You could almost hear the rattle of his breakfast crockery from the other side of the world as Prince Charles digested the backlash over his brother’s disastrous television appearance at the weekend.
It was not just that the debacle was drowning out the Prince’s own royal duties but that Charles was in New Zealand, which has one of the most vocal republican movements in the Commonwealth.
While there is considerable goodwill towards the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, there has been talk about the £700,000 cost to local taxpayers of their last visit four years ago.
For some years Charles has made no secret that when he comes to the throne he foresees a slimmed down monarchy with fewer members, albeit one that is more in touch with modern life. Pictured: Prince Andrew and Prince Charles at Sandringham for the Christmas Day church service in 2011
Against that backdrop, the Andrew fiasco is a further embarrassment, even 11,500 miles away.
For some years Charles has made no secret that when he comes to the throne he foresees a slimmed down monarchy with fewer members, albeit one that is more in touch with modern life. Under his plan the number of front-rank royals, we would see at formal ceremonial occasions would be considerably reduced with Andrew’s daughters Beatrice and Eugenie the most likely to be surplus to requirements.
At times it has led to tensions between the brothers with Andrew quite naturally upset that his daughters, the only two blood Princesses of their generation and with the HRH style, being sidelined in such a high-handed manner.
Prince Charles prepares to lay a wreath at the Mount Roskill War Memorial Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on the first day of their royal tour
Three years ago it was claimed that the Prince had written to his mother asking her to intervene on behalf of the girls who have a close relationship with their grandmother, often dropping in for tea at Windsor Castle.
Things seemed intractable until the rhythms of life intervened — Eugenie is now in the second year of marriage to accountant’s son Jack Brooksbank and elder sister Beatrice will marry property developer Edo Mapelli Mozzi next year. Both Princesses are making futures away from the Royal Family.
But while the issue of his daughters has diminished, their father has been unable to escape the spotlight.
Prince Andrew interviewed by Emily Maitlis for BBC Newsnight regarding links to Jeffrey Epstein
Prince Andrew walking through Buckingham Palace with Emily Maitlis before his ‘car crash’ interview on his links to Jeffrey Epstein
Just imagine if the Royal Family was a corporation and Prince Andrew a director. Would he still be in a job after Saturday night’s interview?
For ten years up until 2011, Andrew’s official role as Britain’s trade envoy had been to suck up to international businessmen on behalf of Britain. In that time, the line between his official schmoozing on the nation’s behalf, and his networking among the rich on his own behalf, had become alarmingly blurred.
Dubious figures, inevitably wealthy, filled his address book of close friends, from the roistering Saif Gaddafi — son of the murderous former Libyan dictator — to Timur Kulibayev, the billionaire son-in-law of the former president of Kazakhstan. He was the figure who mysteriously paid £3 million over the £12 million asking price for Sunninghill Park, in Windsor Great Park, Andrew’s marital home that he had been unable to sell for five years.
Both Princesses are making futures away from the Royal Family. Princess Eugenie (left) and Princess Beatrice (right)
The Queen cut a sombre figure as she took to her horse for a morning ride around the grounds of Windsor Castle today with her Head Groom Terry Pendry
But then, everyone who knows Andrew well is aware he is obsessed with money. And this is what initially drew him into the unsavoury company of billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
One theory is that the Duke of York could lose his status as a working royal when Charles becomes King
Prince Charles was never comfortable with his brother occupying such a sensitive ambassadorial role for which he always thought he was ill-suited.
And over the weekend the Prince was said to have regarded his brother’s decision to grant the BBC an interview with ‘incredulity and alarm’ and had considered the whole enterprise ‘misguided’.
The negative headlines, including yesterday’s poll that showed only six per cent of the public believe Andrew’s explanation of his friendship with Epstein, will hardly have improved the Prince’s frame of mind.
No wonder figures close to Charles have been speculating that it would not just be Beatrice and Eugenie who would be erased from a streamlined Royal Family. So too, they say, would Andrew.
One theory is that the Duke of York could lose his status as a working royal when Charles becomes King. Another more drastic suggestion is that Andrew might have the funding he receives from the Sovereign Grant, the money he is given to run his private office, removed.
The Prince of Wales seemed overcome with emotion during the service in Auckland. Charles and Camilla are on their third visit to New Zealand
Palace insiders insist it is unlikely there will be any such scaling back in his duties, at least in the short term as Andrew enjoys the complete support of the Queen. And that, for now, remains the case.
Prince Charles, 71, and the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, were welcomed to New Zealand with a busy first day of engagements during an eight day royal tour
But if the public backlash worsens and the financial backing from blue-chip companies supporting his main charity Pitch@Palace continues to drain away — KPMG and Aon withdrew their sponsorship yesterday — aides may have to reconsider. If ever Andrew could have done with the wise counsel of his older brother it was this last weekend. Charles, who had his own costly television ‘moment’ 25 years ago when he admitted adultery to the broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, would surely have urged him not to do it.
But the fact is that in recent times the two brothers have had a distant relationship. Things burst into the open in 2012 when Charles made his future vision of a slimmed down monarchy plain for all to see by excluding wider members of the family from the Buckingham Palace balcony during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The Queen struck an elegant ensemble as she headed The Royal Chapel of All Saints at Windsor Great Park in a turquoise ensemble yesterday. It is claimed that Prince Andrew joined her at the service and assured her that his BBC interview went well
That balcony scene was one of the most significant moments of the entire Jubilee. With Prince Philip unwell and in hospital, the Queen lined up with Charles, Camilla, William and Kate and Prince Harry. It was the clearest signal yet that under Charles, the Royal Family would consist of the monarch and the monarch’s immediate family.
The contrast with the last great palace gathering, the Queen’s golden jubilee ten years earlier, could not have been greater. Then, Andrew, Princess Anne and Prince Edward all had prominent roles. Now they were reduced to peripheral figures.
As I reported at the time, Andrew was said to have viewed the demotion as ‘like a dagger to his heart’.
Back then, he had only recently stepped down as Britain’s international trade envoy but, even so, Andrew was hurt. Even greater was his anger at the way he felt Beatrice and Eugenie had been treated in the same year when they lost their round-the-clock police protection, which followed a row over the £500,000 annual cost.
It was a move he bitterly resented because he also saw it as a sign of his own diminishing status.
The Queen and Prince Andrew together at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire on September 15
So what will happen next? Despite their differences, Charles has a good deal of affection for his brother. When Virginia Roberts’ allegations that she had sex with Andrew first became public in 2015, one of the first calls the Duke made was to his elder brother.
Andrew told him the claims were not true. Charles believed him then and believes him now.
A family friend says: ‘Nothing has come along since to make the Prince believe anything other than that Andrew has been telling the truth. The problem is he feels it has become a real mess.’
Downgrading Andrew from a working royal might even worsen things. His only interest outside his family and his charities is playing golf and, with nothing else to distract him, he could possibly become even more of a liability.
After all, when Andrew was first made Britain’s trade ambassador in 2001, Charles often described him as being like ‘a fizzy drink that has been shaken up and the stopper taken off’.
These days, the fizz has long gone out of the Duke of York. But if ever he needed to make a phone call to his brother, it is now.