Amid the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein, Prince Charles stepped up his responsibilities and handled the decision-making process that resulted in his brother stepping down from his duties.

Reports are circulating that the Queen could retire in 18 months, and Prince Charles is preparing to take leadership of the royal family when his mother turns 95.

Charles met with his father at Sandringham as soon as he landed in the UK from his tour of New Zealand this week, to discuss the fallout from his brother's disastrous interview with the BBC about his links to paedophile Epstein.

Prince Charles' role in "retiring" Prince Andrew from public life has fed speculation he is working towards becoming "shadow King", controlling day-to-day royal affairs while his mother remains Queen.

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Prince Philip withdrew from public duties when he turned 95 and Her Majesty will turn the same age in 18 months.

She may be planning to allow Charles to become Prince Regent on her 95th birthday.

"The scandal surrounding Andrew and 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," a royal source told The Sun.

"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."