Prince William launches secret palace war

William and Charles have teamed up to bring the royal family to order – but the end result is a dangerous schism emerging among the Windsors.

The War of the Roses was very long and very convoluted: decades of pointless fighting which involved lots of men with names like Percy and Peregrine having limbs lopped off a battlefield.

The bloody dynastic conflict was all about power and money, and stirring the pot vigorously was one Richard, Duke of York.

While no one is likely to lose an appendage in a muddy paddock anytime soon, today we have another Duke of York whose ego and sense of entitlement looks set to spark a new royal civil war.

Early Tuesday morning, Garter Day was held at Windsor Castle for the first time since before the pandemic. The Order of the Garter is the oldest and most august of the chivalric orders, started by King Edward III in 1348 and modeled on tales of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. Those were the days when a King could really let his fancy take flight.

These days, Garter Day involves a lunch at the castle followed by a stately procession down to St George’s church for a service, all the Knights and Lady Companions clad in heavy velvet robes, gold chains and plumes of feathers. Afterwards, the great and good make their way back up the hill to the ‘big house’ via antique carriages.

It’s all very grand, very public, and this year’s Garter Day had been all set to star the world’s most famous royal black sheep, Prince Andrew. For the defrocked royal, the outing was set to be something of a quasi-return to public life after being sacked from his official roles and after he settled a civil sex abuse lawsuit earlier this year for a reported $22 million. Andrew has long denied Virginia Giuffre’s claims that he sexually abused her when she was a teenager.

Over the weekend, Andrew’s Big Day Out seemed set in stone. The Queen had given him the go-ahead and the programs had been printed, very clearly listing him as being a part of the procession. Fergie was probably back at their shared home, Royal Lodge, deftly wielding the lint roller to spruce up the duke’s velvet robe.

Then came a last minute phone call which torpedoed Andrew’s best-laid plans.

A number of newspapers in London have reported that Prince Charles and Prince William, united in their dismay and horror at the prospect of Andrew being photographed in the royal midst at Garter Day, staged an eleventh hour intervention.

In fact, the Evening Standard’s impeccably sourced Robert Jobson has reported that William went to his grandmother and laid down an ultimatum. As a senior royal source told Jobson: “The Duke of Cambridge was adamant. If York insisted on taking part publicly, he would withdraw.”

In the end, the Queen came up with a nifty workaround: Andrew could attend all the private parts of Garter Day conducted away from long lenses, but had to stay out of sight of the public and the press.

End result: We have approximately 887 new photos of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge wearing the hell out of a useless hat and even further proof of what a ridiculous lot of archaic fiddle fiddle the Order of the Garter is.

But if you think, after the events of the last 72 hours, that Andrew might quietly go back to Royal Lodge, put his slippered feet up and work his desultory way through a family-sized packet of Hobnobs to cheer himself up, then I have some very bad news for you. The 62-year-old might be lacking in ready cash, official roles, dignity and friends these days but ego? That’s another story indeed.

How else to explain a report on Monday in the Telegraph that he wanted his status as a blood prince reinstated, including his prestigious and honorary role as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards and his ability to use his HRH? As a source told the Telegraph, the disgraced former trade ambassador wants “his position recognized and respected.”

Please feel free to pause here if you too are gagging at such a display of self-aggrandisement.

I’m not sure whether this latest Andrew mess makes me want to laugh at the sheer idiocy of this pompous arse or cry that any human being could be so grotesquely deluded.

Either way, a new and powerful new fault line is currently snaking its way down the middle of the royal house.

The problem stems from two very clear factions which have emerged behind palace gates, one headed up by two future kings intent on saving the monarchy and the other by the disgruntled Duke of York who, just like his 15th century forebear, wants more of everything.

On the former side we have Charles and William who are united in their iron-clad belief that Andrew has no place in public life, and it is their various interdictions which have played a fundamental role in his banishment.

In November 2019, in the aftermath of Andrew’s cataclysmic Newsnight interview, the Wales duo were intimately involved with him being forced to step down as a working member of the royal family. Ditto in January this year when a judge in New York confirmed that Ms Giuffre’s civil sex abuse would go ahead. Again, the father and his team were “instrumental” in the decision for Andrew to be stripped of his remaining royal roles and the ability to use his HRH.

On the William and Andrew front, the Times revealed last year that the Duke of Cambridge views his uncle as a “threat to the family”. In 2019, the Times also reported that members of Andrew’s then-team, having long since lost his office, had “accused a senior figure in Prince William’s office of leaking stories about [Andrew] to the press.”

On a personal level, Charles and Andrew have never been particularly close or gotten along, the elder being a Jung-reading, 15th-century Tuscan architecture-loving pseudo intellectual and the younger having once reportedly spent 48-hours watching porn while the house guest of a forming Ambassador.

Heaven forbid you think this situation stops with these three men, because this situation involves his daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and by extension Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex too.

That same Telegraph story has also reported that Andrew wants his girls to become working members of the royal family, a distinction that would see them dedicate themselves full-time to the monarchy, in return for which they would be guaranteed lifelong financial support and grace- and-favor homes forevermore.

Side note here: Neither Beatrice nor Eugenie have ever given a scrap of indication that they themselves are keen to trade their comfortable lives of cushy jobs, holidays in Capri and haunting Chelsea’s better boutiques so that they can spend their days cutting ribbons on regional rec centers .

The battle lines are drawn: William and Charles, fretting about just how much damage one puffed-up duke might do the monarchy before it’s their chance to run the show versus the various HRHs who would seem to think they have gotten a bum deal and want a bigger helping of what they (or at least Andrew) think is rightfully theirs.

This situation, unless it’s managed very carefully, could lead to an all-out royal war.

Another recent royal crisis was in part underpinned by the fact that one brother very clearly received favorable treatment over the other, the end result being that Harry and Meghan now live in California and make a living banging on about compassion.

Despite the turmoil of the last couple of years, the Sussexes have remained closely aligned with the Yorks. The only member of the royal family who has visited Harry and Meghan and seen the inside of their estate is Princess Eugenie who, along with her husband and baby son, visited in February.

More recently, during the service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s which was part of Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the Sussexes were seated alongside Beatrice and Eugenie and their husbands, seemingly to provide a few friendly faces for the self-exiled duo in the otherwise sea of relative freezing.

Andrew and Harry now not only share the dubious honor of both having been the official spares but both have faced the brunt of what happens when Charles and William team up.

Beyond this, what Charles’ hardline commitment to streamlining the monarchy over the last decade has meant is an increasingly obvious distinction between the HRH haves and have nots.

Now, all bar one of the Queen’s grandchildren – William – occupy a very strange liminal space between being members of the royal family while being left with no choice but to pursue normal lives. They have titles but need jobs. They attend Trooping the Color but are made to arrive by bus. They been with the Queen yet share paid spon con on their Instagram feeds. School fees and all that.

This situation has the possibility to foment and fester, an alarming state of affairs for an institution on the brink of the biggest upheaval in nearly a century – that is, when you-know-what happens to Her Majesty.

Andrew, William and Charles have clearly acted as they have seen fit for the crown, but just how much of an enemy have they made of the duke? And just what might he do next in his continual fight to reclaim his place in the royal spotlight? The man has the time and arrogance to believe he is fully justified in fighting for what he thinks should be his.

Historians are undecided if Richard, Duke of York died during battle or was captured by the Lancastrians and executed. The moral of the story is, things don’t end well greedy dukes, a lesson Andrew would do well to learn and quick sticks.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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