Dismay as disgraced Prince Andrew takes centre stage at his father’s memorial service

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Prince Andrew escorts the queen inside Westminster Abbey for Prince Philip's memorial service on 29 March. (PHOTO: Gallo  Images/Getty Images)
Prince Andrew escorts the queen inside Westminster Abbey for Prince Philip's memorial service on 29 March. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Not even Prince Harry's scandalous absence from Prince Philip's memorial set tongues wagging as much as the prominent role Prince Andrew played at the solemn occasion.

Few will argue that the 62-year-old didn’t have every right to pay homage to his father, but it was expected the disgraced prince – who's essentially been in royal exile since 2019 due to his friendship with the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein – would be a low-key presence at the service held at Westminster Abbey.

Instead Andrew was front and centre as he escorted his mother, Queen Elizabeth, up the aisle in full view of the 1 800-strong congregation, with cameras beaming the ceremony to the world.

(PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Andrew helps his mother from the car as they arrive at Westminster Abbey. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
(PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
The disgraced duke seemed unfazed as he led his mother up the aisle to her seat in the front. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

As one former BBC News royal correspondent Peter Hunt put it, “This was rehabilitation on speed".

Senior members of the royal family, in particular Prince Charles and Prince William, were said to have been “shocked” and “dismayed” by his “unnecessary role” at the service.

However the two future kings reluctantly agreed to let Andrew play his role after the queen put her foot down saying it was “her wish and final decision”.

Either way it has raised the question: is Andrew staging a comeback into public life?

The memorial service was his first public appearance since he settled a civil sex assault case brought against him last year by Virginia Giuffre (38).

 (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
The memorial service saw the entire royal family gathering (front row, from left): Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Anne, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Sophie, Countess of Wessex (second row from left): Prince William, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, the Duchess of Cambridge, Peter Phillips and Isla Phillips. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
(PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Mother and son were seen leaving the church. They reportedly travelled together from Windsor where they both live. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

As one of Epstein’s victims, the Australian-American Virginia claims Andrew slept with her several times when she was 17.

The case was settled out of court in February with Andrew agreeing to pay her £12 million (R228m), some of which is thought to have come out of the queen’s private coffers.

With his clearly sanctioned presence at the service, palace insiders say there’s now a fear that Andrew may now start gradually appearing at other national events such as his mother’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Sources close to Andrew have suggested he “still believes he has much to offer the family and public service in general” – this despite the fact that public sentiment is largely against him.

Charles and William reportedly have held private talks and don't want him at official engagements. But as one insider put it, “Ultimately as this episode shows, it’s up to the queen – and if she wants Andrew there, he'll be there.”

This means there's a chance he may attend the Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral on 3 June, which is considered a family occasion.

‘It appeared the queen had made a gesture of extraordinary maternal graciousness; it showed her love for her favourite son was undimmed and that she believed in him’
– Richard Kay

Some royal experts reckon ultimately it doesn’t matter what he’s done, he will always remain Her Majesty's favourite son.

“Such a powerful and public endorsement would also suggest that she wanted to remind people he had not admitted any wrongdoing and, for all the repulsiveness of the Jeffrey Epstein affair, he had not been found guilty of anything but gross misjudgement,” says Daily Mail columnist Richard Kay.

“Perhaps this was the queen putting motherhood ahead of monarchy. Over the years she's been criticised for placing her duties to the Crown ahead of her family.

"Here then was the most powerful of reminders that, for all her devotion to service, being a mother is a higher purpose.”

Sources: mirror.co.uk, bbc.com

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