For all the faults of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, even their harshest critics would admit their complete devotion to their children.
Despite their many affairs and romances (and much to Prince Philip’s bemusement), the pair have such a good divorce that they still live together.
So it will no doubt be particularly galling for both of them that, as 2020 draws to a close, they now face Christmas apart from their children after the United Kingdom was ordered into a strict new lockdown by the country’s prime minister, Boris Johnson.
Eugenie, 30, and her big sister Beatrice, 32, now both married, would have undoubtedly hoped to spend Christmas with their parents at their splendid home, Royal Lodge in Great Windsor Park. However, coronavirus restrictions now in place across London and much of the south of England mean the family won’t be able to gather for the Christmas holiday.
It will be a miserable end to a terrible year for Andrew, although few will shed a tear for the former playboy prince given that it was his friendship with the monstrous sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein that brought him to this pass.
Things went drastically wrong for Prince Andrew in November 2019. This was when a fairly straightforward plan to get himself in front of a camera and issue an apology for his association with Epstein went off the rails.
In the now-notorious interview with the BBC’s Newsnight program, Andrew failed to show any sympathy for Epstein’s victims and denied any memory of ever meeting Virginia Roberts Giuffre. He implied that a photograph of him with Roberts Giuffre in Ghislaine Maxwell’s apartment was a fake.
He said he couldn’t have had sex with her because he was at a branch of British restaurant chain Pizza Express. He alleged he did not sweat, prompting a barrage of photos of him sweating profusely to be published in the media. He said he didn’t regret his friendship with Epstein.
Five days later, Andrew was unceremoniously kicked out of The Firm, as the business end of the operations of the royal family is referred to by its CEO. He was stripped of all official roles and his round-the-clock armed police protection and was even evicted from his office in Buckingham Palace.
Andrew was perhaps fortunate that the tsunami of royal news surrounding Harry and Meghan’s departure from the royal family in the early part of 2020 pushed his story down news feeds.
For that very reason, however, it is more important than ever to remind ourselves that Andrew stands accused of spending much of 2020 declining to honor an explicit commitment he gave to help Epstein investigators.
His offer to provide whatever co-operation was required of him to help the authorities investigating Epstein—and to bring some measure of closure to the pedophile financier’s victims—has been revealed as a sham, fine words entirely unsupported by matching actions.
His exact words on the issue, made in a statement as he announced his departure from public life, were as follows: “I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.
“I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency.”
It wasn’t long into 2020 that Andrew’s offers of help were exposed as hot air.
On Jan. 26, the U.S. attorney for Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, made a public declaration that Andrew was providing “zero co-operation” to the FBI investigation into Epstein.
From the palace came silence. Into the news void came celebrity attorneys Lisa Bloom and her mother, Gloria Allred, who between them were representing at least six of Epstein’s alleged victims.
Bloom told the BBC the alleged victims were “outraged” by the Duke of York not assisting the U.S. authorities, and said, “I’m glad that Geoffrey Berman has gone public to try to embarrass Prince Andrew, who made one statement and then behind closed doors is doing something very different. The five Epstein victims who I represent are outraged and disappointed at Prince Andrew's behavior here.
“If Prince Andrew truly has done nothing wrong, then it’s incumbent upon him to go and speak to the FBI at a time that’s convenient for him and say what he knows. Perhaps he can help bring other people to justice.”
Brazenly, Andrew continued to insist that he was more than happy to talk to U.S. investigators and claimed he was bewildered by their claims that he was the one creating obstructions to an interview.
In March, however, Berman told reporters: “Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to cooperate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation and our office is considering its options.”
Berman was fired from his AG role in June on Donald Trump’s orders and his successor, Audrey Strauss, has not gone after Andrew in the same public manner.
In May, it emerged that Andrew and Sarah were being sued for failing to pay the final installment of almost $9 million on a Swiss ski chalet they bought in 2014. The seven-bedroom ski lodge, with an indoor pool and sauna, went on sale for $20 million earlier this year, as the Yorks desperately tried to settle the contract. It has still not sold, and the Yorks are said to be contemplating a massive price cut to unload it.
The couple were said to be in severe financial difficulty. Their income streams evaporated as Ferguson’s book deals and TV contracts were canceled.
Standing by your man may be an admirable trait, but the steady drip of revelations about how Andrew misled viewers of that BBC interview and how he evades questioning by the authorities was not likely to attract new investors to Fergie.
This Christmas she launched a mind-bogglingly odd YouTube channel for children that has garnered just a few thousand subscribers. If this is her pathway back to profitability, she has a long way to go.
The devastation of the couple’s income will have been an extremely painful blow for status-obsessed Andrew. He may be staggeringly wealthy by normal standards, but in comparison with billionaires like Epstein he was a pauper.
The unfairness of his relative penury compared to his staggeringly wealthy brother Charles always grated; Charles has a vast personal fortune estimated at some $400 million, and will inherit his mother’s estate tax free when he becomes king.
Andrew’s desperation for the trappings of extreme wealth made him an easy target for those looking to exploit his royal name; witness his shady connections to the son-in-law of the former president of Kazakhstan who purchased his dilapidated house, Sunninghill Park, for $4 million above the asking price in 2007, a shocking incident of apparently blatant corruption that, shamefully, was never investigated by the British police.
Andrew is, former staffers and even his friends will tell you, a tactless and self-important man. A source once told me that at a shooting weekend, Andrew walked into the breakfast room and when people didn’t stand up as a mark of respect to his HRH status, he said, “Let’s try that again,” walked out of the room and walked back in again. The other guests remained seated.
Andrew’s legal team, who now deal with press enquiries about him, wouldn’t confirm or deny this story to The Daily Beast. However, the anecdote demonstrates what many believe to be a fatal problem for Andrew’s reputation—the way his own self-importance interacts with the indifference or contempt of others.
The year 2020 was when Andrew’s hubris, arrogance, and selfishness were finally revealed to the world in graphic detail. The toxicity around him was so severe he was erased from the official wedding photographs released by Buckingham Palace of his daughter Beatrice’s July wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. Andrew and Fergie were both there, but only the Queen and Prince Philip appeared in the pictures. The parents did not.
Even as she was forced to publicly ex-communicate him, the Queen has seemed to stand by Andrew in private. Viewers of The Crown will have seen this season’s episode where the arrogant Andrew is portrayed as her favorite child. This year, she reportedly intervened, so he could keep his mega-expensive security detail. In the summer, he visited her for “crisis talks” at Balmoral. He has been pictured riding at Windsor, where the Queen and Prince Philip are in residence.
What lies in Andrew’s future? Possibly one or many of these: declining foreign travel, a declining income, and a dramatic reduction in the number of pleasant invitations to shooting weekends in his email inbox, more or less in direct correlation with an escalating number of less-pleasant invitations from global police forces to join them for a cozy chat about Jeffrey Epstein.
If Andrew and Fergie thought 2020 was bad, 2021 could get a lot worse.