Back in the 1980s, the poster boy for the monarchy was a young man who rivalled Princess Diana in the popularity stakes. At his public appearances, girls screamed and even fainted — it was Beatlemania all over again, according to one commentator.
Month after month, there were gushing tributes to Prince Andrew’s ‘movie-star looks’, his straightforwardness, his enviable self-confidence. On top of all that, he was viewed as a military hero who had put his life on the line for his country.
Yet now, according to recent polls, Andrew is unquestionably the least popular member of the Royal Family.
His now notorious Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis — in which he defended his friendship with the American paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and failed to express sympathy for the multi-millionaire’s victims — has led to much mockery and disbelief. Corporate sponsors have deserted him. Charities no longer clamour for his patronage. Even the Queen, Andrew’s greatest supporter, bowed to the inevitable: she told him he’d be losing his £249,000 taxpayer-funded salary and could now appear in public only at family events.
How, I wondered, does one even begin to reconcile this unsavoury character with the much-adored Prince Charming of the past? Was he too easily influenced, or marked by some trauma? Or were the seeds of his misfortunes there all along?
Month after month, there were gushing tributes to Prince Andrew ’s ‘movie-star looks’, his straightforwardness, his enviable self-confidence. Yet now, according to recent polls, Andrew is unquestionably the least popular member of the Royal Family. Pictured: Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and royal nursemaid Mabel Anderson
As I embarked on research for my new biography of the 60-year-old prince, it soon became clear that he had been radically different from his siblings as a child.
From the beginning, palace staff found him a handful. His nanny, Mabel Anderson, called him Baby Grumpling — because of his temper tantrums and obstinacy. And Andrew’s alternative nickname was ‘that young imp’ as he was always getting up to mischief, such as removing all the valves from Mabel’s radio or tying the sentries’ shoelaces together.
In contrast to Charles and Anne, who had been born before their mother became Queen, he had seven nurseries in four palaces, endless sumptuous treats and far more of his mother’s attention.
Prince Philip, too, delighted in his boisterous young son, who seemed far more like him than the self-conscious and complicated Charles. Somehow, Andrew was always forgiven — even when he sprinkled itching powder in his mother’s bed or climbed on to the roof of Buckingham Palace to turn the TV aerial so that the Queen wouldn’t be able to watch the racing at Sandown Park.
After that last prank, however, even his fond mother had to admit: ‘He is not always a little ray of sunshine about the home.’
Once, he even annoyed his father — while the family were watching Bet Lynch get into an argument on Coronation Street. ‘Oh God, look at all those common people,’ Andrew shouted. Prince Philip gave his favourite son a rocket. ‘If it wasn’t for people like that,’ he said, ‘you would not be sitting here.’
At eight, Andrew was sent to Heatherdown, a prep school in Ascot, Berkshire, where he gained a reputation as a bit of a bully — or ‘a natural boss’, according to Philip. The Heatherdown staff, it must be said, were not sorry to see him leave.
Next, Andrew was sent to board at Gordonstoun, in Scotland, where he signally failed to shine academically and at sport. Nor was he popular: fellow pupils described him as ‘boastful’ and ‘big-headed’. They also dubbed him ‘The Sniggerer’ because he kept telling blue jokes and then laughing so hard, according to one boy, that ‘you [couldn’t] understand the punch-line.’
At 16, Andrew went to Canada with his parents for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. ‘Six foot of sex appeal’ was how one Canadian newspaper described him, and he was bombarded with requests for dates.
Flying back to Canada a year later, he was greeted at the airport by young girls screaming: ‘We want Andy!’ In truth, few teenagers could have avoided such adulation going to their heads.
It was then that Andrew ditched his suits and ties, espousing a Marlboro-Man look — jeans, big-buckled belts and open-necked shirts. By contrast, Charles looked stuffy and old-fashioned.
Back at Gordonstoun, there was a series of girlfriends, none of whom lasted long. His luckier female schoolmates cheerfully called themselves Andy’s Harem, while the girls he had ignored bitched: ‘Whose turn is it on the royal rota today?’
His charm, however, seemed reserved for the ladies. Royal bodyguard Ken Wharfe recalled being moved from a window seat on a plane from Balmoral because he was obstructing Andrew’s view. ‘His manners,’ Wharfe said, ‘are just awful.’
One aide revealed: ‘I’ve seen him treat his staff in a shocking, appalling way. He’s been incredibly rude to his personal protection officers, throwing things on the ground and demanding they “f***ing pick them up”. No social graces at all. Sure, if you’re a lady with blonde hair and big boobs, I bet he’s utterly charming.’
Andrew didn’t exactly excel at his official duties, either. On a visit to Lockerbie — where 11 people had died on the ground when Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in December 1988 — he told the grieving locals that the disaster had been ‘much worse’ for the Americans (there were 190 American casualties, compared with 43 British ones) and that it had ‘only been a matter of time’ before a plane fell out of the sky.
All his mother said in private about the matter was: ‘I wish I had gone.’
On leaving school, Andrew decided to become a pilot in the Navy. On his first day at the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, which Charles had also attended, he pulled up in his new Ford Escort RS 2000, ignoring the fact that cars were banned for recruits.
The other cadets resented his privileges, not to mention the requirement to salute his car when he drove around the base. As one recalled: ‘He played the big “I-am-the-Prince” routine all the time and seemed rather arrogant.’
Even the higher ranks were left somewhat underwhelmed. ‘Andrew is very likeable but he’s very conscious of being a royal,’ said one senior officer. ‘He’s a bit of a mummy’s boy. You could never say that about Charles. And [Charles] certainly wouldn’t talk about girl conquests.’
While at Dartmouth, Andrew’s nickname among his classmates was Golden Eagle because of his habit of ‘dropping clangers’ when questioned by his instructors. Still, he made a big effort towards the end of the course, and ended up receiving the ‘best pilot’ award from his proud father.
His first tour of duty was on the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. When introduced to the captain, he said casually: ‘Hi, I’m Prince Andrew, but you can call me Andrew.’
The captain replied: ‘And you can call me Sir.’
At his public appearances, girls screamed and even fainted — it was Beatlemania all over again, according to one commentator. Pictured: Prince Andrew at 17-years-old on a royal state visit to Canada in July, 1977
Not long after his 22nd birthday, the new sub-lieutenant found himself at war. On April 2, 1982, Argentina had invaded the Falklands, and Andrew’s ship — the HMS Invincible — was one of the first to set sail for the South Atlantic.
The war ended in a matter of ten weeks. Like his fellow servicemen, Andrew had executed his military duties with dedication and honour — deploying his Sea King helicopter to attract missiles away from Invincible, and soaring above them before they exploded. He’d also flown to the aid of a downed British helicopter.
On his return, the Palace helped push Andrew centre-stage as a hero. He gave interviews about his experiences as a decoy and spoke of his fear while under attack. If he failed to mention the other personnel who had helped rescue the sole survivor of the downed helicopter — well, nobody really noticed.
Suddenly the bar against which ‘the warrior prince’ would be judged for the rest of his life had been set very high.
In the Falklands aftermath, he was treated like a rock star. When he drove up in a Rolls-Royce to switch on the Regent Street lights, for instance, hundreds of women wailed with emotion and chanted: ‘We want Andy!’ The police, with linked arms, could barely contain the tightly packed crowds. There was now tremendous interest in the love life of the man dubbed ‘His Royal Heart-throb’. Yet even dedicated royal-watchers were finding it hard to keep up with his ever-changing cast of girlfriends, many of them models.
Before going to the Falklands, Andrew had dated 19-year-old Miss UK, Carolyn Seaward, who was spotted leaving Buckingham Palace early one morning. Then there was Koo Stark, an American starlet he had met one night at Tramp nightclub in London.
After news of the Koo romance broke, even her Spanish-born cleaning lady made the headlines: ‘I saw the principe leave two or three times at about nine in the morning,’ she said. ‘He always looked rather tired.’ Pictured: Actress and model Koo Stark
He had written to her while away with the Task Force, and Koo —who was best-known then for appearing in an erotic film — had sent him photos of herself: one in a skin-tight outfit; another in a black T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Weird Fantasy’. But he was writing to Carolyn Seaward at the same time.
After news of the Koo romance broke, even her Spanish-born cleaning lady made the headlines: ‘I saw the principe leave two or three times at about nine in the morning,’ she said. ‘He always looked rather tired.’
Koo, however, was deemed unsuitable, and the couple broke up in 1983. Then Andrew’s next girlfriend ruled herself out when nude pictures of her surfaced. And another, the topless model Vicki Hodge, went a step further by selling the story of their romance to the News of the World for £40,000.
She claimed to have discovered why Andrew’s previous affairs had been so brief: apparently, he ‘finished’ far too quickly. And though Vicki said he took her advice to distract himself by counting, he put her off by counting aloud.
The Palace was far more sanguine about Sarah Ferguson — aka ‘Fergie’ — the daughter of Prince Charles’s polo manager. Princess Diana, who got on well with her, had helped engineer the match. In February 1986, while on shore leave, Andrew dropped to his knees and said: ‘Miss Ferguson, will you marry me?’
After their wedding at Westminster Abbey, attended by 1,800 guests, the couple moved into Sunninghill Park, a modern, 50-room mansion in Berkshire with a staff of 11 and a giant bathtub that the builders called HMS Fergie.
To begin with, the marriage was so passionate that the couple’s public displays of affection sometimes embarrassed their friends. But Andrew’s naval duties soon took him away: in 1990, Fergie reckoned they had spent only 42 nights a year together in their four years of marriage.
To make matters worse, he devoted most of his energy — when at home — to playing golf.
Bored, Fergie began gallivanting round London clubs with the newly liberated Diana and jetting off on numerous holidays. Soon nicknamed Freeloading Fergie, she demanded payment for interviews, asked designers to give her free clothes and complained that her allowance didn’t cover first-class air travel.
The prince asked for a divorce in 1992 after pictures emerged of Fergie on holiday with a Texan playboy. Not long afterwards, a far more damaging set of pictures, taken in the South of France, showed her topless and having her toes sucked by the financial adviser who was negotiating the divorce.
Yet even after the marriage ended, Sarah continued to live with Andrew — indeed still does. Their home since 2004 has been the Royal Lodge in Windsor, a 30-room Georgian property set in 98 acres, with eight cottages for staff.
For this, the prince paid the Crown Estates just £1 million for a 75-year lease — the equivalent of £250 a week. He also spent £7.5 million doing it up, adding a swimming pool and driving range.
How did he pay for it? Possibly he relied on the Bank of Mum, as his naval pension plus the sum the Queen paid him annually wouldn’t even have covered the interest.
Despite co-habiting with his ex-wife, the prince (now widely known as Randy Andy) indulged in a slew of affairs. One royal-watcher reckoned that, by 2010, he’d had about 15 girlfriends since his divorce.
Among them were French professional golfer Audrey Raimbault; British PR woman Caroline Stanbury; model turned TV presenter Catrina Skepper; PR executive Aurelia Cecil; South African former burger-bar waitress Heather Mann; former Miss USA Julie Hayek; and ex-Playboy model Denise Martell.
The only real threat to Fergie’s dominance was businesswoman Amanda Staveley, whom Prince Philip thought would be an ideal Duchess of York.
But when Andrew proposed in 2004, Amanda turned him down. ‘If I married him, all my independence would have disappeared,’ she said.
As for Sunninghill Park, it languished on the market until 2011, when it sold for £15 million — £3 million over the asking price — to a Kazakh oligarch. Why pay over the odds for a house that was then almost derelict? Clearly, there was something fishy about the deal, which attracted the interest of prosecutors in Italy and Switzerland. But the Palace insisted it was all above board — and presumably mere coincidence that Andrew, in his capacity as trade ambassador, had met the buyer’s son-in-law.
Today, it’s hard to work out why anyone ever thought the prince would be particularly good at promoting trade deals.
After leaving the Navy, Andrew had drifted, which earned him a tongue-lashing from Prince Philip for being ‘selfish and lazy’. The next thing we knew, in 2001, Andrew was officially representing British business interests abroad.
By now, his abiding interest in the opposite sex had at times become rather louche. In October 2000, he’d been seen with Epstein and the multi-millionaire’s alleged pimp-cum-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell at a ‘pimps and hookers’ party in a New York nightclub. Then, at a Chinese New Year reception, Andrew was photographed beside a topless waitress.
He was also snapped on board a luxury yacht off the Thai island of Phuket, surrounded by topless beauties. Epstein and Maxwell were fellow guests. Asked about these pictures, Andrew claimed: ‘I was just reading my book. I wasn’t really aware of what everyone else was doing.’ In Thailand, he toured the red-light district of Patong and danced in a go-go bar — motto ‘good food, cold drinks, hot girls’ — with half-naked young women. Aides at the Palace were said to have been furious.
Andrew’s much-vaunted charm appeared to have deserted him. A woman who met him at a party in St Tropez complained: ‘He doesn’t have much conversation other than [about] himself.’ Another remarked: ‘He’s everything people tell you — boorish, interrupts you and laughs at his own jokes.’
Nor was he doing much better as the special representative for British trade and investment. Within months, complaints were pouring in. Too often, the Foreign Office’s protocol department said, he refused to stick to the agreed itinerary and ‘left a trail of glass in his wake’.
‘Andrew’s relations around the world are dicey,’ commented one official at the weekly heads of department meeting. ‘He’s showing bad judgment about people. He’s rude, lashes out to lay down the law and it’s so difficult to sell him.’
In 2010, our royal envoy was reported to have spent £154,000 on hotels, food and hospitality and £465,000 on travel. Part of this expense was because he travelled with a team of equerries and private secretaries — and a valet with a 6 ft ironing board so Andrew could have perfect creases in his trousers.
Soon he had acquired yet another nickname, this time in diplomatic circles: HBH, or His Buffoon Highness.
Ambassador Sir Ivor Richard, who hosted Andrew’s visit to Italy, described him as ‘brusque to the point of rudeness’. At one party, the prince had dismissed the head of a well-known fashion house with the words: ‘Never heard of you.’
‘The problem with Andrew,’ a senior Buckingham Palace official said in 2001, ‘is that his mouth engages before his brain does.’
His jaunts around the world allowed him to collect a wide circle of dubious acquaintances, including Saif al-Islam — son of the Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi — now wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Certainly, Andrew seemed to think he was above the rules. In 2002, he told a police officer who pulled him over for speeding that he was in a hurry — to get to a golf tournament, as it turned out — and drove off before he could be given a ticket. Three years later, there was a stand-off at Melbourne airport in Australia when he refused to subject himself to routine security screening. ‘Who does he think he is?’ one of the airport security team said. ‘What a pompous p****.’
There was another big problem: used to travelling in private or RAF jets, Andrew refused to fly on commercial airlines. In 2003 alone, it was reported that he spent £325,000 on flights — including £2,939 for a helicopter to make a 120-mile round trip to Oxford, and RAF jets to fly him to St Andrews for two golfing jaunts.
Most of his trips, it emerged, were to places that had golf courses. In 2004, he was criticised for taking an RAF jet to Northern Ireland, where he played a round of golf before turning up late to a royal garden party. The following year, there were three trips costing £32,000 to golfing events at St Andrews. He remained unapologetic, even after it was revealed that his flights in 2007 had cost £565,000, most paid for by the taxpayer. ‘In terms of the return on investment to the UK,’ he said, ‘I would suggest that £500,000 is cheap at the price.’
Throughout this period of rubbing shoulders with the super-rich and famous — and, in some cases, corrupt — the prince had been regularly seeing Epstein (who obligingly bankrolled the ever cash-strapped Fergie to the tune of at least £15,000). It was this catastrophic lack of judgment that finally put paid to Andrew’s post as trade envoy in 2011, when his link to the convicted paedophile became public.
His playboy career could be just about tolerated, but his three alleged trysts with one of Epstein’s 17-year-old sex-slaves were in another category altogether. (Andrew denies they took place and — despite publication of a photo of him holding her around the waist — claims he can’t recall meeting her.)
Today, his life of extraordinary privilege continues to unravel. A £16.6 million Swiss chalet he owns with Fergie risks being seized by debt-collectors because the couple failed to pay a final £6.6 million instalment.
Although Epstein is dead, the FBI says it’s continuing to focus on the prince and his connection to the sex-trafficking of minors.
After a lifetime of doing whatever he wants, more or less with impunity, Prince Andrew is out in the cold. Worse, he faces the nightmare scenario of giving evidence under oath about his friendship with a paedophile.
n Adapted from Prince Andrew: The End Of The Monarchy And Epstein by Nigel Cawthorne, published by Gibson Square at £20. © Nigel Cawthorne 2020. To order a copy for £16.05 (UK P&P free), visit hive.co.uk