Royal Roundup: Balmoral, Andrew & Cruachan IV

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This is proving an odd summer for the British Royal Family. Per tradition, members of the family pack it in for the month of August, engagements slow (in some cases to a screeching halt), and holidays are taken by not only the royals, but their staffs and the reporters who cover them. The risk with this schedule is that when there is news it has a way of dominating attention because there’s nothing else going on with which to distract. Such is the case this week, so let’s get into it.

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We’ll start with the positive: Queen Elizabeth has officially taken up residence at Balmoral Castle, the family’s private estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The Queen arrived last Monday, but before going through the gates she inspected the Balaklava Company, part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and was reunited with their Shetland pony mascot, Cruachan IV.

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Cruachan, a personal favorite of mine, caught attention back in 2017 when he famously started eating the Queen’s bouquet. He was better behaved this year, but HRH made a point of greeting him sans flowers.

As for other holidays…we know that the Cambridges spent two weeks in Mustique last month. It’s unclear (as far as I’ve seen) whether the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have taken a particular holiday out of the country. But it was reported last week that ahead of decamping to Balmoral with her husband, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall spent some time on the Greek island of Corfu. It doesn’t look like Charles was with her, but she was with a party of friends. Per Hello!:

“They were taken by boat from the Mayor’s Step in Garitsa to the Rothschild villa in Kerasia, which is where Camilla and her husband Prince Charles usually stay when they visit the Greek island. The sprawling villa, which has been dubbed the ‘Kensington Summer Palace’, features an outdoor pool and is surrounded by age-old pine trees, greenery and waterfalls.”

Charles, for his part, was photographed last weekend attending the Mey Highland Games.

The upside for the RF of Balmoral is that they are generally afforded complete privacy during their residence. The only peek we have of them is usually on Sundays when they are pictured driving to and from church. It becomes a bit of a weekly watch as you get a sense for who from the family is visiting when. Charles and Camilla, for instance, are usually on hand since they take up summer residence at the nearby Birkhall, while the Queen’s younger three children are  pretty dependable.

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Yesterday was the first such Sunday, but the wrinkle came with the fact that news broke  Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell on Saturday morning following the release of documents implicating a host of high-profile individuals, the Duke of York among them. I discussed the allegations against Prince Andrew last month and won’t re-hash them here, but the long and short of it is that even if the Duke is innocent (as he has claimed to be), he is at the very least guilty of extremely poor judgment and knowingly pursuing a friendship with a convicted sex offender. Not for nothing, but he also helped facilitate a significant loan for his ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, from Epstein, the full details of which remain murky.

Lo and behold, on Sunday morning Andrew was photographed riding in the car with his mother and his elder daughter, Princess Beatrice, on his way to church. The optics indicate that the Queen is lending her second son her support once again, but for the first time that might not be enough.

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It’s worth noting that the RF purposefully used a Bentley for the ride as opposed to the more traditional Range Rover. The Bentley has larger windows, which allow for a clearer look at who’s riding inside. My sense is that everyone knew exactly what they were doing yesterday and this was a marked point.

Obviously Andrew hasn’t been convicted of anything yet, and that’s an important point, but the fact remains that there’s a lot of smoke and given the current climate, I think it was a mistake to have Andrew riding next to the Queen. A separate car would have been smarter, and I’m of the mind that for the near future it’s time for the RF to curtail Andrew representing his mother in any official capacity.

In the meantime, we’ll see how this plays out. I have a feeling there’s more to come…

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One more word on the Yorks…it’s long been rumored that the Duke of Edinburgh refuses to be in the same room as his ex-daughter-in-law, Sarah, Duchess of York. Well, unfortunately for her, she was forced to cut short her on holiday to Balmoral by a day when Prince Philip turned up early. There’s been speculation for years that Andrew and his ex-wife will remarry once Philip dies, but I’ll be honest…I’m less optimistic, and frankly I don’t think it’s a great idea. Regardless, the two get along famously and for the last few years Fergie has been visiting Balmoral when Philip is away to spend time with her daughters and the rest of the family.

In other royal news, the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito of Japan will be held on October 22nd. International royals have been invited to attend, but it’s unclear who from the UK will be deployed. The most obvious choice is Charles and Camilla, but it could well be the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Less likely – but not out of the realm of possibility – is William and Kate. I don’t think anybody else in the family would be senior enough (and let’s just assume it won’t be Andrew).

Season 3

Last but not least, Netflix announced that the third season of The Crown will drop on November 17th this year. As I did for the first two seasons, I’ll be re-capping each episode and providing some light fact-checking and/or additional context as necessary. When we get closer to the date we’ll do a little catch up and set the stage. In the meantime, happy Monday!

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