On July 9 this year, the Queen chose a practically neon shade of pink to visit Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. She greeted medical staff, received a bouquet and positively beamed as she trotted around the facility. Later, she pluckily planted a tree at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

Looking at the photos of that day now, she seems to have not a care in the world but in hindsight, it's hard not to wonder if she could already see the storm clouds on the horizon.

Two days before, on July 7, Jeffrey Epstein had been arrested in the US, reports


And only a day before, on July 8, prosecutors in New York had laid out a stunningly detailed indictment against the financier, alleging that he had "sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations," and that cash had been used to recruit a "vast network of underage victims".

The Queen is an astute woman and she must have known that with Epstein back in the dock, the most toxic of all of son Prince Andrew's scandals was about to erupt again.

Less than six months later, Andrew's world has been turned upside down. Last week he was forced to resign as a working member of the royal family after his disastrous BBC interview, in which he tried, and failed, to explain his friendship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender.

Andrew with Epstein's then-teenage 'sex slave' Virginia Roberts, now 35-year-old accuser Virginia Giuffre. Photo / AP
Andrew with Epstein's then-teenage 'sex slave' Virginia Roberts, now 35-year-old accuser Virginia Giuffre. Photo / AP

The Duke of York then suffered the humiliation of myriad high-profile backers pulling out of his signature pitch@palace initiative.

His mother has reportedly cancelled his 60th birthday party which had been slated for February next year.

Heck, he has even been turfed out of his Buckingham Palace office.

The perception is that the Queen (along with Prince Charles and Prince William) had acted swiftly to try and cauterise the damage Andrew's tawdry entanglement with Epstein had been doing to the royal family.

While all of this might have made her appear authoritative and commanding, putting the longevity of the Crown ahead of maternal bonds, the truth is more complicated. And sadly, it doesn't paint the Queen in the best light.


Let's rewind, shall we.

In February 2011, the now-defunct News of the World published a shocking photo of Andrew strolling through New York's Central Park with Epstein, who by this stage was on the sex offender's register.

Soon after, Virginia Giuffre nee Roberts first publicly alleged that she had been Epstein's sex slave and that in 2001, she was flown to London to spend time with the Duke.

(At that time, it was denied that a teenage Giuffre had had sexual contact with Andrew. Later, in 2015, Giuffre would allege that she had sex with the royal three times, including in London. Andrew has always strenuously denied her claims.)

Back in 2011, the Palace first knew of this looming PR disaster when an assistant editor at the Mail on Sunday rang Ed Perkins, Andrew's then press secretary. Per Vanity Fair, Perkins then set about putting together a crisis team of lawyers and senior palace courtiers. While the story received significant coverage in the UK, the public response was largely muted.

And then the Queen did something extraordinary: She gave Andrew a medal.

On February 21, a day after the New York photo was published in the UK, it was announced that the Queen had decided to bestow the Duke with the Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. (It has been reported she first told Andrew she was to give him this gong on his birthday on February 19.)

Pictures of Epstein and Andrew in Central Park were published around the world. Photo / New York Post
Pictures of Epstein and Andrew in Central Park were published around the world. Photo / New York Post

One month later, in an investiture ceremony held at Windsor Castle, the Queen made Andrew a Knight Grand Cross, which is the highest of six grades of the Royal Victorian Order, and which is given in recognition of "services to the Sovereign". (This order means Andrew is entitled to use G.C.V.O. after his name.)

At the time, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said Her Majesty had made the decision to give her son this particular honour because "she decided this was the right time to do it".

The meaning and symbolism were abundantly clear: The Queen was very deliberately signalling her ongoing support for her son.

And then, the whole tawdry scandal largely disappeared, though Andrew was forced out as an official British trade envoy.

Fast forward to today when the Andrew situation has proven hugely damaging to the royal family, so much so that it has dangerously revived debate about the very purpose and use of the monarchy. (It has even become an election issue ahead of Britons going to the polls next month.)

In the wake of Andrew's Newsnight appearance, the Queen's actions have superficially appeared decisive.

However, all of this has called into question, why is Her Majesty only acting now? We, the public, and the royal family have known about Epstein's conviction and Giuffre's allegations for years.

While it is important to keep in mind that Andrew has always denied Giuffre's claims, why has the Queen or the Palace never shown moral leadership in regards to all of this?

There is something slightly unsettling about the fact that the Palace has only moved with such speed and forcefulness once public sentiment was vociferously against Andrew.

The lingering, unpalatable impression is that it is now politically expedient for the royal family to cut adrift a problematic member.

The embattled royal is technically styled Prince Andrew, Duke of York, KG, GCVO, CD, ADC (P). As we enter the second week of continuing full-blown, front page coverage about Andrew, it is hard not to wonder whether the Queen is starting to regret giving her embattled son four of those letters.