Belfast Telegraph

Mary Kenny: As with the law of the beehive, so too the law of the monarchy... the Queen must be shielded at all costs

Forced exile: Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor in the Bahamas circa 1942
Forced exile: Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor in the Bahamas circa 1942

By Mary Kenny

I once asked the daughter of a peer why aristocratic regulations were so brutal: rule by primogeniture - first-born takes all, subsequent siblings get little or nothing; second son is contemptuously described as "the spare", as in "the heir and the spare"; and adopted children are barred from inheriting titles, or land - these can only be transmitted by blood.

"It's about survival," Lady Celestria explained. "The group's interest takes precedence over the individual's. The rules keep the great estates intact and the family's interests are preserved - even if that means a younger son has to go off and work as a jackeroo in Australia."

Something similar pertains to the monarchy. The preservation of the institution takes precedence over consideration for the individual.

Prince Andrew has been, effectively, thrown under a bus by the monarchical Establishment - "stood down from public duties" is the polite way of putting it - because his conduct and, perhaps even worse, his television interview with Emily Maitlis, perceived to be catastrophic, could threaten the institution of the monarchy.

As with the rule of the bees in the hive, the queen has to be protected at all costs, because she embodies the monarchy.

If Andrew taints her, he has to disappear from serving the institution - at least until circumstances change, or the course of history reveals a different narrative.

It's been done before. A vivid example is that of Princess Margaret, Elizabeth's younger sister, who was disallowed from marrying her lover, Peter Townsend, back in the mid-1950s, because the Queen Mother was certain that marriage to a divorced man would threaten the monarchy.

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(The prime minister at the time, Anthony Eden, had been divorced, but it was kept very quiet lest it cause disapproval.)

Townsend was not only barred from seeing Margaret, but made to leave the country.

Later in the 20th century, three out of four of Elizabeth's own children were to be divorced. By the 1990s, mores had changed, of course, and the stigma wasn't the same. But Camilla had to be kept under wraps for some time before she was permitted to become a public figure - in the wake of Charles and Diana's split, Mrs Parker-Bowles couldn't visit the local supermarket without getting catcalls and verbal abuse.

Rehabilitation was carefully calibrated, so that no odium would attach to the monarchy.

Previously, before the Second World War, there had been the sensational case of Edward VIII and the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.

My late husband remembered small English schoolchildren chanting a mocking Christmas carol: "Hark the Herald Angels sing/Mrs Simpson's nabbed our King!"

That simply couldn't be allowed: Wallis Simpson and Edward (known as David in the family) had to go.

Not only did they have to go: all privileges had to be removed from their position. The Duke of Windsor, as he became in exile, fretted all his life that Wallis was never allowed the honorific 'Her Royal Highness' and, thus, there was no obligation for visitors to perform a curtsey to her.

Laugh at such trifles we may, but symbolic gestures can change history.

The discourse around the 1936 abdication all centred on one focal point: would it harm the institution of the monarchy?

Times have changed, but new taboos and new transgressions replace older ones.

Andrew has transgressed: they flee from him that sometime did him seek, particularly the charities and banks.

He admits himself that he "let the side down". And that's where the danger lies.

Individuals in Britain may have some personal sympathy for Prince Andrew, who seems more dim-witted than wicked.

Matthew Parris, the well-respected former MP and Liberal-Democrat-voting commentator, has written that he sees nothing wrong with "visiting a jail-buddy" - didn't Jesus Christ say that we should do so?

But no: when it comes to preserving the institution, Christian charity doesn't come into it.

The Queen must be sheltered from all toxicity.

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