.
Reports suggest Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, and his wife, Princess Michael of Kent, will officially step back next month, as he turns 80 on July 4.
Prince Michael’s ties to Russia came under scrutiny after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. He gave up his role as patron of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, along with returning an Order of Friendship award he received from the Kremlin in 2009.
“Prince Michael’s connections to Russia have attracted particular controversy in recent months,” said Harris. “And we’ve seen that the main line of succession simply doesn’t want the press focused on scandals related to junior members of the Royal Family and to keep the focus on the direct line of succession.”
Prince William readily acknowledges he “may seem like one of the most unlikely advocates” for those who are homeless.
But the second in line for the throne says he’s “always believed in using my platform to help tell those stories and to bring attention and action to those who are struggling.”
“I plan to do that now I’m turning 40 even more than I have in the past,” he wrote recently in The Big Issue, a magazine in support of those who are homeless, long-term unemployed or trying to avoid going into debt.
William, whose 40th birthday was on Tuesday, went incognito in central London earlier this month, selling copies of the magazine. Writing in its most recent issue, he said he “wanted to experience the other side.”
In doing so, he was sending some of the clearest indications yet about how he sees his role and the future of the monarchy.
“We see William highlighting causes that are important to him and also emphasizing that members of the Royal Family can make a difference without necessarily being at a high-profile event with numerous photographers,” Harris said.
Borkowski said that William is “defining a real sense of who he might be and sending signals about who that person is going to be, which is a lot more open, less governed by the … old ways.”
Along with signals about William himself, there’s been a lot of focus recently on William’s role within the Royal Family.
“There’s a very strong emphasis on the Duke of Cambridge’s support for his father, the Prince of Wales,” said Harris, noting they both attended the state opening of the British Parliament and were on the parade ground for Trooping the Colour during events to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this month.
More and more, says Harris, we’re seeing events with multiple generations of the Royal Family that “emphasizes continuity at a time when there has been conflict with junior members of the Royal Family.”
“There’s a very strong emphasis on the main line of succession all working together,” she said, along with a higher profile for William’s family.
The first joint portrait of William and his wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, was unveiled Thursday. Their children, who have made relatively few public appearances, were front and centre during several Jubilee events and appearances on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
“We’re also seeing William’s role as the father of the next generation of the Royal Family very much in the public eye,” said Harris.
With the increased prominence of his family, the political and the personal are coming closer together for William.
“That Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were very prominent at the Platinum Jubilee … symbolizes four generations of the Royal Family, but it also led to a lot of scrutiny of the children and their demeanour at these events,” said Harris.
Was Prince Louis, 4, tired because he was up past his bedtime? Is Prince George, 8, naturally shy and would this have been a lot for him to be in the public eye?
“We see both the royal children being there as part of the continuity of the Royal Family, but we also see the public connecting with William and Catherine as parents, and debating and discussing their children in that context,” said Harris.