How Palace Fear of U.S. Epstein Probe Forced the Queen to Fire Prince Andrew

Tom Sykes
JOHN THYS

If you love The Daily Beast’s royal coverage, then we hope you’ll enjoy The Royalist, an all-new members-only series for Beast Inside. Become a member to get it in your inbox on Sunday.

Disgraced royal Prince Andrew is preparing to give evidence to the Jeffrey Epstein inquiry in the U.S., and courtiers at Buckingham Palace believe a demand for testimony may be imminent.

Andrew made it clear in his resignation statement that he would cooperate with law enforcement as they investigated Epstein.

Is This Prince Andrew’s Death Rattle? U.S. Epstein Document Cache Could Sink Beleaguered Prince

The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday that Buckingham Palace is braced for U.S. authorities to issue the duke with a subpoena, requesting he gives testimony under oath about his friendship with Epstein.

Following his statement, Andrew would have little choice but to comply.

Gloria Allred, the celebrity lawyer representing some of Epstein’s alleged victims, was quick to demand Andrew voluntarily contact U.S. authorities “without conditions and without delay,” asking the question: “Is he insisting that he be served with a subpoena to testify, or is he willing to speak to law enforcement without being legally required to do so?”

That such the threat of subpoena should be hanging over Andrew goes a long way to explaining his mystifying decision to give an hour-long interview to one of the U.K.’s most-feared political interviewers.

Prince Andrew: I Didn’t Have Sex With Virginia Roberts Giuffre. I Was Eating Pizza.

It was widely speculated after Andrew did the ill-advised sit-down that he had done it because he suspected he was about to be subpoenaed by U.S. authorities. Andrew had hoped, according to the theory, to get out ahead of any such action. He hoped the interview would allow him to win over public opinion before law enforcement closed in.

In the end, of course, the interview had the opposite effect, and by his haughty manner, extraordinary denials, provably false claims, unwillingness to regret his friendship with Epstein, and failure to express any sympathy for Epstein’s victims, Andrew dug his own grave.

Now, it seems, flashing blue lights may be a part of Andrew’s royal afterlife.

Charles and Andrew: Royal Princes at War

The brutal ouster, when it came, was worthy of the nickname the royals use for themselves, “The Firm.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, Prince Andrew issued the statement that brought his public life to an end. He claimed it was his decision and that he had sought the queen’s “permission” to withdraw from public duties for the foreseeable future, but the truth was far from that.

Royal briefings are making it very clear today that he was fired—and the termination is permanent.

“The bottle of whisky and the pearl-handled revolver were laid out for him. And they were laid out for him by his mother,” one source told The Daily Beast.

But behind his mother’s brutal sacking many detect the guiding hand of Prince Charles, who has sought to exclude Andrew from the royal family since 2012, and who finally seized the opportunity Wednesday.

The Queen has been locked in phone calls with Charles, who is on tour in New Zealand, since the crisis broke.

Writer Penny Junor, who has worked closely with Charles on biographies and is a trusted confidante of the palace, told The Daily Beast that she suspected Charles had played a significant role in the hit, saying: “I imagine there might have been a bit of pressure on him to make this announcement, and I suspect that might have come from his older brother.”

Andrew was quickly pulled from a scheduled visit to flood victims in northern England as plans for his demise were sealed. He was summoned to Buckingham Palace from his home in Windsor on Wednesday afternoon, where he was told it was over.

Andrew was told he would no longer to have any frontline duties representing the family. He was told he was to stand down immediately from his 200 charitable patronages. He was told that he would immediately lose his £250,000 per annum grant.

The one crumb of comfort came when duke was told he would still be welcome at family occasions, so expect to see him at Sandringham walking to church on Christmas Day.

Like all well-executed hits, Andrew, a friend told the Daily Beast, had no idea what was about to happen. Indeed, he was planning a trip to the Middle East this weekend as part of his business startup program.

In fact, according to the Queen’s biographer Robert Hardman, writing in the Daily Mail today, the Queen and Charles reached their decision Tuesday night when Andrew became a subject of discussion in a BBC debate between rival politicians Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, who are squaring up for an election on Dec. 12.

A member of the public asked the leaders whether the monarchy was fit for purpose: Corbyn’s sly response that it “needs a bit of improvement” got a thunderous response.

That the monarchy should be a bona fide talking point in a general election was a huge red flag and a reminder of 1992, when the Queen apologized to then Prime Minister John Major that the breakdown of the marriage between Duke and Duchess of York intruded on the election. It seems another such apology, necessitated by the same member of the royal family, may be necessary this time.

Unbelievably, just 24 minutes after Andrew’s statement had been released, the Queen was making a public appearance, presenting her old friend Sir David Attenborough with a lifetime achievement award.

She even managed to crack a joke and there was laughter as she told the TV legend: “Sir David, this award recognizes your many talents and one can’t help but feel that, for those of us of a certain generation, we can take great pleasure in proving age is no barrier to being a positive influence.”

The Queen kept a smile pasted on her face throughout, but don’t mistake that for any pleasure at Andrew’s demise. She will be devastated at the tragedy that has befallen her favorite son, just a few months short of his 60th birthday.

In a bitter irony, yesterday marked what should have been a joyous day of celebration as it marked the Queen’s 72nd wedding anniversary.

Yet just minutes after one of the most sickening decisions of her career, Her Majesty was doing exactly what being the perfect royal requires—sublimating her emotions to the service of the Crown.

The contrast with Andrew could hardly be greater, and now he has the rest of his life to ponder what might have been.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!

Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.