Queen facing challenge to her legacy amid slew of problems

The big story during last year’s Trooping the Colour, the Queen’s official birthday celebration,
was The Ring.
The 2019 event, held on a sparkling London summer day, saw Meghan the Duchess of Sussex take a brief break from her maternity leave to take her place on the Buckingham Palace balcony, only a month after welcoming baby Archie.
As the most recent Windsor recruit smiled and waved, with only a hint of a sleep-deprived new mother-edge to her navy Givenchy look, eagle-eyed royal watchers were quick to notice that her engagement ring now featured a new delicate pave diamond band as well.
One year on, there is a certain naive charm to the fact that the biggest story of the day involved a duchess’ bling.
Today, the royal family is facing a slew of crises involving the FBI, legal teams waging a trans-Atlantic war of words, accusations of misogyny and snobbery, another set of lawyers, and the looming threat of a tell-all biography as the maraschino cherry on top.
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This week has seen Prince Andrew and his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey
Epstein land with a thud back onto front pages.
In the space of 36-hours, it was reported that US authorities have put in a formal request for the royal to testify about his ties to Epstein, only for his lawyers to come out all guns blazing, putting put out a statement saying they had already offered to help investigators on “at least three occasions.”
Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, promptly fired back in another statement, saying that Andrew “has not given an interview to federal authorities, has repeatedly declined our request to schedule such an interview, and nearly four months ago
informed us unequivocally – through the very same counsel who issued today’s release – that he would not come in for such an interview”.
Gloria Allred, a lawyer for a number of Epstein’s alleged victims, got in on the act, putting out a statement of her own, saying “It is time for the Prince to stop this cat and mouse game and stand before the bar of justice.”
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This is just the latest inglorious episode in a saga that has spanned many inglorious episodes for the Queen’s second son.
However, this most recent contretemps has also betrayed something worrying about the royal family as a whole: No one seems to be in charge.
But … but the Queen, I hear you shout. Her head is on currency and stamps, and along with her being the titular head of 2.4 billion people, she commands an army and is in charge of a
religion. Surely, the Windsor buck stops with her?
The truth is that royal biographers are united in their view that behind closed doors, the Queen and Prince Philip have had a very traditional, 1940s marriage and that he was very much the head of the household.
For decades, Philip was renowned as having been the family’s blunt disciplinarian, keeping his
four children in line well into adulthood.
Clearly, that assertive role looks to have now waned significantly. Since his 2017 retirement
from official duties at the age of 96 years old, Philip has lived at Wood Farm, a small property on the Sandringham estate. Supposedly he is now big into watercolours.
That mantle of brusque command should by all rights have now fallen to Charles and indeed, he is reported to have played a pivotal role in the wake of Andrew’s calamitous November BBC interview.
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But, does Charles really fit the bill to be the Windsors’ proverbial stick wielding authoritarian?
Charles’ strengths surely lie in his compassionate and deeply humane approach to ruling, not to mention his charming willingness to share homemade iPhone videos on social media.
This is a man whose forte lies sketching rhododendrons and debating the benefits of traditional British hedgerow techniques, not banging heads together while trying to corral wayward family members.
In years past, the Queen’s longtime private secretary Lord Christophier Geidt helped keep a
tight grip on Her Majesty’s brood. (He was Sir Christopher at the time.)
But, after a decade as the Queen’s closest confidant aside from trusty Philip, Lord Geidt was forced out of the royal household in 2017 following an alleged palace power struggle with Prince Charles.
Andrew is reported to have supported Charles in the ouster, with a source telling the Times: “Prince Andrew deeply dislikes him. The feeling is mutual.”
That enmity is alleged to have been rooted in the role Lord Geidt played in Andrew being forced to resign as a British trade envoy in 2011 and in the role that Lord Geidt played in controlling Andrew’s finances. Basically, it sounds like Game of Thrones, just with more fountain pens.
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All of which leaves the Queen sequestered away in Windsor Castle, surrounded by a small, loyal retinue of staff, with no throne-adjacent tyrant to pull everyone into line while her children and grandchildren wreck PR chaos.
Last week, William and Kate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge called in the lawyers after
Tatler magazine put out a profile of the duchess claiming she was “exhausted and trapped” and working as hard as a “top CEO” after the hasty exit of Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The story also revived the image of Kate’s mother Carole Middleton as a social
climbing arriviste with particularly gauche taste.
The Cambridges, in turn, sent the society bible a letter demanding they remove the story from their website, with a royal source telling the Mail on Sunday that the story was “cruel … sexist and woman-shaming.”
Meanwhile, another Sussex-related crisis could be looming on the horizon.
In August, a biography of the duo, called Finding Freedom, by two journalists sympathetic to the couple will hit shelves, with speculation this book will be the modern-day, bombshell equivalent to Andrew Morton’s bombshell Diana: Her True Story.
Here’s the thing though: Even if the book proves to be nothing but a recitation of Harry and
Meghan’s crowd-charming ways and good works, its most outrageous revelation that the
duchess sometimes forgets to recycle, it will still totally and utterly consume the world’s press,
sucking up all the media oxygen.
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Taken all together, the prevailing image right now is of various embattled Windsors all haring
off in different directions to try and win their own PR battles.
And this sets the stage for what could be a worrying precedent – if there is one thing that represents a threat to the monarchy it is unchecked, wilful individualism.
The very institution itself is meant to stand for stability and strength, projecting an aura of dependability and unity, not become a byword for family melodrama.
On Wednesday, Prince Philip will turn 99, marking the day quietly with the Queen at Windsor.
The rest of the family will likely call or Zoom the nonagenarian to wish him them best, at which point they will have plenty of time to get back on to their lawyers.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.