The Queen is being forced to decide which rank of military uniform the Duke of York can wear to his father’s funeral after he demanded to go as an Admiral.
Prince Andrew – who stepped back from public duties over his friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein 18 months ago – was made an honorary Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy on his 55th birthday in 2015.
He was due to be promoted to Admiral on his 60th birthday last year, but offered to defer it until he cleared his name and returned to public duties.
Now the 61-year-old prince has sparked ructions at Buckingham Palace after he told his mother and senior officials that he wished to attend the funeral as an Admiral.
The widowed Queen will have to make a decision in the next 24 hours. It comes as:
- Preparations are well under way for Philip’s funeral, which will feature servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF – alongside top military brass – this Saturday at Windsor Castle;
- The Queen returned to royal duties just four days after Philip’s death, hosting an in-person event to mark the retirement of her household’s most senior official, former Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel;
- Thames Valley Police are carrying out specialist searches around Windsor town, with officers examining street furniture including phone boxes, post boxes, drains and bins as part of the operation;
- The Queen and her family will wear face masks and socially distance as they gather to say their final farewell – and the Queen may have to sit alone during the service due to social distancing rules;
- Philip’s funeral could attract one of the largest television audiences of the year, with the record to beat being 25.1million people who watched Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s televised lockdown address on January 4.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex stands with Prince Edward and Prince Andrew as the brothers wear ceremonial dress at a service of commemoration to mark the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, at St Paul’s Cathedral in London in March 2015
Prince Harry (left) has a Blues and Royals military uniform which he wore when he married Meghan at Windsor Castle in May 2018. The choice of attire was significant because it was a major’s uniform as opposed to that of a general – despite him being Captain General of the Marines. His brother Prince William also wore a Blues and Royals frockcoat uniform for the event
Prince Charles and Prince William wear ceremonial uniform next to the Queen on the balcony at Buckingham Palace in 2015
The Duke of Sussex displayed various decorations on his military uniform at the Royal Albert Hall last March. He wore a scarlet Mess Jacket featuring silver-embroidered rank badges of a star above a crossed sword and baton on each shoulder strap
It comes as it was reported last night that William had spoken on the phone to Harry.
The estranged brothers have barely spoken for a year and any attempts to break the ice after Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview have not been productive.
Kensington Palace declined to comment but royal sources said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wished the focus of the week to be on honouring the Duke of Edinburgh’s memory.
Royal officials are also wrestling with the dilemma of Prince Harry possibly being the only senior male royal not in uniform at the funeral.
The Queen joined by members of the Royal Family after Trooping the Colour at Buckingham Palace in June 2019, including the Prince William and Kate with their children, Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, Camilla, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Peter and Autumn Phillips and their children Savannah and Isla
The Duke and Duchess of York leave the Windsor Castle estate today
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle lay a wreath at Los Angeles National Cemetery on Remembrance Sunday last November
Senior members of the Royal Family follow the coffin of the Queen Mother on its way to her funeral in Westminster Abbey in London in April 2002. From left: The Duke of York, Prince of Wales, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Royal, and Earl of Wessex
The Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge and Earl of Wessex, as well as Princess Anne, will be in military dress as each hold honorary roles.
How Britain will have first royal ceremonial funeral for nearly 20 years
The last royal ceremonial funeral held in the UK was the late Queen Mother’s in April 2002 at Westminster Abbey.
Her three eldest grandchildren – Charles, Andrew and Anne, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh – all wore uniform in line with their respective honorary military positions.
Prince Edward, along with the young Princes William and Harry, was in a morning suit as he had, until shortly before his grandmother’s death, been running his own film production business and did not receive any honorary military appointments until several years later.
This was in contrast to the funeral of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, that same year at St George’s Chapel, as it was classed as a private event and all of the family wore morning suits.
Saturday’s funeral will see all of the Queen’s children – now accompanied by Prince William – in military uniform, apart from Prince Harry, it is believed.
Andrew has not been stripped of his military titles like his nephew. When he was promoted to the position of vice-admiral, his appointment was announced in the London Gazette.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said it had been ‘approved by the Queen in line with long-standing convention covering military promotions’ for royals.
In a statement, the Royal Navy added: ‘Following his active service, His Royal Highness has been hugely supportive of the Royal Navy and has undertaken a vast amount of work for the service over many years. This promotion on the occasion of his 55th birthday recognises that contribution.’
But Harry lost his military titles after quitting royal duties. As a former Captain with the Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals), Harry is only permitted to wear a morning suit with medals, unless officials can find a way round the issue.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment last night, saying only: ‘Funeral arrangements are being finalised and we will announce them accordingly.’
A source said any final decision on what uniforms are worn would rest with the Queen.
Andrew stepped down from public duties in November 2019 ‘for the foreseeable future’ over his friendship with Epstein in the wake of the disastrous Newsnight interview he had hoped would clear his name.
The prince joined the Royal Navy in 1979 as a Seaman Officer and finished his active naval career in 2001.
The Navy established a policy in 2009 that means the prince is promoted in line with his still-serving peers to mark his continued contribution to the service.
He became a Rear Admiral on his 50th birthday, a Vice-Admiral on his 55th, and had been due to become an Admiral on his 60th last year before forgoing the promotion.
An Admiral’s ceremonial day coat has three rows of lace on the sleeve, but a Vice-Admiral’s two rows.
The Admiral’s shoulder rank board features a crossed baton and sword with four stars, but for a Vice-Admiral there are just three stars.
Andrew’s stance is likely to add to what must be an extremely distressing and stressful week for the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family.
‘People have opinions and there are ongoing discussions about the right course of action,’ a source said.
The rank of Admiral is the highest rank to which a serving officer in the Royal Navy can be promoted, although members of the Royal Family can be made Admiral of the Fleet.
Significantly, while many of Andrew’s charitable patronages have deserted him, he has not been stripped of his military positions and titles yet.
He has been accused by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Guiffre, of having sex with her twice when she was just 17. Andrew has strongly denied all accusations.
He has kept a generally low profile since being forced out of public life, but in recent days talked of the ‘huge void’ his father’s passing had left in the Queen’s life.
There have been reports he hopes to rehabilitate his image and make a return to public life.