Special Briefing: The New Royal Treatment: Accountability

Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attends a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bruges on September 7, 2019 in Bruges.

Source JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty

Why you should care

Because royalty shouldn’t be off-limits.

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

What happened? Amid fierce criticism over his ties to disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Britain’s Prince Andrew announced yesterday that he’s stepping away from public life “for the foreseeable future.” Facing pressure from Epstein’s victims and their lawyers, the Duke of York — Queen Elizabeth’s second son — is also said to be preparing to speak to U.S. investigators digging into Epstein’s criminal past. Observers of Buckingham Palace say “the monarchy is shaken.”

Jeffrey Epstein Sexual Offender Flyer

Jeffrey Epstein poses for a mugshot.

Why does it matter? Welcome to the uglier side of what’s been a centuries-old trend of freewheeling princes. Andrew, who’s since been shunned by major organizations, lives mostly off a yearly sum of about $322,000 from royal coffers. That now seems over, leaving him with a modest Navy pension of around $25,000. Also peculiar are his multimillion-dollar properties and his mysterious friendship with Epstein — who once helped Andrew’s ex-wife pay her debts. The duke’s case raises key questions: Just how far should royal privileges, guaranteed by birth, extend? And perhaps more importantly, how should the public hold family members accountable?

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

Royal pain … Hoping to mitigate damage to his reputation, including a claim that he slept with an underage girl caught in Epstein’s trafficking ring, the prince addressed his relationship to the shadowy money man in a BBC sit-down last weekend that was described as disastrous. Coming off as callous and uncaring toward Epstein’s victims, the Duke of York riled viewers with what they saw as his detached disposition. The resulting maelstrom prompted the 59-year-old to ask Queen Elizabeth whether he could stay out of the public eye for the time being.

… but still serving? Even before Wednesday’s statement, big businesses like Cisco and KPMG had abandoned their support for Pitch@Palace, a private initiative run by Andrew that supports entrepreneurs. But Buckingham Palace confirmed today that the work by Pitch@Palace will continue. The organization was launched in 2011, after Andrew gave up his post as British trade envoy following an earlier controversy over his relationship with Epstein, who opened his many homes to the British royal. During his tenure as special trade representative, Andrew’s said to have burned through around $18 million in public funds on travel and security — and that’s despite not having much formal economic training (his first career was in the Royal Navy). Now, officials say royal coffers won’t cover any of Pitch@Palace’s costs, but at least one question remains: What’s with the “palace” in the name, then?

Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph Service

Queen Elizabeth II

Crying foul. It’s just one of many hits Andrew’s public image has suffered over the years, from topless escapades on private yachts to brokering a questionable deal with a well-connected Kazakh businessman. But his latest flubs seem to be galvanizing critics more than ever, prompting some to ask whether it’s time for “a drastically slimmed-down monarchy.” That’s one in which public expenses are spared on, say, less-than-dignified figures who are merely eighth in line to the throne. For inspiration, the British royal family might look to Sweden, where King Carl XVI Gustaf last month stripped five of his grandchildren of their royal titles, allowing them to live relatively normal lives while also saving taxpayer cash.

Get a job. Recent research conducted by job-training organization The Knowledge Academy provides a look at how royals might fare in the real world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Meghan Markle — an actress in her previous life — would fetch around $450,000 per year. Then there’s the rest of the pack: Though she’d be the first British queen with a university degree, Kate Middleton should only expect around $30,000, given her administrative experience. Princes William and Harry would bank even less, some $27,000, as entry-level charity workers (though they could have fared better if they had stayed in the military).

WHAT TO READ

Manners Maketh Monsters, by Anna Leszkiewicz in the New Statesman

“Prince Andrew showed little emotion and seemed not to realise the seriousness of the situation (or even the damage he was doing to the monarchy).”

I Believe Prince Andrew. But His Honesty Doesn’t Excuse a Naive Royal Arrogance, by Dominic Lawson in The Daily Mail

“Whatever else you might think, there was nothing shifty or evasive in his responses, or in his body language. Quite the reverse: He was almost grotesquely naive in his expression, quite evidently un-coached.”

WHAT TO WATCH

Prince Andrew & the Epstein Scandal: The Newsnight Interview

“There were people coming in and out of that house all the time. What they were doing, and why there were there, I had nothing to do with.”

Watch on BBC News on YouTube:

Prince Andrew’s Excuses ‘Don’t Wash With Ordinary People’

“What world is he living in… that he thought that line was going to wash with ordinary people?”

Watch on Sky News Australia on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

No sweat. While detailing her alleged sexual encounter with Andrew, Epstein trafficking victim Virginia Giuffre, who was 17 at the time, recalled how he was sweating heavily while they danced at a London nightclub. In his bizarre defense, the Duke of York claimed he “didn’t sweat” because of an adrenaline-related health issue stemming from his military service in the Falklands War.

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