As Prince Charles returns from his triumphant tour of the United States, including an historic meeting with President Barack Obama, there is an undeniable sense that the man who has for so long struggled on the international stage—derided as a quack at worst or an irrelevance at best—is finally being taken somewhat seriously (at least overseas).
Part of this is no doubt down to the halo effect of the royal family’s Kate makeover, but there is no denying that with his dutiful and cheery wife Camilla by his side, the memory of the wrongs he did his former partner, the much-loved Diana, now truly fading, and increasing responsibilities being handed over by his mother, finally everything would appear to be coming up (organically nourished) roses for the 66-year-old heir to the throne.
There is just one fly in the ointment: his ever-troublesome younger brother Andrew. The two have spent much of their lives feuding, but things have now got so bad, sources say, that Charles has apparently not so much as exchanged a word with him for months.
Charles has certainly not offered the hand of friendship during Andrew’s recent trials. Andrew has been accused of sleeping with a teenager “provided” to him by his former good friend, the convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
But Charles and Andrew have never been close. Andrew has always resented his official role as the spare, consigned to live in the shadow of his brother the heir, who is almost 10 years older. Charles’s animosity to Andrew is subtler and more Freudian.
Friends of the royals say Andrew has always been the queen’s favorite child. “No matter what Andrew did, he would always be forgiven,” says one source.
This has always grated on his older brother, and Charles—a very self-centered man—does not share the indulgent nature of his mother when it comes to Andrew’s exploits and adventures.
Despite the fact that the nature of his relationship with the 19-year-old (events that took place more than a decade ago) is widely seen within palace walls as a story that has now run its course without too much collateral damage, Charles is said to be furious at Andrew for dragging the royal family into his complicated sex life.
One might have thought that Andrew’s current troubles would be a cause to pull together for the good of the firm, but not so, it would seem.
“The pond is so polluted that there has been no incentive to give or seek succor on either part,” says a source, speaking of the troubled relationship between the brothers, who are apparently not even on speaking terms.
Opportunities for rapprochement have come and gone. Andrew has pointedly not been invited to Charles’s private dinners, and Charles has been excluded from Andrew’s family events, such as his daughters’ birthday dinners, although Bea and Eugenie’s abiding friendship with their cousin Harry may yet provide a possible back channel through which the two fathers might be able to communicate.
Much of the recent flare-up between the brothers goes back to Charles’s “coup,” as Andrew has characterized it to friends, when Andrew was not permitted to join the senior royals on the Buckingham Palace balcony after the Jubilee celebrations in 2012, and the humiliation of Andrew’s family being stripped of police protection as part of Charles’s plans for a “slimmed-down monarchy.”
The idea of a more cost-efficient and smaller monarchy is believed to be the master plan of Charles’s former consiglière, Mark Bolland, but it is unsurprisingly very unpopular with Charles’s brothers.
Some royal experts even argue that it may be a long-term tactical error to reduce the size of the monarchy. Lady Colin Campbell, the author of numerous controversial books on the royals, most notably The Real Diana, says, “You need, in a show, to have enough stars that if one falls down and breaks an ankle, someone else can step in and the show goes on.
“I know as a fact through a mutual friend of mine with both princes [Andrew and Prince Edward] that they strongly feel that Charles has been diminishing their role. My understanding is that both Andrew and Edward are very concerned about the diminution of their roles—and in my view Charles is mistaken in his strategy. It may play well in the short term, but it is folly. In the long term it could be fatal.”
There is no doubt that Andrew’s accurate perception that he is being edged out of the monarchy is the big factor behind the worsening of relations with Charles of late. And Edward is said to be equally aggrieved by Charles’s blunt attempts to squeeze out his siblings. Edward was ordered to give up his (admittedly not stellar) career in TV production to become a full-time royal, as it was felt to be embarrassing to have a senior royal in trade.
While sources say that neither Andrew nor Charles feels the situation is at “crisis point,” there is little doubt that relations between the two are as bad as they have ever been.
The question is whether Andrew will be sufficiently provoked by Charles that he will do something stupid, like speak out more publicly, in which case Charles’s strategy of squeezing his brother out of the picture could come to look like very bad chess indeed.