Once again, the most uncomfortable of royal questions is being asked--just what is the purpose of Prince Andrew? And what, furthermore, is the purpose of his family?
Once upon a time, the default response to such an impertinent question would have been to argue that the Yorks’ function was to provide support and pizzazz to charitable foundations, and help boost the take at the associated fundraisers.
Now, Andrew argues on his website, he “works to promote economic growth and skilled job creation in the United Kingdom”.
The fact that he was sacked as an ambassador for British business in 2012, after a photograph of he and Epstein strolling together in Central Park was published, seems to have left his enthusiasm for the task undimmed.
To be fair, Andrew does have his supporters in the business community. “I go to a lot of those things and they are deathly dull. The arrival of Andrew does improve the atmosphere,” says one British entrepreneur.
However, others argue that Andrew, who has had no significant business experience to speak of, is a bad choice to be flying the flag for Britain’s economic fortunes, and question how he is funded.
“It’s never entirely clear quite what he is doing, or how he has been got there,” says a source. “He is often funded and put up by private individuals.”
Indeed, Andrew’s friendships with shady, yacht–and-helicopter-owning billionaires, such as Kazakhstan’s Timur Kulibayev, who bought his house (which he was given by the Queen) for £3m above the guide price – have always been viewed with the utmost suspicion by his enemies and detractors. He recently bought a $15m ski lodge in Verbier, presumably not paid for out of his army pension.
It is apparently co-owned by his former wife, Sarah Ferguson (who in 2010 plunged Andrew into a cash for access scandal when she was caught on tape telling an undercover reporter posing as a businessman that the Prince was in on a scam she was suggesting, and that he had suggested a £500,000 introduction fee. "Andrew said to me, 'Tell him £500,000,'” Fergie told the News of the World, adding, “Look after me and he'll look after you... you'll get it back tenfold.")
The Yorks now find themselves marooned midway between a life as private citizens and public servants, and buffeted by the fresh waves of negative public opinion.
This is not just down to the unproven sex allegations leveled at Prince Andrew by a 19-year old who once ‘worked’ for his old pal, the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein (allegations which a judge recently struck out).
Although the reminder of Andrew’s once close-connections to Epstein has hardly helped the general perception of him as a petulant playboy, the question of why-are-we-paying-for-these-people-? is being asked with renewed vigor following coverage in the UK of Prince Andrew’s daughter, Princess Beatrice.
Beatrice, who is described on Andrew's website as working “full-time in business” has come under heavy fire after it was revealed that she had taken 11 lavish foreign holidays in the last six months, including visits to Beijing, Verbier, and St Barts (twice).
Given that Beatrice receives no public funding and hasn’t even been working for the past six months (she left a job at Sony after the hacking attack there, apparently over privacy concerns) one is entitled to ask who is paying for the trips? “Privately-funded” is the official mantra—ie none of your beeswax.
But, much like her dad, the answer seems to be assorted private individuals. The Beijing trip was to attend the wedding of David Tang’s daughter and in the Caribbean she was a guest on the Mittal yacht.
The Daily Mail claimed, ‘Her father buys a business-class ticket on British Airways, but they always bump her up to first’.
Her dad’s money comes from the Queen.
And the Queen’s money comes from…oh, yes. Us.
It’s hard to think of any positive contribution that Beatrice, whose long-term boyfriend Dave Clark works for Virgin Galactic but is moving to Uber, makes to national British life, and this is liable to be even further reduced if rumors that she is about to move to New York--where her sister Eugenie already lives--prove true.
Eugenie appears to be the least grasping member of the York clan and has largely managed to avoid attracting the kind of negative attention that has followed her sister, by moving to America, and working in an online auction house.
Few will criticize her for taking a trip Coachella music festival in California last weekend.
But when it comes to the rest of the York family, it's hard to avoid the feeling that here is a clan intent on squeezing every last drop of high living out of a crumbling system.
The big problem of course, as always, has always been that the tastes of the Yorks are expensive, but none of them seem to have jobs.
Although Prince Andrew has been pretty much cleared of any involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal after a judge ordered his name is struck from the court filing by women who alleged that she had sex with him while she was underage, the brouhaha surrounding the controversy has shone an unwelcome line on Andrew's flamboyant and expensive lifestyle.
No wonder that Charles is so fed up with the antics of his younger brother, that he is more determined than ever to exclude him from the inner circle of monarchy when he accedes to the throne.