Watching the solitary and dark-suited Prince Andrew tramp around the sweltering heat of North Eastern India on an official Royal visit with no more than one local photographer following his footsteps, it is hard to believe there was a time when ‘Randy Andy’ was the glamorous, popular, young Royal, the Prince Harry of his day.
Andrew fought in the Falklands, and when the handsome warrior Prince returned to the homeland, he greeted his mother on the docks at Portsmouth in full naval regalia with a long-stemmed red rose clenched between his teeth. Randy Andy promptly threw himself into a string of tabloid-pleasing love affairs, and was seen wherever society gathered with a succession of ever-more glamorous girlfriends (culminating in Koo Stark) on his arm.
Then he married Sarah Ferguson.
The court of public opinion is a fickle mistress, and Sarah did for Andrew. She keeps doing for him as well, most recently by drunkenly offering to sell access to him to an undercover tabloid reporter.
Despite all this, Andrew still allows the spendthrift Fergie, NFI at the Royal Wedding, to live with him when she is England. And now a greying and overweight Prince Andrew is paying the price for Fergie - forlornly shaking hands with the Indian external affairs minister while his brother Charles rubs salt into the wounds and announces well-attended springtime trips to Canada with Camilla.
Andrew had wanted to bring his daughter Beatrice with him to India, which might at least have added a little glamour and some silly hat photo-ops, but the powers at the Palace nixed that plan, a move widely seen as part of the continuing easing-out of the Royal picture of the embarrassing Yorks.
Beatrice has already had her police protection withdrawn, and her younger sister Eugenie has been put on notice that she will be stripped of her bodyguards when she finishes university later this year. Prince Andrew, having argued vociferously that his daughter’s HRH status makes them particularly subject to terrorist attack in the year of the Olympics, now faces an annual bill of £500,000 to provide such protection out of his own pocket.
Andrew was totally outmaneuvered in the game of Palace politics over his India trip. The absence of Beatrice has ensured that it is now attracting absolutely zero public interest.
What a shame, and yet how very convenient this state of affairs could be for those, like Charles, who advocate a ‘slimmed-down’ monarchy. Charles knows that there is no way the British public will continue to tolerate vast numbers of minor royals living off the public purse after he accedes to the throne, and is known to favour a greatly reduced roster of working royals (ie, his own sons).
The lingering ghost of Fergie rattling around in Andrew’s spare room and a peaceful Indian trip means that sacrificing the Yorks on the altar of austerity has never been easier.