Andrew v. Charles: The Case of the York Girls

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On Friday we discussed the press release Kensington Palace issued on Prince Harry’s behalf regarding his relationship with Meghan Markle. But that was only the first part of “Strange Statements From the Royal Family in 2016.” The second part came less than a month later when Andrew, Duke of York, the second son and reportedly favorite child of Elizabeth II, took to Twitter to address press speculation that he was feuding with his elder brother, Charles, Prince of Wales over the role of his daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

The tweet was a simple link signed “AY,” denoting that it came from Andrew himself and not a member of his staff.

Specifically, Andrew said it was inaccurate to claim that he had ever asked that future husbands of his daughters be given titles upon marrying into the royal family, and that there was no dispute with Charles over them. The full statement can be read here.

But let’s back up and discuss these “fabrications.”

It’s been reported for the last five or so years that Prince Charles is in favor of “streamlining” the monarchy to focus on the monarch’s immediate family, or  its “senior members.” His purported belief is that there isn’t a public appetite for the various cousins, aunts and uncles, etc. to work as full-time royals – they are, of course, still private members of the family, but they will not make their living by solely conducting royal engagements, patronizing charities and living in grace and favor palace accommodations.

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Andrew, Duke of York and Charles, Prince of Wales

The monarch’s immediate family would consist of their spouse, their children, their children’s spouses and, if applicable, the monarch’s grandchildren via the eldest child and heir.

But that’s a change, as, to-date, all of a monarch’s grandchildren have been eligible (and were expected to) work as full-time royals, carrying out engagements on the monarch’s behalf.

Now, under Elizabeth II that includes all four of her children (Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward), their spouses (Camilla, Timothy and Sophie), and her grandchildren via Charles (William and Harry, as well as Kate as William’s wife). It also includes, as has been the norm, her cousin, Edward, Duke of Kent (a grandson of George V) and his wife, Katharine. It includes her other cousin, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (another grandson of George V) and his wife, Birgitte. It includes Prince Michael of Kent, the Duke of Kent’s younger brother, and his wife, Princess Michael. And finally, it includes Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy, younger sister of the Duke of Kent.

That’s a considerable number of people, many of whom aren’t well-known by the public. There is no expectation that the offspring of the Kents or the Gloucesters would continue on as full-time royals, not being grandchildren of the monarch.

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The royal family during the 2011 Trooping of the Colour

In theory, though, it could mean that the children of the Queen’s three younger children continued on as full-time royals, however Anne and Edward both declined to give their children HRHs. Neither Peter Philips nor Zara Tindall, Anne’s children, have any title, while Edward’s children have titles in keeping with the children of an earl. All four grandchildren have been and are being brought up with the expectation they will live as private citizens.

This is not, however, the case for Andrew’s daughters, who have been styled HRHs since birth. Today, seemingly in keeping with the wishes of the Queen and Prince Charles, neither woman carries out public engagements or receives funds from the Privy Purse, though they do patronize charities and have, on occasion, represented the Queen at functions. In 2009, Andrew spoke publicly about his desire that his daughters continue his work as trade ambassadors on behalf of the UK, however in 2011 they were stripped of their protection officers after a public row over the costs.

The question is: What does Andrew think of this?

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Eugenie and Beatrice at William and Kate’s wedding in 2011

A lot of this came to a head in 2011/2012. The stripping of the protection officers came within days of the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, in the lead up to which (and following) there was considerable commentary on the fact that Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah, the Duchess of York hadn’t been invited. Nor, indeed, was Beatrice’s long-time boyfriend, David Clark. It called into question what relationship Prince William had with his cousins, and to what extent the antics of their parents in the 1990s had undermined their future.

In 2012, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrating 60 years on the throne, the Buckingham Palace balcony was not weighed down with the Queen’s extended family, or even the members that carry out public engagements on her behalf. Instead, Charles’s vision for a more cost-effective royal family was on display as only he, his wife, his children and Kate stood beside the Queen (Prince Philip was unable to attend due to poor health at the time).

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The “stripped down” monarchy: Camilla, Charles, the Queen, William, Kate and Harry

Andrew was reported to be miffed that he and his other siblings were excluded from the display. And indeed, many of the press reports that have come out in recent months stem from news stories originating during this time period. However, in 2016 the story took a turn when it was said that Andrew had sent a long and angry missive to his mother, the Queen, demanding that his daughters be made full-time working royals, claiming they were in danger of being over-shadowed by William, Kate and Harry. The Queen, in turn, was said to have handed the letter  over to one of her minister, so rattled was she by its contents.

Around the same time, it also came out that Andrew apparently wanted Beatrice and Eugenie’s future husbands to be given titles. Beatrice is currently single, having split up with David Clark in the summer of 2016, however Eugenie is still with her long-time boyfriend and the subject of ongoing engagement speculation.

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Beatrice and Eugenie with their uncle, Prince Charles, and grandmother, Queen Elizabeth

So, why now? Well, the Queen is getting older and it’s become clear that things are going to change during the reign of Prince Charles. In keeping with his wishes, it wouldn’t just be the York girls affected, it would be Andrew himself, as well as his siblings, Anne and Edward. William and Kate would move into the position of Prince and Princess of Wales, while Harry (and, someday, his spouse) would taking on a significantly larger workload. In theory, Andrew is worried about his daughters’ future.

But, once again, the real shocker is the Twitter-released statement. This narrative is years-old and, let’s be honest, this is emphatically not one of the more embarrassing stories that the press have reported on Prince Andrew. It might not even make the top 50. I think the game-changer here is the focus on his daughters, as opposed to him or his ex-wife – and if that’s the case, it speaks well of Andrew. But I think this move also stems from the royal family’s newer trend of cutting through the media to reach the public. The statement comes from Twitter, it’s candid, it’s straight forward and it’s a strong denial.

And, not for nothing, it worked. There were a wealth of news articles after its release about how strange the move was, and speculation as to the relationship between Charles and Andrew, as well the York girls with William and Kate, but a month and half later, all is quiet on the western royal front.

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William and Kate leaving a church service in honor of the Diamond Jubilee, with Eugenie, Beatrice and Andrew (as well as Peter Philips) on the stairs

This story isn’t over, obviously. The perhaps-fabricated feud between Charles and Andrew is a fantastic narrative because it’s classically royal – you could take the core of these reports and drop them in any century and it would feel right. The Duke of York jealous of the Prince of Wales? Blood princesses being slighted by the heir’s new wife? They could be Plantagenets or Tudors or Stuarts and it would look roughly the same.

In the end, Charles will get his way. And God knows, Andrew hasn’t made a great case for himself being an integral cog in the machine.

As for Beatrice and Eugenie, they have my sympathies. They’re in an uncomfortable grey area of being paparazzi fodder and average 20-somethings. They’re famous, but with a distinct Kardashian edge to it, because they haven’t “done” anything and yet they have the expectation and weight of the British Royal Family above, not behind, them. They could begin to build successful careers: Eugenie appears to have done that in the art world, though Beatrice seems to lack the interest or the ability to sustain a long-term job. They could do something substantial with their charities – and, to be fair, they are active with charities – but they also lack the high-profile that William, Kate and Harry possess.

The silver lining is that it will get easier. As Andrew’s star fades, so, too, will theirs. The position they hold as the monarch’s granddaughters will someday be the monarch’s nieces and the monarch’s cousins. And, as seen by how few people are familiar with the ins and outs of the Dukes of Kent and Gloucester, relative anonymity will eventually be theirs to enjoy, if they want it.

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Beatrice and Eugenie with William and Kate on the BP balcony

One thought on “Andrew v. Charles: The Case of the York Girls

  1. Pingback: Royal Roundup Feb. 11-17: Tea Parties, Dancing & All the Engagements – Rebecca Starr Brown

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