He is a man who has enjoyed every pleasure the twentieth and twenty first centuries have to offer while remaining, as a royal prince, several centuries out of date.
A prince who has compensated for being only the second son of a reigning monarch by using the influence of his elevated status with breath-taking entitlement, and with relish.
The tragedy of Prince Andrew is that he could have been a royal life-long hero. After all he piloted a helicopter with great courage during the Falklands War luring Argentine Exocet missiles away from British ships.
Richard Kay and Geoffrey Levy have written that Prince Andrew was brought down by greed, arrogance and jealousy. He is pictured here with Emily Maitlis ahead of his disastrous BBC interview about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein
And who could forget when he came home how he jumped ashore with a rose clamped in his teeth.
Is this really the same prince Andrew?
Last night, as he stepped back from public life, a close friend told us there was no alternative: ‘The castle walls are crumbling, it’s time for a full retreat.’
Mercifully it is only his castle walls and how ironic that they should fall on the 72nd wedding anniversary of the Queen whose faultless reign is now in its 68th year. She in particular will be wounded by what has happened to the son generally described as her ‘favourite.’
Only on Sunday morning he and the Queen went to church together in Windsor and he was telling his mother just how well he thought the interview with Emily Maitlis had gone.
Prince Andrew’s love of money and the company of shady billionaires has been no secret. But who would have thought that naivety in the real world would allow him to forget during that interview to utter the words everyone wanted to hear: I am sorry.
None of the crises that have assailed the royal family in recent times have been as embarrassing as this. No one is suggesting of course that his personal stupidity is seriously endangering the stability of the monarchy, for these days he is only eighth in the line of succession. But Andrew has been heading in the direction of such a personal catastrophe ever since he left the Royal Navy in 2001.
The eight in line to the throne was heading for disaster since he left the navy in 2001, they said. He is pictured above during his interview for Newsnight
From the moment Lord (Peter) Mandelson arranged for the jobless Duke of York to become a trade ambassador for Britain – he replaced the dull but reliable Duke of Kent – it became apparent that he had little compunction in blurring the line between his official role and his private ambitions.
To the influential rich in many parts of the world, being able to introduce Andrew as a friend guaranteed their own acceptance.
One is entitled to wonder just how Jeffrey Epstein made use of his friendship with the Queen’s son.
Whatever Andrew said in that interview about the ‘honour’ of personally flying to New York to end his friendship with him after he came out of jail, the sex offender would have known all along just why Andrew paid him so much close attention – his money.
Former Epstein friends such as President Bill Clinton had sensibly removed themselves from Epstein’s company. So had Leslie Wexner, the U.S. clothing billionaire who had been Epstein’s mentor and principal patron. To Britain’s shame Andrew clung on.
Love of money certainly seems to be at the root of the prince’s fall.
In the ten years he served the nation as a trade envoy, diplomats noticed that he was using the role as a means of ‘ploughing his own furrow.’ As one distinguished former diplomat told us, everyone was ‘reluctant to point this out for fear of putting their own careers on the line’.
Prince Andrew has often been regarded as the Queen’s favourite son. The monarch is pictured at the Chatham House awards in London tonight an hour after the prince announced he would step back from royal duties
As for the prince’s personal diplomacy, even Wikileaks revealed that a U.S. ambassador described Prince Andrew in the trade role as ‘cocky’ and ‘rude’.
But it was the company Andrew kept that was the most troubling aspect of his decade an unpaid ambassador for Britain.
His friendship with the family of the murderous Libyan dictator Colonel Gadaffi strayed well over the official line expected at a time when the aged dictator was forming alliances with the West including Britain.
One of his new friends was Saif, the colonel’s son who was studying and being honoured with a phony degree at the London School of Economics.
‘He and Saif became incredibly close,’ recalled a mutual friend. ‘Both enjoyed having a good time and they had fun together. Andrew could open doors with his royal status and Saif could open other doors with his family’s money.’
On his many trips to Libya and on visits to other capitals and states around the world, Prince Andrew never let his royal status drop. He travelled with a team of six, including equerries, private secretaries and protection officers, as well as a valet bringing his own six-foot-long ironing board to ensure the prince’s trousers were pressed as he liked them.
To some close observers this studied arrogance could well have been a conscious reaction to being diminished in the royal hierarchy by his elder brother Prince Charles. For the first 22 years of his life until Prince William was born, he had been the heir in line to the throne after Charles.
Prince Andrew, pictured on Newsnight, took on a role as a trade ambassador for Britain after he left the navy. This led to him also becoming friends with Libya’s then rulers
But as the years passed as William and then Harry began having children he slipped down the royal pecking order. To make things worse Charles, increasingly taking a more executive role in royal affairs, had begun his ‘slimming’ of the monarchy.
As long ago as the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012 Andrew was angrily telling friends that he and others in the family were being pushed to the margins of royal life. The ’others’ included his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie.
He saw it as an insult that they were being dissuaded from carrying out royal duties even though – as he always fervently pointed out – they were the only ‘blood princesses’ of their generation.
While maintaining a considerable number of patronages – from all of which he has now stood back – he expanded his other life among the super rich.
Some will say, especially now, that Prince Andrew was never cut out for royal life anyway. People still talk about the glee with which, as a 16-year old on a visit to Los Angeles, he sprayed photographers and other journalists with white paint from a spray gun he was being shown. ‘I enjoyed that,’ he said before the British consul began shelling out money in damages to valuable equipment.
Certainly his life has always been full of surprises. None more so than the trajectory of his marriage. Who but Prince Andrew would have the ex-wife who humiliated him and from whom he was divorced 23 years ago, still living under his roof?
Prince Andrew, pictured during his interview with Emily Maitlis, slipped down the royal line of succession after his older brother Charles had William and Harry, and then they both had children
When it emerged that while travelling on holiday with their two daughters, her lover John Bryan was photographed kissing her toes you would have thought he would have nothing more to do with her.
Yet Fergie has not only lived with him for many years but their £13 million chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier was bought in both their names.
As for the Queen, at a time in life, like any great grandmother, she should be gazing down on her family with pleasure and satisfaction she finds herself facing yet another major family crisis – one that is different from anything she has faced before.
Andrew has always been the son who pointedly bowed and kissed her hand whenever he goes to see her at Buckingham Palace and he is the son who, in her eyes, saved the treasures of Windsor Castle when 100ft flames were licking across it in 1992.
Luckily Andrew was in the castle when the fire broke out, on leave from the Navy, and organised staff into a human chain rescuing priceless paintings, furniture and artefacts. To her Andrew could do no wrong.
Rarely chastised as a child, he grew up, says one courtier, ‘with a pompous level of self-importance based on being second in line to the throne. He felt it when he was pushed down in the line of succession.’
The Queen has always tried to help in this respect by making sure he has a ‘role’, not always, as we know, with success.
Prince Andrew has previously voiced his concern that he and his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie may be cut out of the royal family by his elder brother Prince Charles
Diplomacy has never been one of his strong points. When Pan Am flight 103 and its passengers were blown up and fell on the Scottish town of Lockerbie a few days before Christmas 1988, the Queen’s then deputy private secretary Robert Fellowes urged her to go there.
But fearing she would be a distraction from the desperate recovery work, she decided Andrew should go instead. He was not a good choice. He upset local people, where 11 residents were killed on the ground, by declaring it was ‘much worse for the Americans’ ( 259 passengers and crew were on the US airliner). And he added it had been ‘only matter of time’; before a plane fell out of the sky.
Andrew is still the only one of her children to have accommodation and an office at Buckingham Palace. At weekends at Windsor she often joins him for a pre-lunch drinks at Royal Lodge, the home he inherited from the Queen Mother and where he spent £8.5 million on refurbishment.
It’s just a short drive from the piece of land on which his marital home Sunninghill Park used to stand. A Kazakh billionaire paid £15 million for it, £3 million more than the asking price.
As for his office at the palace in the foreseeable future he won’t be using it all that much.
He does at least have his daughter Beatrice’s wedding to look forward to some time in the New Year. Poor Beatrice. The timing couldn’t have been worse.