Pressure growing for a troubled prince
The Queen's son, Prince Andrew, is under fire as details emerge of expensive trips and unsavoury friendships. Time to give royals the boot?
The UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment was in hot water last week – he stands accused of incompetence and extravagance and has been attacked for his friendships with undesirable people including a convicted paedophile and the son of Libya's dictator, Colonel Gaddafi.
Sounds shady, you might think, but not exactly headline news. Perhaps not – except that this 'special representative' is Prince Andrew, son of Queen Elizabeth II and fourth in line to the British throne.
Now Prince Andrew risks becoming a massive embarrassment to both the government and the royal family. In the House of Commons last week, a Labour MP took the bold step of publicly criticising the Prince, calling on the government to 'dispense with his services.'
Many of the accusations against the Prince have been known for some time but last week saw a string of negative stories coming together. First, there was embarrassment over Andrew's links to dictatorial regimes in Libya and Tunisia.
Then there is an old picture that recently emerged of the Prince with his arm round a 17-year-old girl, who he met through his billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted paedophile.
Andrew last saw Epstein as recently as December, and had previously been a guest at his Florida mansion.
While there, he received massages from female masseuses, although there has been no suggestion that he was guilty of sexual impropriety.
And as Andrew's personal life has come under scrutiny, so has his performance in his public role. As an unpaid representative of UK Trade and Industry, his job is to advance the interests of British companies and investors by building high profile contacts abroad.
But some who have worked with the Prince have slated him as 'boorish' and 'rude.' Even one of his defenders, who called him 'a net asset,' conceded that he was 'not the greatest intellectual.'
It's not the first time Britain has been embarrassed by royal misbehaviour. So why do we let unelected Princes of unproven ability represent us on the world stage? Should a Princely title really be enough to get someone such an important job? Surely, say some, the monarchy is long past its sell-by date.
But is that unfair on Prince Andrew? He was a brave helicopter pilot in the Falklands War, and he works without pay to help British businesses prosper. And anyway, the monarchy is about more than just people. As an institution, it has endured for 1000 years, and it remains a vitally important part of what it means to be British.
- What do you think about traditions? Are they worth anything in the modern world?
- Promoting British interests in the wider world can mean being friendly with some unpleasant people. Is it worth it?
- Through your own research, find out about an odd or amusing British tradition and give a presentation on it to your class.
- In groups, rehearse the arguments for and against the monarchy. Then have the debate.
Some People Say...
“Traditions do nothing but keep us locked in the past.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Has the monarchy really existed for 1000 years?
- More or less. Elizabeth II can trace her descent back to William the Conqueror, who took the English throne in 1066.
- Is that important?
- Well – it doesn't fix the economy or cure unemployment, but it does make Elizabeth the heir to an extraordinary tradition. Whether or not tradition has any value is a much-debated question.
- And what do kings and queens actually do?
- They used to run the country. These days though, the Queen's role is largely symbolic: she is head of state but has no real power.
- Sounds very cushy!
- Actually it's quite hard work. The Queen is always attending official events or going on state visits, and she's widely respected for her skill and dignity. Whether her descendants will be is another matter.