Prince Andrew, a source tells The Daily Beast, was a guest at a weekend-long shooting party recently, and on the morning of the second day he made his way down to the kitchen where the other guests were eating their breakfast.
As Andrew entered the room, the other guests looked up from their newspapers, grunted, and went back to their toast and marmalade in time-honored British fashion.
Displeased at their failure to stand up when His Royal Highness entered the room, Andrew apparently said, “Let’s try that again shall we?” left the room and walked back in again (he still did not receive his standing ovation).
This anecdote—the palace chose not to comment about the tale when approached by The Daily Beast—offers a revealing insight into the vexed question why Prince Andrew has found it so hard to define and inhabit a role over the years.
He’s just, as one source puts it, “a bit of a knob” who lacks a “social antenna” (for the benefit of The Daily Beast’s American readers, “knob” is British slang for a part of the penis).
There is only really one rule for British royals: Be nice to everyone you meet. But Prince Andrew seems unable to fulfill even this meager requirement. Instead, a combination of arrogance and ineptitude in his dealings with others continually inspire laughter and contempt from those who meet him.
If the shooting party story shows his arrogance, his ineptitude was on full display in an interview last weekend in which he sought to burnish his reputation as Britain’s business leader—even though he was removed from the position of global British business ambassador in 2011 after a string of irregular financial transactions emerged, and he was photographed taking a friendly walk in Central Park with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Being obliged to step down from that role has apparently failed to quench Andrew’s thirst to be recognized as one of Britain’s greatest businessmen, despite having no track record as a successful innovator, manager, or entrepreneur in the private sector.
He has, however, launched a successful program for connecting business start-ups with investors called Pitch@Palace, which leverages the excitement of an invite to Buckingham Palace to generate interest in (and finance for) start ups.
It was to promote “Pitch,” as his aides call it, that Andrew ostensibly last week gave a big interview to The Sunday Times. In reality, Andrew seemed much more concerned with portraying himself as a maverick business genius.
No summary of Prince Andrew’s business acumen can ignore the particularly successful sale of his marital home, the vast Sunninghill Park in Berkshire, to Timur Kulibayev, son-in-law of the autocratic ruler of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who paid £3 million (more than $4 million) over the asking price.
Andrew was a regular visitor to Kazakhstan at the time as part of his role as U.K. Special Representative for Trade and Investment. He even went goose hunting with the then-president.
The palace has always insisted that the deal was legitimate and that Andrew was merely “fortunate” to get such a good price for the house, but Sunninghill became shorthand in the public mind for Andrew’s apparent abuse of his power and connections.
In one of the most cringe-worthy sections of the interview, Andrew referred to himself as “an ideas factory” and for good measure added: “I am referred to at home as the entrepreneur-in-residence at Buckingham Palace.”
However the paper’s writer, John Arlidge, elegantly exposed the vain and petulant man many of his critics have long asserted Andrew to be.
In one of the most hilarious/awful parts of the interview, Andrew said: “Every single day I learn something new. And over the past 20 years I’ve learnt something that I think has been useful in order to bring back into some of the things that are going on within the palace.”
Arlidge not unrealistically asked him to give him an example of what he had “brought back” which led to a “long silence.”
Andrew then groaned, before his aide whispered in his ear, and Andrew piped up that he had put “a very big white piece of masking tape” over the “No” of the “No Mobile Phones” signs at Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace, before adding he was going to “upgrade the wi-fi.”
It was a truly pathetic performance, and The Sunday Times delighted in running Andrew’s answers verbatim.
So why doesn’t Andrew just shuffle off into a gilded retirement and let us forget about him? Why keep reminding us of his presence?
Kremlinologists suggest that the real force behind the relentless promotion of Andrew as Britain’s answer to Steve Jobs is his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, who Andrew and all those around him (and herself) still refer to as the Duchess.
Fergie, as the rest of Britain calls her, is said to be keen to keep Andrew in a public role for fear that her status and that of her daughters will suffer if he is not widely recognized as an important part of the family.
The fortunes of the divorced couple are deeply intertwined. They jointly own a $17.4 million chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. She usually attends the Pitch events. There has been some speculation they will remarry.
The theory runs that the duchess keeps pushing Andrew forward because the big open secret in palace circles is that the queen adores Andrew but Charles can’t bear him. Wherever he has had the power to do so, Charles has cut Andrew out of royal life ever since the Epstein scandal.
As soon as Charles is king, sources say, Andrew will be elbowed out—and silenced—for good. His platform will be removed, unless he can convince the public of what a hard-working and important part of the British economy he really is.
The historian Michael Farquhar, author of A Treasury of Royal Scandals, told The Daily Beast via email: “Andrew has always been a bit of a dolt; unpopular with his peers, occasionally troublesome and essentially useless.
“But it doesn’t really matter. There have been so many Prince Andrews in royal history. The focus of the royal family now is the next generation. Andrew will grow older, fatter, and increasingly more useless. The spotlight will be on William, Kate and their kids. Even Prince Harry, despite all the hoopla now, will recede. The Buckingham Palace balcony will have little room for the Yorks.”