In a royal life rarely short of colour or controversy, the Duke of York has garnered headlines for all manner of reasons. His romantic associations, for example, his famous love of air travel or his numerous doubtful friendships.
But running through the years has been one constant theme: an apparently ceaseless quest for money that has driven him into some surprising situations and has often left him in the firing line.
And so it was again when it emerged that the Duke of York faces a dramatic cut to the annual £249,000 tax free income which had been given to Andrew by his late mother, The Queen, from the Duchy of Lancaster.
With the Duchy now owned by King Charles, it has been reported that all non-working members of the Royal Family have been told to tighten their belts and expect less money.
The Duke of York meets a Kuwaiti Emir at Windsor Castle for the late Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Prince Andrew rubs shoulders with some of the richest people in the world but complains he has little money of his own
The Duke of York’s home, Royal Lodge in Windsor, requires major refurbishment. Now Andrew fears he will be unable to pay for the work and forced to leave if the King cuts his grant
Chalet Helora in the Swiss resort of Verbier was bought by Andrew and ex-wife Sarah Ferguson for £13 million before financial troubles forced them to sell it for a reported £19 million in 2022
To make matters worse, the duke has been left nothing in his mother’s will as her entire fortune, estimated at £650 million has been passed directly to King Charles, ‘monarch to monarch’, for tax purposes.
As a result, it looks increasingly likely that Andrew – whose allowance from the Queen was supplemented by a small pension of £20,000 courtesy of his 22-year service in the Navy – will have to move out of Royal Lodge, his Windsor Great Park mansion.
He seems surprisingly hard-up for a favoured son of one of the richest women in the world, the late Queen Elizabeth, leading some to describe him as ‘the Grand Old Duke of Broke’.
Friends of Andrew say he is ‘bewildered’ by a situation which has left him obliged to ‘go cap in hand to his elder brother to keep a roof over his head’.
Suggestions that he move to nearby Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate – now that Harry and Meghan have vacated it – have not gone down well.
(Although recently renovated and with five bedrooms, the property is a good deal more than an average cottage.)
It is not the first time that the prince’s financial affairs have been under the spotlight, of course.
Over the years his lavish spending – including the purchase of a £13 million chalet in the upmarket Swiss resort of Verbier, and a £7.5 million refurbishment of Royal Lodge, his home in Windsor Great Park – has led to mounting questions about where, exactly, he got the money from.
And why he appears to have none left. Can he really be a ‘pauper prince’?
Those questions only intensified in May 2020, when the Prince agreed a multi-million pound settlement with Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts) following her claims – robustly denied by the Prince – that he had forced her to have sex with him on three separate occasions in 2001 when she was just 17.
Andrew was forced to step down from public duties in 2019 in the wake of Ms Giuffre’s allegations, and news of the settlement led to speculation about how exactly, the money was raised.
Some have suggested that his mother gave £2 million of her own money towards the settlement in a bid to assist the son long believed to be her favourite. Others suggest that Charles paid the bill.
Prince Andrew is contending with more than his own lavish tastes, of course. His former wife, Sarah Ferguson, has had a troubled relationship with spending and has been a huge drain on his resources.
It is also the case that being a prince of the realm has restricted his ability to earn big money in an open way.
No doubt it has been irritating for Andrew to rub shoulders with the billionaire yacht owners of the world. For while he is a wealthy man by any normal standard, the Duke of York is ‘cash poor’ by the standards of the super-rich. His money has been mostly locked away in family assets
Despite a respectable career in the Armed Forces, during which he served with courage and distinction in the Falklands War of 1982, his years since then have been marked by scandal, much of it precipitated by his role as UK Special Representative for Trade and Investment, which he took over from the Duke of Kent in 2001 following his departure from the Royal Navy.
Charged with promoting British business interests around the world, the duke’s preference for private jets and helicopters rather than scheduled flights for his engagements led to him being christened ‘Airmiles Andy’ – while his affection for expensive travel seemed to be matched by a talent for forging close links with unsavoury foreign dictators and businessmen.
The Duke of York sits down with Ilham Aliyev, oil-rich president of authoritarian Azerbaijan
Prince Andrew meets former Khazak dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2010
Prince Andrew and the late Queen with Kazakhstan’s then Deputy Prime Minister Dariga Nazarbayeva. Britain signed trade deals with Kazakhstan worth £3 billion in 2015
Sunninghill Park was a wedding gift to the Yorks from Queen Elizabeth. In 2007 Prince Andrew sold it to Kazakh oligarch Timur Kulibayev for £15 million, £3 million above the asking price
Those links were put under a robust spotlight in 2007 when Sunninghill Park – the prince’s former marital home, a present from the Queen to Andrew when he married Sarah Ferguson in 1986 – was sold for £15million to Kazakh oligarch, Timur Kulibayev, the son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s autocratic former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The property, mockingly called ‘SouthYork’ due to its supposed similarity to the garish ranch of SouthFork in the US series Dallas, had languished on the property market for the previous five years at an asking price of £12million, and eyebrows were raised at a transaction which gave the prince £3million over the asking price for a property that did not seem have attracted much interest elsewhere.
Andrew repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, but questions surfaced once again in January 2022 when Kulibayev was forced to resign as the head of a leading business lobby in his country amid corruption allegations.
Two years after the sale of SouthYork meanwhile, it emerged that the prince had spent an estimated £60,000 of public money to charter a luxury private jet for a three day visit to Azerbaijan, after developing a ‘close friendship’ with its president Ilham Aliyev. The trip to the corrupt ex-Soviet republic – the prince’s sixth visit in five years – was intended to promote British business, but it also emerged to public disquiet that the prince had made two visits in a private capacity.
Undeterred, he returned the following November – at which point it emerged that Andrew had also undertaken a visit to neighbouring Turkmenistan to meet its president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.
The country is ranked by anti-corruption group Global Witness as the world’s sixth most corrupt out of 278 surveyed, leading critics to question once more whether a member of the Royal Family should ever cosy up to autocratic leaders – and whether the Prince was in danger of blurring the roles between his trade envoy role and his private interests.
Further doubts were raised about Andrew’s position when in March 2011 it was reported he had entertained Sakher el-Materi, son-in-law of the ousted Tunisian dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, at Buckingham Palace just months before the country’s regime collapsed.
El-Materi went on to flee the north African country, under investigation for money laundering.
While the meeting took place as part of the duke’s government-appointed role to help broker deals for British businesses overseas, its emergence intensified calls for him to step down because of his contacts with controversial figures in the Middle East.
Prince Andrew is often said to have been the late Queen’s favourite son
Prince Andrew walks with disgraced financier and convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein before his death. Was it the prince’s search for money that drew him into Epstein’s orbit?
Chastened: a downcast duke at Windsor
By then the prince was also battling to recover from another scandal: in May 2010 he was forced to hold crisis talks with the Queen after his ex-wife was exposed offering access to him for £500,000.
The duchess, had been filmed by a tabloid news reporter – posing as a businessman – pocketing $40,000 (£27,600) in cash as a down payment for giving access to her former husband.
She was said to be ‘devastated and regretful’ at her actions, but as with her husband, it was just the latest in a long line of financial scandals for a woman labelled ‘the Duchess of Debt’ in the wake of her 1996 divorce.
At the time, it was rumoured that she owed more than $4 million to British bankers Coutts and Co. and that the royal family – and specifically the late Queen – was fed up her free-spending ways. It took years for the duchess to pay off her debts, and she later admitted in a 2001 US television interview with chat show host Larry King that there had been a time when she was financially ‘out of control’.
If lessons were learned however they did not last long: just over ten years later, it emerged that Sarah had accepted a £15,000 loan from the disgraced paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein following his release from prison in 2009 after serving thirteen months for child sex offences.
Was that the full extent of the help proffered? And was the York’s hunger for financial support in fact the basis of their entanglement with Epstein in the first place?
At any rate, the duchess accepted she had made a ‘gigantic error of judgment’ and offered a ‘heartfelt’ apology over the payment which caused a furore when it became.
That same year, she was forced to reveal to the British magazine Hello that she owed £600,000 following the collapse of her US-based business, Hartmoor, a lifestyle company.
It emerged she also faced a High Court action for unpaid bills amounting to almost £200,000, brought by leading Mayfair solicitors Davenport Lyons.
In 2011, the duchess described herself as continually on the brink of bankruptcy and is thought to have run up debts of £4.2 million during her marriage to Prince Andrew.
The financial scandals surrounding both the Duke and his former wife did not end there. In 2014, it emerged that the Andrew and Sarah had jointly paid £13 million for the purchase of a seven bedroom luxury ski chalet in Verbier called Chalet Helora.
The Belgravia mews house purchased by the Duchess of York for £4.25 million
Seven years later – as Andrew battled to sell the property to help fund his civil settlement with Giuffre – Isabelle de Rouvre, the French socialite from whom he had bought the property, claimed that Andrew still owed her more than £6million, branding Andrew an ‘absolute fool’.
The sale became mired in further problems when a freezing order was placed on the property to guarantee that an unnamed Swiss couple, with whom the duke struck up a business arrangement, would receive a reported £1.6m he owed them.
Chalet Helora was finally sold in December 2022 to a British family for a figure understood to be £19 million no doubt leading to a sigh of relief from the beleaguered prince.
The York’s financial troubles didn’t stop Sarah Ferguson acquiring a £4.25 million Mayfair home in June 2022 without a mortgage – although restrictions on the title deeds suggest it might in fact have been purchased by her daughters Beatrice and Eugenie.
But then there is a very great deal that we simply don’t know about Prince Andrew’s money or the lack of it. Last year, for example, it emerged that, behind the scenes, businessman and Conservative Party donor David Rowland had been helping the prince fund his lavish lifestyle.
Why, despite all this financial support, does the Duke of York seem so short of readies when he has had generous bequests from The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh? The sums involved, of course, remain unknown.
There is little sign that this inheritance will draw a line under Andrew’s troubling financial affairs.
Friends close to the prince this week suggested that Andrew was looking to pursue commercial opportunities in the USA like his nephew Harry and his wife Meghan in a bid to fund his considerable expenses.
It looks like there are plenty more questions to come.