Away from the rigours of public life, cocooned by the gently undulating Cairngorms in Balmoral, the Queen ought to be enjoying a well-earned rest from what, even by the standards of her extraordinary life, has been a very difficult year.
As if losing the Duke of Edinburgh, her companion and trusted adviser through seven decades, wasn’t enough of a blow, she has had to endure the toxic attacks of her grandson, Prince Harry, against his own family – and the subsequent fallout.
The poor woman must sometimes feel like she’s presiding over a creche full of psychopathic toddlers.
The stress on someone of her age is intolerable. If they weren’t all such self-obsessed ingrates they might feel ashamed of themselves for putting her through it. But there’s not much chance of that.
The worst part is that the biggest man-baby of them all is, of course, her favourite son, Prince Andrew. Prince Harry may be a petulant pain in the you-know-what, but in many ways Andrew presents an even bigger, even more insoluble headache than the Duke and Duchess of Woke.
Prince Andrew’s response to the case of Virginia Giuffre (both pictured), who is suing him in an American civil court for rape and sexual abuse, has been to burrow into his mother’s skirt
Because while at least those two have ostensibly turned their backs on Royal life (well, the bits that don’t suit them anyway), Andrew remains very much within the fold. Indeed, his response to the worsening situation in the case of Virginia Giuffre – who is now suing him in an American civil court for rape and sexual abuse – has been to burrow even deeper into his mother’s skirt.
There are few sights more unattractive than a 61-year-old man who still relies on Mummy to help him clean up his mistakes.
Last week Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson – with whom he is very close and who is fiercely (and rather admirably) loyal to his cause – joined Her Majesty at Balmoral, where he remains, protected by the seclusion of the 50,000-acre estate and insulated by Royal privilege.
But in the real world, things are not so peachy.
Representatives for Ms Giuffre now claim to have successfully served him with legal papers, having left them with a police officer at the Prince’s home in Windsor in a bizarre game of cat and mouse that initially saw the documents being rejected, then acknowledged.
His lawyers have since claimed that, in fact, papers were not properly served – and have expressed the intention to boycott a court hearing scheduled for 9am tomorrow before a judge in Manhattan.
Once again, a Prince who is not man enough to stand up to his responsibilities has let others – in this case his security staff – take his flak for him.
As to the rest, it’s one of those legal standoffs that only highly paid lawyers really understand, a series of loopholes within loopholes that would tie most ordinary people in knots.
But the upshot is that Prince Andrew is clearly determined to do what he has done right from the start of this case – and refuse to engage in any sort of grown-up or meaningful way.
Last week, Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson joined Her Majesty (pictured) at Balmoral, where he remains, protected by the seclusion of the 50,000-acre estate
And it’s this, really, that is his problem. Because while the accusations themselves are undeniably very serious, it is arguably the dismissive way he has responded to them and the whole question of his friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein that has done the most damage to his reputation.
Right from the start – and this saga has been rumbling on for nigh on a decade now – he has reacted like a spoilt child when challenged, indignant that anyone should dare question his judgment and behaviour, shocked that anyone should be so bold as to stand up to him.
None of us can really claim to know the truth about the circumstances of Giuffre’s 20-year-old encounter with the Prince, but one thing is crystal clear: when it comes to being a tin-eared, entitled toff who has handled the whole thing appallingly, Prince Andrew is bang to rights.
At every turn his character has been laid bare in a way that is extremely problematic, not just for him personally and for those defending him, but also for the Queen and the Royal Family as a whole. This was, of course, underlined all too clearly during that car-crash Newsnight interview.
His complete lack of self-knowledge was astounding – and painful to watch. So tenuous is his relationship with real life, he doesn’t even realise how oddly he comes across. But perhaps the worst thing, for me, is the fact that he claims he has no recollection of ever meeting Giuffre – despite there being clear photographic evidence to the contrary. It speaks volumes.
Giuffre’s contention is that she was groomed and trafficked by Epstein for his own pleasure and that of his powerful friends.
If Prince Andrew (pictured) can’t remember Giuffre, it’s not because he never met her – he clearly did, as the picture shows – it’s because she was utterly insignificant to him
In other words, she was not treated as a human being, someone’s daughter, a young girl with hopes and dreams and feelings; but a mere object of lust, a plaything for the enjoyment of others.
Andrew’s claim that he has no recollection of that pretty, starstruck 17-year-old whose waist his hand is encircling in that infamous picture only serves to make him more, not less, complicit in all that.
His denial only reinforces the idea of a wealthy, untouchable all-powerful elite that considered itself above the law. If he can’t remember Giuffre, it’s not because he never met her – he clearly did, as the picture shows – it’s because she was utterly insignificant to him, just another evening’s entertainment, another bit of arm-candy from nowheresville to be discarded once the fun had worn off. Just one of countless girls who – unlike his own two daughters, not so far off in age – didn’t matter. And that, I’m afraid, is as damning a stain on his character as almost anything else.
If Giuffre’s claims are true, he had a pivotal effect on her existence, whereas she had about as much impact on his as a paper cup.
Heartbreaking, when you think about it. He tossed her aside like a used tissue; she carries the scars for life. It’s that arrogance – and cruelty – that stands out. Even more so, since if there is one thing his mother, the Queen, is renowned for it’s her kindness and lack of entitlement. Wherever he gets his character from, it’s not her.
My guess is that the chances of Prince Andrew ending up in an American court to answer the charges against him are vanishingly slim. But the court of public opinion – that’s another matter entirely. He’s already in the dock, and the evidence against him as a decent, fair-minded, honourable human being is stacking up with every misguided move he makes.
There is only one way out of this mess for Andrew. And that is to face the music. On his own, like a man – and, for once in his life – without dragging his poor, long- suffering mother down with him.
How does Jeff Bezos expect us to believe he can make the human race live longer when he can’t even find a cure for his own baldness?
Come back to me when you’ve got a full head of hair, Jeff, and I’ll never doubt you again.
A leading fertility doctor has called for contraceptives to carry warnings explaining the risk of leaving it too late to try to conceive.
‘With cigarettes, you have health warnings about the adverse effects of smoking,’ he explained, adding: ‘You could have that on contraception.’
Which begs the question: what exactly are the adverse effects of not having children?
Peaceful nights, disposable income and a lifetime of not worrying? Something tells me that’s going to be a hard sell.