Belfast Telegraph

Sarah Caden: While Prince Andrew twists in the wind, Charles is planning a palace coup of his own (ably assisted by William)

The first and second-in-line to the throne are plotting against the disgraced prince, writes Sarah Caden

Prince Charles and Prince William (right)
Prince Charles and Prince William (right)
Prince Andrew
Jeffrey Epstein
Virginia Giuffre on Panorama

By Sarah Caden

Last week, the royal court circular, which lists the engagements of the Queen and her family, included the nugget that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, had spent two days at Kingston Hospital Maternity Unit in London, for doing what was later described as "work experience".

That very description conjured different images to those one generally has of the Duchess of Cambridge's engagements.

Instead of imagining her perfectly blow-dried and being paraded around, this was, instead, an image of Kate with her sleeves pushed up, getting stuck in, being of use.

Over the same couple of days, her husband, Prince William, impressed with his ability to speak Swahili at an awards event honouring his mother.

And then there came the announcement that he and Kate are to open part of their palace home to schoolchildren, so they can learn more about the royal family.

It was all good news, which cast the royals as thoroughly modern, almost ordinary and earthily industrious, in the style of one of those earnest Dutch or Scandi monarchies.

Now, we've no idea to what use Kate Middleton will put her "work experience", but it was plucky stuff that she did it.

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None of the good news last week could distract from the rolling Prince Andrew news. This included a reminder of a heated interaction with a staff member some years ago, updates on which institutions and businesses were turning their backs on him and regular bulletins on how his daughters/mother/ex-wife either did or didn't advise him to sit down with the BBC's Emily Maitlis and blow his life apart.

Further, there came an allegation that he snuck into the palace a masseuse to whom he was introduced by the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

So, on the one hand, you have suggestions of seedy palace carry-on and on the other, you have Kate and William opening their palace up to children. It is like someone telling you to stop looking at one thing and focus instead on something else - something in the same vicinity, but entirely different.

Whether this will work, though, or whether the eye is just naturally drawn to the disaster, remains to be seen.

But what we have observed in the fortnight since Andrew's disastrous BBC interview, is a concerted effort, seemingly led by Charles and William, to re-frame the royals.

It has long been suggested that Charles is in favour of a more "cost-effective" and slimmed-down royal family and conflict with Andrew in this regard has been reported over the years.

Chiefly, Andrew has worried about what would become of his daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, in a smaller "firm".

In 2016, it was alleged that Andrew had gone so far as to write to the Queen to complain about Charles's intention to cut back the princesses' rights to perform royal duties.

Apparently, she smoothed it over to suit both sons. Or, at least, to keep Andrew happy until Charles is actually in charge.

And, given the Queen's stated intention to remain regent for the foreseeable future, Andrew had quite a comfortable position in the house of Windsor, with a reported £250,000 annual income from his mother's private monies, out of which he kept his daughters in the manner to which they were accustomed.

It all could have rolled along nicely, for quite some time yet, if Andrew had only kept his mouth shut on the whole Epstein affair.

By not only revealing his dealings with Epstein to be rather odd (to say the least), but by also revealing his royal sense of entitlement, Andrew blew up his own comfy set-up.

Further, this seems to have allowed Charles to step in and take charge rather sooner than anyone expected, with William, it is reported, an able and willing assistant in resetting the public image of the royals.

William, it was also revealed last week, is not "a fan" of his uncle.

The relationship between Charles and Andrew has never been portrayed as particularly harmonious.

Sibling rivalry, it could be argued, is fundamentally at the heart of it, but that takes on other layers when one of you will someday be king, while the other grows more lowly in status the older he gets.

That has to hurt and, perhaps, contributes to Andrew propping up his self-importance with the sort of hobnobbing with "US eminents" that he enjoyed at Epstein's homes and parties.

Andrew has the self-image of a major royal and, when he was born, that was his status.

The succession rules at that time put him second-in-line to the throne, ahead of his older sister, Anne, but since then, Charles's sons - and now their own children - have put him in an insignificant eighth place.

This lack of status renders his alleged position as the Queen's favourite child as rather pointless (if you don't count that £250,000 a year) and yet, as we saw in his TV interview with Emily Maitlis, Andrew hangs on to a very high opinion of himself.

It was there in that bizarre recollection of how he was in the Woking branch of Pizza Express on the night Virginia Giuffre says they went to Tramp nightclub and later had sex.

As Andrew explained how he knew he was home that night, he outlined that "the Duchess" was away, so he was on duty with their daughters. Not "Sarah", not "my wife" or "their mother", but "the Duchess".

Just in case anyone would forget that they're very important people and not like you and me.

Charles, however, seems to be on a campaign to characterise the royals as very much like you and me. And William and Kate seem to be on board with that.

They bring their children to school and she attends mum-and-baby music groups with toddler Prince Louis.

They send out down-home family Christmas photos and let their children get their hands dirty and their clothes muddy. Prince George is a football fan, Princess Charlotte has a cheeky streak.

Wholesome is a word that comes to mind. Which is about as far away as you can get from the allegations that Virginia Giuffre repeated on BBC Panorama last night, with who knows what more to come.

It will take a lot more "work experience" to put distance between the new incarnation of royals and the Andrew allegations, but one suspects that Charles has the drive to do it.

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