The only member of the Royal Family I’ve ever seen in person is no longer a fixture of said institution on account of the Grim Reaper. She was Princess Margaret, the Queen’s ‘Swinging’ sister who married a hip photographer and had a fling with a failed pop singer who became a gardener; she also (allegedly) had a penchant for marvelling at the notorious measurements of actor-cum-villain John Bindon – if the gossip from her one-time Caribbean hideaway of Mustique is to be believed. Anyway, nothing so scandalous informed the occasion in which I observed her zoom past in a black limo en route to open a new primary school around a mile from my own seat of learning at the time (1977). To me, she resembled an old-school movie star – like Greta Garbo; my memory tells me she was wearing white gloves and shades; but my memory is probably being its usual cheating bastard self.
Princess Margaret was easy to warm to depending on what you want from the lucky sods on the Civil List. If a hedonistic party animal who invites the likes of Peter Sellers into her bed, but also finds time to do her duty on behalf of charity and can be gently ribbed by the Pythons in the form of ‘the dummy Princess Margaret’ ticks the requisite boxes, so be it. Actually, that’s pretty fine by me. I always imagined Margaret would’ve been pretty entertaining company, not so heavy on the faux-social conscience lecturing that entered the House of Windsor with a certain Diana and appears to have infected the next generation with the kind of condescending designs for life best left in the ridiculous hands of Gwyneth Paltrow and co.
Then again, Brenda’s own children have been rather problematic in the public arena over the decades. Princess Anne came across as a bit of a saucy deb in her youth, but marriage and childbearing quickly gifted her with the sour-faced equine expression she’s worn (along with that curious Edwardian hair) ever since; Prince Edward has had to live with ‘It’s a Royal Knockout’ as his greatest cultural contribution for over 30 years; and what’s left to say about Brian that hasn’t already been said since his investiture as Prince of Wales half-a-century ago? Which leaves us with the man the Murdoch press once always referred to as ‘Randy Andy’. Ah…
In terms of content, the snippet of video footage from 2010 that emerged a week or so ago of Prince Andrew poking his head through the doorway of Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan residence and waving goodbye to the kind of young lady that tends to be mysteriously attracted to silver-haired millionaires doesn’t say much, really. It’s more about the context, shot as it was after said dead ‘playboy’ had already served a custodial sentence for soliciting prostitution from a minor and was a registered sex offender as a result. Bearing that in mind, one could say Andrew’s presence even at the time was questionable; in the light of more recent events, however, it looks ill-advised, to say the least. But, then, the Duke of York is not a man renowned for sound judgement.
There’s his on/off relationship with the equally unlovable Sarah Ferguson; the fact that the taxpayer footed the bill for the wedding of a daughter so far back in the line of succession that there’s more chance of Helen Mirren or Olivia Colman becoming the real Queen than her; and then there’s his dodgy acquaintances and business associates, the kind of company even Mark Thatcher would baulk at keeping. Jeffrey Epstein was merely one of many, though one with the potential to be the most damaging (even during his lifetime), regardless of the fact that the media still doesn’t recognise the distinction between paedophile and pederast.
What the rumours currently encircling Prince Andrew have proven yet again, however, is how much easier it is to believe the worst of an unloved public figure than a beloved one. When it comes to the House of Windsor, few elder members of the dynasty do themselves any favours in the eyes of the public, and Andrew is said to be the most pompous, self-important and arrogant of the lot, which – again – isn’t difficult to believe. He always strikes me as a bit thick, to be honest. The popularity he achieved back in his bachelor days as a soldier boy seems a very long time ago now; but let us not forget we are almost four decades away from both the Falklands War and Randy Andy’s brief, if sensational dalliance with actress Koo Stark, so that’s no surprise; the decades since have not been kind to Andrew’s public image, though he only really has himself to blame. The sordid stories doing the rounds at the moment seem to be being given credence mainly because Andrew rubs so many people up the wrong way.
For every person who regarded Jimmy Savile as a selfless charity fund-raiser and amusing eccentric, there were just as many who viewed him as a slightly creepy egomaniac with a remarkable absence of talent; both opinions held sway during Savile’s lifetime, though only one has been accepted as fact since his death – with other ‘offences’ posthumously taken into consideration, of course. Similarly, Andrew’s one-time friendship with Epstein, a figure whose after-life is being documented in terms that are now so boringly familiar, has given carte blanche for the resurfacing of long-standing grievances with a man it’s admittedly hard to like.
It goes without saying that the tabloid press is having fun with this story, but conspiracy theories and speculation naturally spread with far more speed online. Facebook in particular – which these days feels increasingly like the regional TV station to Twitter’s network channel – has seen an amusing abundance of the ‘I always knew he was a wrong ‘un’ attitude over recent days in relation to Andrew, with many commentators I’ve read lazily going along with assumptions that support their own lowly opinion of the man under the spotlight. As far as I can gather, no one in the real world (as opposed to cyberspace) has accused Andrew of anything on the alleged scale of his deceased acquaintance, just a discredited allegation he had ‘sexual encounters’ with the then-17 year-old Epstein masseuse Virginia Roberts/Giuffre back in 2001, something Andrew himself has unsurprisingly denied.
Personally, as long as he hasn’t done anything that has caused anyone serious harm, I couldn’t care less what a posh, pampered twit like the Duke of York gets up to behind closed doors. I can’t say I’m especially interested in him, even when his name is scandalously attached to the current contender for the Harvey Weinstein bogeyman-of-the-moment award. But I guess his unwise association with Epstein has played into the hands of Fleet Street’s endless baffling obsession with the Windsor’s and rekindled the press’s ceaseless determination to convince us we’re all so fascinated with the family that we want to read about them constantly. As far as I can see, we’re not.
© The Editor