It was a disastrous year for the royal family. But there are alarming signs that the situation is about to get a lot worse for the Queen.
No terse statement or sterile few sentences appearing on official letterhead.
Since the latest sorry chapter in the Prince Andrew saga erupted earlier this week, Buckingham Palace has remained tight lipped and declined to comment to the press.
Per a report today, they have even refused to name the lawyers who are acting for him.
Overnight Tuesday (Australian time), US prosecutor Gabriel S. Berman sensationally revealed in a press conference that Prince Andrew had provided “zero co-operation” to authorities investigating convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
According to a US prosecutor, Prince Andrew – whose public appearances have been scarce since the scandal erupted – publicly offered to co-operate with law enforcement in a press release, but did nothing more. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA via AP.Source:AP
Subsequently, the Duke of York has unbecomingly been embroiled in a tit for tat public spat with the FBI for the past 24 hours over whether or not he has actually received a request for an interview. A source close to the royal said the FBI had yet to approach Andrew. The US attorney is standing by his comments.
So here we are: Only one month into the new year and the royal family is already firmly mired in not one but two publicity quagmires. As uncomfortable and sad a thing as it is to even consider, it’s impossible not to wonder: Has the Queen lost her iron grip?
Right now, the unfortunate picture is that Her Majesty’s family is in disarray as they face various looming courtroom PR clashes, with three family members having recently lawyered up.
With all eyes on her, however the Queen chooses to handle the coming months will surely be one of the bigger tests of her reign. Picture: Tolga Akmen/WPA Pool/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Firstly, the Andrew situation – which shows no sign of being neatly dealt with any time soon. The (UK) Telegraph today has reported that the Duke of York has hired “a leading team of criminal lawyers who are painstakingly going through the details of the case as they consider how to react.” The same report also claimed that the Duke “had been holding weekly meetings with his lawyers at Royal Lodge, his Windsor home, and at Buckingham Palace in preparation.”
Various experts are currently thrashing it out in the press, debating what US authorities and lawyers acting for alleged victims of Epstein in civil matters might do next. Currently, there seems to be no consensus about whether he is likely to speak to authorities, setting the stage for a potentially messy trans-Atlantic legal stoush.
To make matters worse, every gruelling step of the legal proceedings will undoubtedly be splashed across the front pages of newspapers worldwide.
Next up, we have the Sussexes.
In October last year, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they had called in the lawyers. Firstly, it was revealed that she was suing the Mail on Sunday’s parent company over allegations of breach of copyright, invasion of privacy and misuse of personal data, while he was going after the Daily Mirror and the Sun for alleged phone hacking.
The (no longer royal) Sussexes’ decision to relocate to Canada and emancipate themselves from The Firm must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Queen.
The Duchess’ court case looks set to offer more juicy family melodrama than even a Dynasty marathon, after her father Thomas Markle was revealed to be the defence’s key witness earlier this month. The prospect of the two Markles facing off in a London court now seems more likely than ever and pundits are already touting the impending legal showdown as the ‘trial of the century.’
Already this month, personal texts from Meghan were included in the defence papers filed in the high court by the publishers of the Mail on Sunday.
Despite his love/hate relationship with the media, Thomas Markle has still agreed to take the stand against his daughter in what promises to be a very public upcoming trial against the Mail on Sunday.
While tabloid editors will be salivating at the prospect, royal courtiers are likely to be sweating under the collars of their Saville Row suits.
All of which is before we have even gotten to Harry’s two cases of which little has been revealed.
Suffice to say, it looks like the Sussexes look set to be paying lawyers bills for a while to come.
The royal family now faces being bogged down in a number of protracted legal stoushes that could drag on for years and the only certain winners will be the lawyers happily charging extortionate rates each hour.
Win or lose, the potential PR damage that Andrew, Harry and Meghan’s legal battles could inflict on the Palace is huge. The Queen and Co. scrupulously control what information – even the most mundane titbits – are allowed to enter the public arena. However now, the royal family is facing having its dirtiest of laundry luridly aired in court.
While there have been a number of royal legal challenges over privacy concerns in the last few decades, they have normally been a means of last resort. They have also mostly been settled long before there was even a hint that they might end up in front of a judge and the prying press.
When Prince William, and Kate Duchess of Cambridge sued a French magazine for publishing paparazzi photos of Kate topless on holiday, the couple were awarded over $160,000 in damages back in 2017.
While Andrew, Harry and Meghan might all now be technically ‘private’ royals having given up their official duties, their actions (or lack thereof, in the Duke of York’s case) still reflect glaringly on the The Firm as a whole.
The question that remains unanswered is how did the Queen let it come to this?
The very fact her son’s name is being used in the same sentence as ‘FBI’ and ‘interview’ should surely have driven her to firmly take charge of this devolving situation to try and limit the damage to the family’s image.
At the heart of Meghan’s fight is her deeply fractured relationship with her father. If only someone had stepped in, wisely having foreseen that things would deteriorate to this degree, and found a solution. Someone like an experienced stateswoman and loving mother and grandmother.
Royal watchers cannot help but wonder: how on earth did the Queen allow the situation to get this bad?
It is understandable that at 93-years-old, and without her lifelong helpmate Prince Philip by her side, Her Majesty’s hold over her large and strong-willed family might falter.
Still, there is something a little bit heartbreaking about this shambolic state of affairs with no one taking the reins and trying to manage the potential fallout.
She might command an army and have 2.4 billion people in her dominion but it would seem the Queen is all too human after all.