DAN WOOTTON: Palace rattled by Andrew comeback: After breaking his silence to deliver tribute to his father, Prince hopes full role at funeral could be doorway back to public life
Arranging the funeral of Prince Philip in the midst of a coronavirus lockdown poses a host of serious challenges for courtiers at Buckingham Palace.
But so too does the role of Prince Andrew, the disgraced Duke who has been kept away from all major events since his disastrous November 2019 Newsnight interview about his close friendship with deceased paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The consequences were so severe, he was effectively banished from public life… until yesterday when he shocked royal watchers by giving an on camera tribute to his beloved father.
I’ve learned that Andrew spoke out as he becomes increasingly confident he will be able to return to some royal duties in the future, believing the public will soften their stance towards him.
His supporters hope Brits will feel sympathy as they see Andrew reunited with his family members to grieve at the Duke of Edinburgh’s televised funeral on Saturday.
Prince Andrew yesterday shocked royal watchers by giving an on camera tribute to his beloved father
Andrew has insisted on taking a full role during the funeral preparations and intends to use his status as the Queen’s favourite son to support her on a daily basis behind-the-scenes at Windsor Castle as she deals with her grief.
However, some senior royal courtiers disagree that there is a way back for the Duke of York.
While they acknowledge Andrew has a right to attend his father’s service, they do not think it should provide a springboard back to other high profile ‘Buckingham Palace balcony’ events.
Prince Charles is believed to agree with them.
A source close to Prince Andrew revealed: ‘Despite the fact he’s, to all intents and purposes, finished as a working royal, he’s still extremely close to the Queen. He talks to her almost on a daily basis.
Andrew has insisted on taking a full role during the funeral preparations and intends to use his status as the Queen’s favourite son (pictured together) to support her on a daily basis behind-the-scenes at Windsor Castle as she deals with her grief
‘He will be extremely supportive to her in the coming days, weeks and months. He’s still her favourite son, despite all the problems.
‘He will be right there for her at this darkest hour.’
Andrew’s allies are heartened by claims Ghislaine Maxwell will not call him as a witness at her trial, even though he remains under a dark cloud because of his lack of cooperation with the FBI Epstein investigation.
My source added: ‘He still harbours thoughts that he can make a comeback. He genuinely thinks that’s possible.
‘It’s promising that Ghislane doesn’t appear to plan to call him as a witness.
‘He still does believe in his heart of hearts that he can return and that time will be a healer. He thinks he will be able to resume royal duties at some point and save his reputation.
‘He hopes the public, if he’s supporting his mother in this difficult time, might give him the benefit of the doubt.
‘He hopes there is a way back.’
But a royal source tells me: ‘Prince Andrew might hope that this sad situation changes things, but Prince Charles is adamant there is no way back while allegations hang over him.
‘He spoke on camera in a private capacity because this is a family event. No one can stop him doing that.’
The Duke has been kept away from all major events since his disastrous November 2019 Newsnight interview (pictured) about his close friendship with deceased paedophile Jeffrey Epstein
Many members of the public reacted in fury to the blanket coverage given to Andrew’s statement at Windsor yesterday by broadcasters including the BBC and Sky News.
Tellingly, Princess Anne’s statement was released on paper and she avoided the cameras.
Andrew could have done the same but chose not to in an attempt to show the public a reformed image.
His revelation that the Queen has said the death of Prince Philip has left a ‘huge void’ in her life has been widely covered today.
Meanwhile, it is unlikely Andrew’s former wife and close companion Sarah Ferguson will attend the funeral.
The Andrew insider added: ‘It’s not decided for certain. But I’d be surprised if she did because numbers are going to be limited.
I’ve learned that Andrew (pictured yesterday left) spoke out about his father (right) as he becomes increasingly confident he will be able to return to some royal duties in the future, believing the public will soften their stance towards him
‘Philip also blamed Fergie for a lot. He didn’t hate her, but he didn’t want to have anything to do with her.
‘He couldn’t understand why her and Andrew were still living together.’
If it weren’t for the Epstein scandal, Andrew would have been expected to have taken on many royal duties left by Prince Philip and Prince Harry.
He has been left frustrated at being shut out as pressure is heaped on his sister Princess Anne, brother Prince Edward and nephew Prince William to undertake an increasing number of official engagements.
For many years, I have been reporting on Andrew’s special relationship with his mother, who likes to give him the benefit of the doubt, but reluctantly accepted her advisers’ advice to strip him of all royal duties.
Andrew’s allies are heartened by claims Ghislaine Maxwell will not call him as a witness at her trial, even though he remains under a dark cloud because of his lack of cooperation with the FBI Epstein investigation
But Andrew still has her ear.
For example, on the morning after his Newsnight interview screened, Andrew attended church with the Queen and told her: ‘It’s all been a great success.’
Throughout the pandemic he has continued to visit his mother, given they both live on the Windsor estate.
They regularly go riding together.
So regardless of his public status, the Queen is likely to rely on Andrew for love and support in the darkest of days ahead, but it’s unknown if that will have any bearing on his future role.
Until he agrees to fully cooperate with the FBI, it seems unlikely the public or other senior members of the Royal Family will embrace his presence.
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