THIS is an unprecedented moment in royal history.
Yesterday morning, as we now understand, the Duke of York was driven to Windsor Castle to have a meeting with the Queen.
It is a meeting that she cannot have imagined she would ever have to have with her favourite son, who since the death of her husband, Prince Philip, has been her attentive supporter.
With her sad agreement, he returned his military titles and royal patronages on the understanding he would now fight his sex claims lawsuit in America as a private citizen.
To do this, he has also relinquished to the Queen the honorific, as it is called, of HRH. His Royal Highness.
His ex-wife, Sarah Duchess of York, lost hers in their divorce case, which was understandable as she wanted to work in the US as Sarah Ferguson. Diana losing her HRH was far more controversial.
Called to court
The Queen had no desire to take it away, but when Diana talked publicly saying she was going to lose it, the Queen was so irritated she decided that is what would happen.
No member of the Royal Family has been called to court since the time Edward VII was involved in what became known as the Baccarat scandal in September 1890. His friend Gordon Cumming was accused of cheating at the card game and the prince was called as a witness.
This was the first time an heir to the throne had been compelled to appear in court since Richard Plantagenet, the 3rd Duke of York in the 15th Century.
The Paul Burrell case in 2002, in which Diana’s former butler was accused of theft from her estate, collapsed when the Queen suddenly remembered that he had told her he was keeping some of the late Princess’s belongings for safe-keeping.
The case was about to get up close and personal and the royals could not risk being called to testify. For a prince of the blood — and for 20 years the second in line to the throne after his elder brother the Prince of Wales — to lose his title makes it a tragic day for the royals.
The Queen has spent 70 years protecting the image of the monarchy because she considers it her duty. A duty that was taught to her by her beloved father. She has done this duty with hard work and pride. It has not been easy, but she had a determination that it was her lot in life and that she had been ordained by God to do so. Prince Philip agreed with her.
Together they sacrificed a great deal of personal happiness to keep the show on the road. Philip said that whatever happens, they had to do this. The move to shred Andrew’s ties with the military is likely to be particularly painful for a Royal Navy veteran, who served with distinction as a helicopter pilot during the Falklands War.
It is almost 40 years ago since Prince Andrew stepped on to the quayside at Portsmouth on his return as a hero from the Falklands War in September 1982. His family were there to meet him. He was hailed by crowds. His mother handed him a rose which he jokingly, joyously, put between his teeth. He was everything his parents had ever dared to hope he might be, handsome, brave and applauded by the Press and public alike.
But, now, he is determined to clear his name in his court case with Virginia Giuffre. He cannot do that as an active member of the Royal Family.
The Queen has made it abundantly clear he has no choice but to fight his case as a private citizen. He has no alternative but to set himself apart and get on with it. He has to distance himself from his family before he heaps more embarrassment and humiliation upon the monarchy.
This is something Andrew would agree with and accept, no matter how hard it is for him. He is a man who has always employed pulling rank when he wants something, even once saying to a groundsman who refused him immediate entry: “Don’t you know who I am?”
As well as being very dear to the Queen, Andrew was Philip’s favourite son too. He named him after his own father, Prince Andrew of Greece, whose life never reached its early expectations.
He ended up leaving his wife in a sanatorium, his daughters in Paris and his young son at school in England.
He disappeared to live in Monte Carlo, living off rich friends together with his mistress. I only hope that history does not repeat itself.