Emma Cowing: Royal privilege can’t command apology

Prince Andrew was challenged in the grounds of Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. Picture: AFP
Prince Andrew was challenged in the grounds of Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. Picture: AFP
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HOW do you solve a problem like Prince Andrew? Well, as the Met found out to their cost last week, not by ordering him to put his hands up and get on the ground, as has been alleged. .

Two days after an intruder was arrested following a break-in at Buckingham Palace, the fifth in line to the throne was challenged by officers while taking a stroll in the gardens of the palace. While we don’t know what was said during the exchange, upon realising their mistake, the police issued a hasty and, some might say, grovelling apology. “We are grateful to the duke for his understanding and have apologised for any inconvenience caused,” they said The duke, meanwhile, remarked: “The police have a difficult job to do balancing security for the Royal Family and deterring intruders, and sometimes they get it wrong. I am grateful for their apology and look forward to a safe walk in the garden in the future.”

I’m intrigued by the police apology. It’s, well, unlike them. Also, one suspects that had Prince Andrew been a politician, they would not have been quite so quick to fall over themselves in submission. Indeed, the whole incident does make one wonder if, in the long term, the mistake is more likely to have been Prince Andrew’s, rather than any of the officers involved in last week’s fracas.

Prince Andrew, it would be fair to say, has never been the most popular member of the Royal Family. There are reasons for this. Who could forget, for example, that cloying nickname – Airmiles Andy – earned thanks to his beloved penchant for luxury travel, private jets and constant trips to far-flung foreign lands on trade missions, many of which have cost the taxpayer thousands.

While his sister Anne is seen as a hardworking, down to earth member of the family, who does oodles for charity – much of it without fuss or bother –Andrew is viewed as the extravagant one, the one who married a woman who has made a career out of being his ex-wife, and still basks in the privilege of being an HRH.

The goodwill he built up in the early 1980s during the Falklands war, when he saw active duty and was given a medal, seems a very, very long time ago.

In 2011, he put up a ferocious fight to keep royal protection for his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, at a cost of more than £500,000 a year to the taxpayer. Why exactly he thought they needed it is unclear – Eugenie’s royal protection at Newcastle University (not exactly Easterhouse on a Friday night) cost £250,000 a year alone – even though neither have any actual role within the Royal Family. Their cousins Peter and Zara do not have royal protection, despite Zara arguably having a much higher profile than either of Andrew’s daughters.

In the end, the prince lost the fight, in line with his brother Charles’s desire for a leaner monarchy that costs the country less, and the girls only now get royal protection during official royal business. Much to Andrew’s dismay, the Queen has also made it clear that she expects both girls to get (the horror!) jobs and support themselves, and that they will not be on the Civil List.

This has apparently irked Andrew hugely, as he had hoped both might follow him into roles similar to his as a trade ambassador – you know, the one he was so good at that he quit in 2011 over concerns that included senior diplomats saying Andrew was frequently “rude” and offensive to foreign dignitaries.

The royals have been working extra hard lately to convince us all that they are really rather nice, actually. There was all the goodwill towards the Queen during last year’s Diamond Jubilee, followed by an up close and personal documentary about the monarch that showed more of her life than we have ever seen before.

Then there’s young and trendy William, Kate and Harry, alongside Prince George, whose arrival into the world has been accompanied by all the warm modern fuzziness of camera phone pictures and William driving him away from the hospital – moves cleverly calculated to make us feel that they are just like us, really.

But the truth is, they are really not. Andrew’s incident in the gardens of Buckingham Palace only serves to remind us that, at the end of the day, they are still the most over-privileged, over-pampered and over-indulged family in the country. And I don’t think anyone owes them an apology for that.