The Queen went back to work yesterday.
It had only been four days since her husband Prince Philip, the love of her life and her rock for seven decades, died.
For any other 94-year-old woman, such a crushing blow would almost certainly prompt a period of quiet mournful reflection with family.
But Her Majesty is not any other 94-year-old woman.
She is a quite astoundingly stoic and selfless human being, who has put others before herself through her entire adult life.
So, she insisted on honouring a retirement ceremony for a trusted aide, the former Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel.
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Prince Andrew in ceremonial dress at a service to mark the centenary of the RAF in London on July 10, 2018
Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts, aged 17, and Ghislaine Maxwell at Ghislaine Maxwell’s townhouse in London on March 13, 2001
It was a very British ceremony.
The official royal Court Circular announced: ‘The Earl Peel had an audience of The Queen today, delivered up his Wand and Insignia of Office as Lord Chamberlain and the Badge of Chancellor of the Royal Victorian Order and took leave upon relinquishing his appointment as Lord Chamberlain, when Her Majesty invested him with the Royal Victorian Chain.’
None of this will mean a thing to bemused Americans, or indeed many equally bemused Britons, but it will have meant a lot to Earl Peel, the most senior member of the Royal Household for the past 14 years, and it will have meant even more to him that the Queen kept her promise to do it this week despite the loss of the most important person in her life.
Her loyalty and dedication say everything you need to know about her; a woman who has put the country and public duty before any of her own concerns since she acceded to the throne in 1953.
Compare and contrast to the behaviour of some of her children and grandchildren over the years, and you’ll soon realise why the Queen is in a class of her own when it comes to royal service.
She’s certainly in a very different class to her son Prince Andrew, whose long-time friendship with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein has cast one of the worst shadows over the Royal Family in modern times.
Andrew insists he is completely innocent of any impropriety regarding Epstein, who took his own life rather than face justice for a shocking litany of appalling sex crimes against underage girls.
He has also emphatically denied claims that he himself had sex with Virginia Roberts, who says she was trafficked by Epstein, on three separate occasions, including when she was 17, and therefore still a minor under US law.
Following a disastrous interview with BBC Newsnight in November 2019, in which he failed to show any sympathy for Epstein’s victims, Andrew was forced to announce he was stepping down from public duties ‘for the foreseeable future’.
He said then: ‘I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure. I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.’
Well, law enforcement agencies including the FBI made it very clear very quickly they were extremely keen for Andrew to help with their investigations.
But in January 2020, the New York state attorney, Geoffrey Berman, accused the Prince of ‘zero cooperation’ and not responding to multiple requests by the FBI and US lawyers for an interview.
Prince Andrew leaving Windsor Castle yesterday, hours before it was reported that the Queen is being forced to decide which rank of military uniform the Duke of York can wear to his father’s funeral after he demanded to go as an Admiral
Andrew, through ‘Palace sources’, feigned bemusement at this allegation, insisting he was ‘more than happy’ to talk to them.
Yet oddly, 16 months after his public commitment to do so, he still hasn’t done so.
And forgive me for my own bemusement, but if he’s so happy to talk to the FBI, and has absolutely nothing to hide, than why HASN’T he talked to them?
It would be as simple as picking up the phone and saying: ‘I’m ready for my interview.’
Andrew’s ongoing failure to do this, and his silence over all things Epstein since the Newsnight fiasco, is deafening and damning.
Especially as he emerged from hiding this week to speak to the media about the death of his father.
In a surprising, and to my mind highly inappropriate, exchange, he marched out of a private church service straight over to a pool TV reporter who had clearly been instructed to only ask him about Philip.
‘We’ve lost the grandfather of the nation,’ Andrew said, adding that it had been a ‘terrible loss’ and the Queen had said her husband’s passing has ‘left a huge void in her life.’
Andrew then revealed: ‘My father said to me on the telephone a few months ago, ‘We are all in the same boat and we must always remember that, but occasionally we, the family, are asked to stand up and show compassion and leadership’. And unfortunately, with my father’s death, it has brought it home to me, not just our loss, but actually the loss that everybody else has felt, for so many people who have died and lost loved ones during the pandemic. And so, we are all in the same boat – slightly different circumstances because he didn’t die from COVID, but we’re all feeling a great sense of loss.’
I have no wish to criticize a son’s feelings on the loss of his father.
But there was something suspiciously pre-meditated and calculated about these supposedly impromptu comments.
And frankly, for Andrew to try to garner the nation’s sympathy, using the pandemic as a tool to do so, stank of someone trying to deflect public attention from his own shameful situation.
Prince Andrew taking a stroll through New York’s Central Park with Epstein on Sunday December 5, 2010
To understand the full magnitude of the Prince’s brass neck, consider today’s revelation by the Daily Mail’s royal editor Rebecca English that Andrew has demanded he be allowed to wear an Admiral’s uniform for the funeral on Saturday.
He was made an honorary Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy on his 55th birthday in 2015 and was due to be promoted to full Admiral on his 60th birthday last year, but ‘offered’ to defer it until he cleared his name and returned to public duties.
Obviously, he hasn’t actually earned either of these titles. He retired from the Navy in 2001 after reaching the lesser rank of Commander.
Yet his request to attend the funeral as an Admiral when he has so far failed to either clear his name or return to public duties is completely outrageous.
How dare he ‘demand’ anything given his refusal to be interviewed by the FBI about a very serious sex crime investigation?
The Queen insisted on honouring a retirement ceremony for a trusted aide, the former Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel just four days after the death of Prince Philip (pictured with the Queen in June last year)
And of all the things Her Majesty the Queen has to think about this week, the question of what uniform Andrew should be allowed to wear should be so far at the bottom of the list of priorities that it has barnacles clamped to it.
Let me be clear: I have no idea if Andrew’s guilty of any criminal offences, or whether he witnessed or has knowledge of any that Jeffrey Epstein committed, or any that his other great friend Ghislaine Maxwell may have committed.
But what I do know is that Andrew’s disinclination to expose himself to an FBI interrogation, under oath, about any of it raises significant question marks about his innocence.
And if he wants to tell the world that his father urged him to show ‘compassion and leadership’ in one of their final conversations, then he could start by showing compassion to Epstein’s poor victims and leadership by telling the FBI everything he knows.
Until or if he does, Prince Andrew remains a royal unfit for purpose, and I don’t see want to see any more media interviews with him or hear about any more of his ‘demands’ to wear a bloody Admiral uniform.