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Duke of York developments compared to abdication of Edward VIII

UK News | Published:

A social historian said there were parallels with the former king’s abdication in 1936.

Duke of York

The announcement that the Duke of York will step back from public duties “for the forseeable future” has been compared to the abdication of Edward VIII.

Social historian Professor Judith Rowbotham said there were “plenty of parallels” with the former king, who abdicated the throne in December 1936 to marry his divorcee mistress, the American socialite Wallis Simpson.

“I suppose the nearest would be the Duke of Windsor (the title Edward was given following his abdication) in some way,” Professor Rowbotham told the PA news agency.

“I’m far from surprised because the Duke of York was ill-advised to undertake the interview.”

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, pictured in 1949
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, pictured in 1949 (PA)

But the research professor at the University of Plymouth said Andrew made a wise choice by not drawing the matter out for any longer.

“I don’t think it’s a monarchy in crisis. Even with a slimmed down monarchy, you have a large royal family, humanly-speaking somebody is always going to do something that gets well and truly disapproved of,” she said.

“It could have escalated into a more major crisis if the Duke of York had not done the honourable thing.”

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Professor Rowbotham suggested the difficulties the royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, had faced in 2019 were not as bad as the Queen’s annus horribilis of 1992.

“Back in 1992, it was an annus horribilis. This has been a ‘few weeks horribilis’,” she suggested.

She added that Andrew’s decision would be one of personal sadness for the monarch.

“I think it will be a great sadness for the Queen,” she said.

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Royal author Penny Junor said it was “absolutely unprecedented” that a relatively senior member of the royal family “should be forced to retire from public life”.

She told PA: “I would think the Queen is horrified.”

The royal writer added: “It was inevitable and it was the right thing to do. It was the only course of action for the duke and the royal family.

“It’s probably averted a crisis, with all the events of the last year put together, I think the monarchy is going through very difficult times… I think it’s been a disastrous year.

“The hard-working members of the family – Prince Charles, Camilla, William and Kate and the Queen have all done sterling work but I think a lot of that has been overshadowed by other things.”

Comparing the situation to the Duke of Windsor, Ms Junor said: “That in a way was different. The Duke of Windsor chose love over duty and couldn’t do both and decided to go off and marry and abdicate the crown.

“But Andrew has really been forced out. It’s been forced on him by the huge outcry from the public.

“The public were very, very disappointed in him.”

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, said the duke’s reputation would always be tainted by his association with Epstein.

She said: “He can’t be exonerated because we know he was involved with Epstein. I’m afraid this might forever be hanging over him.

“I think it’s sad that it’s ever, ever had to come to this and people’s sympathies will be with the Queen and Andrew’s family more than with Andrew himself.”

Royal biographer Christopher Warwick told PA: “If Prince Andrew thought this interview was going to draw a line under this then his lack of judgment for that was as bad as his lack of judgment over maintaining his friendship with Epstein.

“He didn’t understand what public opinion would be.”

When asked if the prince could ever return to his duties, he replied: “It’s anybody’s guess. This is not going to die for a very long time.”

Mr Warwick said the scandal would probably mean Princess Beatrice’s wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi would have to be a much smaller affair than her sister Prince Eugenie’s.

“I think – fairly or unfairly – it has cast a shadow over the York family but more broadly his stepping back from official duties has kind of lifted that shadow that was about to be cast over the whole royal family,” he said.

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