Will the Epstein scandal cost Andrew and Fergie their grace and favour Windsor mansion? DAN WOOTTON on how William is eyeing up Royal Lodge as Charles frets about damage to Royals
As Prince Andrew thrusts the monarchy into another catastrophic scandal with Virginia Roberts suing him in a New York court for sex abuse, questions are being asked at the most senior levels of the Royal Family over whether he can retain his Royal Lodge home at Windsor.
There is growing outrage from the first and second in line to the throne, Prince Charles and William, about the devastating impact the Duke of York’s personal conduct in regards to his friendship with the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein has had on the institution.
That has resulted in simmering frustration that he remains living a luxurious life in the sprawling 30-room Royal Lodge just three miles away from the Queen at Windsor Castle, a prized property that was home to the Queen Mother from 1952 until her death in 2002.
I’ve learned Prince William has even expressed an interest in his family taking over the property in the medium-term.
Questions are being asked at the most senior levels of the Royal Family over whether Prince Andrew (pictured at the Royal Chapel of All Saints in Windsor) can retain his Royal Lodge home at Windsor
The fact Andrew’s former wife Sarah Ferguson is also now a permanent resident of the Royal Lodge and has been actively using the residence in a recent PR campaign has raised the ire of some courtiers
The Duke of York was granted a 75-year lease on the property on the understanding he would carry out £7.5 million of renovations at his own expense
Some courtiers doubt Andrew’s reasonable expectation to stay living at his home since 2004, where he has a 75-year lease, given he is no longer a working member of the Royal Family and his daughters, Princess Beatrice and Eugenie, have both moved out.
The fact Andrew’s former wife Sarah Ferguson is also now a permanent resident of the Royal Lodge and has been actively using the residence in a recent PR campaign has raised the ire of some courtiers.
While the Queen, who remains personally close to her favourite son Andrew, is unlikely to ask him to move, there is expected for him to be growing pressure to vacate the premises in the years to come, as Charles and William assert their influence.
Andrew was granted a 75-year lease on the property on the understanding he would carry out £7.5 million of renovations at his own expense. After that point, it was agreed that he would not have to pay rent.
If he was asked to give up the property, it would be likely a new deal would need to be done for him to move to another royal palace
Charles has proven he will be ruthless with his siblings after the recent revelation that he is unlikely to make Prince Edward the Duke of Edinburgh following the Queen’s death, going against the publicly expressed wishes of his late father Prince Philip.
My royal source revealed: ‘The ongoing personal scandal involving Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein is a source of much heartache for Charles and William who are trying to protect the future of the monarchy.
‘There is now an active discussion at the most senior levels of the Royal Family about how Andrew can remain at the Royal Lodge, given the circumstances.
‘The Queen will not want to upset Andrew and she loves having him close by as they regularly ride together. But he is no longer a working royal and the princesses have both moved out.
There is growing outrage from the first and second in line to the throne, Prince Charles and William, about the Duke of York’s personal conduct in regards to his friendship with the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein
Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges
‘Prince William is thought to have expressed an interest on taking over the Lodge at some point in the future and it’s unlikely that Charles would stand in his way.
‘It would make more practical sense too, given the size of the Cambridge family and the need for them to be close to London.’
Eyebrows have been raised about Fergie’s fragrant use of the property, including in a string of recent media articles.
She recently conducted an interview with Town and Country magazine from Windsor Lodge to promote her new romantic novel.
Journalist Andrew Goldman wrote: ‘It’s a spring afternoon in England, and Ferguson is perched in a corner of Royal Lodge, the sprawling cottage orné built in 1662 that was once inhabited by King George IV and that she has shared with her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, since 2008.’
Later in the interview she moved to a bedroom of the Lodge to declare of herself: ‘I don’t want to say it’s going to be a reassessment of Fergie or a reinvention. Fergie is so steadfast that she will always be here.’
My royal source explained: ‘Andrew and Sarah might try to argue that she is only a guest, but the reality is that she lives at Royal Lodge and has done so for some time.
‘The Queen is very affectionate towards the Duchess of York, but Prince Charles thinks the whole set up is absolutely outrageous. It adds to the embarrassment of the situation.’
The Grade II listed Royal Lodge has been a residence since 1662. King George IV used it from 1812.
King George V gifted the property as a country retreat to the then Duke and Duchess of York in 1931. They would continue to use it as a country retreat as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Such a shake-up of royal residences would be the subject of potentially years of sensitive negotiation and the Queen may well shut down the conversation while she remains on the throne.
There is, of course, the awkward question of where Andrew would reside if Prince William were to get his way and take over the Royal Lodge.
The Queen gifted Prince Andrew the Sunninghill Park mansion in Ascot as a wedding gift and he resided there with Fergie for ten years.
But he sold the property to billionaire oil and gas businessman Timur Kulibayev for £15 million in a controversial 2007 deal.
Charles has proven he will be ruthless with his siblings after the recent revelation that he is unlikely to make Prince Edward the Duke of Edinburgh following the Queen’s death
There is, of course, the awkward question of where Andrew would reside if Prince William were to get his way and take over the Royal Lodge. Pictured: Prince Andrew at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral service
Prince Andrew’s future has been thrust back into the headlines after Virginia Roberts on Monday filed a civil suit in the Federal Court in New York seeking ‘substantial’ damages, alleging she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew on three occasions in 2001 when she was 17.
The saga will remain at the top of the international news agenda with his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell standing trial in New York in November for allegedly recruiting underage girls for Epstein, who hanged himself in prison in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. She has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Prince Andrew has always strongly denied any sexual contact with Roberts.
But she said in a statement to ABC News on Monday: ‘I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me.
‘The powerful and the rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but one can reclaim her life by speaking out and demanding justice.
‘I did not come to this decision lightly. As a mother and a wife, my family comes first. I know that this action will subject me to further attacks by Prince Andrew and his surrogates.
‘But I knew that if I did not pursue this action, I would be letting them and victims everywhere down’.
Prince Andrew has thus far failed in his promise to assist the FBI or other relevant authorities investigating the Epstein scandal ‘if required’, meaning that the future of where he ends up living could end up being the least of his worries.
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