Finally, there was just the two of them: mother and son, silently conversing and accepting a future that neither of them could have imagined even in their wildest nightmares a few moments before.
There would have been no more intimate moment had the extravagantly ornate ticking clock on the mantelpiece of the Queen’s private apartment in Windsor Castle, where they met yesterday, been wound back half a century to when the Queen was consoling the schoolboy Andrew over a grazed knee, for example.
In front of him stood Prince Andrew, the Queen’s favourite, who had spent the first 22 years of his life exalted in the preeminent rank of heir in line to the throne, virtually handing over his badge of office in the process.
With the birth of his nephews William and Harry, as well as the arrival of the brothers’ own families, his exalted position as second in the line of succession had, of course, long ago vanished off the face of the earth.
The use of his birthright, HRH – His Royal Highness – the high title that has preceded his name on letterheads and official communiques for nearly 62 years, was to be withdrawn from him.
Andrew had already completed the transaction by the time he arrived at his mother’s house, which was only a short drive away from his own Windsor residence, Royal Lodge. Officially, it had been decided in his favour the minute a judge in New York threw out his last realistic hope of avoiding the tragedy of a court battle over allegations that he had sexually abused a 17-year-old girl, which had occurred the day before.
Since the calamity of his TV interview, in which he claimed he had no recollection of meeting his accuser Virginia Roberts and that her claims that they had sex in the UK and US ‘didn’t happen,’ the writing had been on the wall, unofficially, and he only compounded the situation by failing to express sympathy for Virginia or the other victims of his paedophile friend Jeffrey Epstein.
For more than two years, the Andrew scandal has cast a lengthy and deeply distressing shadow over the Royal Family and its ability to manoeuvre in foreign affairs. While this has been happening, family affection for a prince who has been given the benefit of the doubt far too many times has waned. Andrew found himself at a fork in the road as one public relations disaster after another piled up.
The royal siblings have a close bond of affection for one another. When one person is experiencing a domestic crisis, the others come to their aid. It was the same when Prince Edward was unsure about his membership in the Royal Marines, and it was the same when Prince Charles was embroiled in a bitter feud with Princess Di.