If there's one thing the latest royal scandal has proved, it's this: Prince Charles is stepping up.

He's been patiently waiting in the wings as heir apparent his entire life, but now at 71 the Prince of Wales is beginning to pull the strings as he prepares to some day soon take centrestage.

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As former BBC correspondent Peter Hunt put it: "[Prince] Andrew's departure reminds us of the inevitable shift in power from monarch to 'Shadow King'".

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And he's not the only one to suspect the seismic transition, which will shift the entire course of the monarchy, is underway.

Prince Charles with New Zealand Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern, at Government House in Auckland, on November 19. AP photo / Victoria Jones
Prince Charles with New Zealand Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern, at Government House in Auckland, on November 19. AP photo / Victoria Jones

A well-placed royal source told The Sun on Wednesday that planning for Prince Charles' accession to the throne had been going on "for some time", highlighted by the Prince Andrew saga.

"A transition is plainly already underway. Her majesty is in her nineties and can understandably only do so much," the source said.

"The scandal surrounding Andrew and (Jeffrey) Epstein gave Charles an opportunity to step in to show that he can run The Firm. No-one is bigger than the institution of the royal family. Not even Andrew, the Queen's favourite son.

"Charles recognised that and acted decisively — like the king he may well soon be. This was the moment when Charles stepped up as prince regent, the Shadow King."

Queen nearing retirement age

As The Sun points out, the Queen is now 93 years old and nearing the age Prince Philip was when he retired from his royal duties.

Queen Elizabeth II meets members as she visits the new headquarters of the Royal Philatelic society in London on November 26. AP photo / Tolga Akmen
Queen Elizabeth II meets members as she visits the new headquarters of the Royal Philatelic society in London on November 26. AP photo / Tolga Akmen

The Duke of Edinburgh was 95 when he decided to stand down in 2017, joking at the time that he could hardly stand up.

The announcement followed a highly unusual meeting where senior staff from across the UK were called to gather in London.

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It gave royal watchers a taste of what could be to come when Queen Elizabeth II also eventually chooses to bow out.

Prince Andrew left off guest list

In the meantime, her majesty is continuing to keep calm and carry on with the job as Prince Andrew faces his first major event where he will be forced to watch from the wings.

On December 3, the monarch will host a reception for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) leaders and their partners at Buckingham Palace, including US President Donald Trump.

The lavish affair will mark 70 years of the alliance, which brings together 29 member states from North America and Europe.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will be there to formally receive the leaders alongside the Queen.

Prince Andrew will no longer be in the front seats at royal events. File photo / AP
Prince Andrew will no longer be in the front seats at royal events. File photo / AP

But Prince Andrew has been noticeably left off the guest list, after "stepping back" from his royal duties last week.

"The Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Princess Alexandra will welcome the guests in the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace," a statement said.

It's the first major event the Duke of York will not be part of following his disastrous interview on BBC Newsnight where he struggled to explain his friendship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender who was found dead in his New York jail cell earlier this year.

Prince Andrew on BBC Newsnight with Emily Maitlis. Photo / BBC
Prince Andrew on BBC Newsnight with Emily Maitlis. Photo / BBC

Prince Andrew also denied having ever met Epstein's 'sex slave' Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was also forced to have sex with the Duke three times.

She will give her own interview on the BBC's Panorama programme on Monday evening (British-time).