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How extraordinary it was, on Wednesday, to see none other than Princess Beatrice, the elder daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, riding up the famous straight of Royal Ascot, seated in one of the three carriages reserved for the royals, seated next to her husband, property developer Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, and wearing a white dress and a boater hat.
It is scenes like this that are prompting furious speculation in and around court that longstanding rumors that Beatrice and her younger sister, Princess Eugenie, who are currently classified as private citizens, could be in line for a promotion, and become part-time, unofficial working royals.
Unlike their mother, Sarah Ferguson, who has been outspoken in her defense of Prince Andrew, the York princesses have not publicly stood up for their father.
Andrew is unlikely to be surprised or upset by this.
After all, the girls represent perhaps the best and last chance for a Yorkist return to royal life—and one that may depend on weakening, as far as possible, the link in the public mind between them and their father, who was accused of sexually assaulting Virginia Giuffre, a teenage sex trafficking victim of Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew denied the charges but paid a reputed $12m to settle the civil case Giuffre brought against him. He has since been ejected from the ranks of working royals, excluded from royal events and, most recently, banned from the Garter Day procession, a key royal ceremony, apparently at the behest of Prince Charles and Prince William.
Andrew’s most dearly held wish might be his own restoration to public life, but many royal observers believe that a close second would be that one or both of his daughters might once again be elevated to the role of “working royal.” Indeed, this very suggestion was reported by British broadsheet the Daily Telegraph this week.
A source familiar with Andrew’s thinking told The Daily Beast is that there is no “lobbying” by the York parents or the girls themselves for them to have an increased role.
“I do think there is a sense of unfinished business, and if they were asked to do more I am sure they would be thrilled.”
But a source who knows the girls socially told The Daily Beast: “They have both moved on with their lives and have their own careers and families. They are very down-to-earth, and they know they have to earn a living. It’s not like they are hanging on the telephone waiting for a call. That said, they do have a strong public service ethic, and whenever they are asked to do anything they are delighted to be a part of it. I do think there is a sense of unfinished business, and if they were asked to do more I am sure they would be thrilled.”
The friend said they had not heard them speak about their father and their views on him remained a matter of supposition, although the loyalty of the family to each other is not in doubt.
On Thursday, Sarah, who was doing an interview for her new book, told LBC radio: “Thank goodness the girls have got [him]. He’s very Naval and, ‘This is how it’s done,’ and very royal life…and then they have the river running by which is me.” She has previously referred to her and her daughters as “the tripod.”
But could we really see a situation in which Eugenie and Beatrice were one day back doing royal jobs? Intriguingly, a well-placed source at Buckingham Palace told The Daily Beast that the girls do still perform some limited duties at the request of the monarch, saying they are “occasionally” asked to accompany the queen.
There is no doubt her public profile is undoubtedly being quietly raised. Par exemple, Tatler reported this week that she visited posh Oxford prep school, the Dragon (Edoardo is a former pupil), to mark the platinum jubilee by unveiling a new bee hive.
All of this is fueling the current speculation—on which Buckingham Palace told The Daily Beast that it would not comment—that there may be a way back into the inner circle of the royal fold for the girls, especially if they keep their heads down, and avoid the kind of suspicious financial activity that has caused so much controversy for their parents.
Such a prospect would have seemed a deeply fanciful ambition 10 years ago. It was then, at the culmination of the celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee, that Prince Charles moved to strike his brother Andrew and his children from the balcony appearance.
Charles was already fed-up with Andrew’s ability to drag the royal family into controversy through his poor choice of friends, his dubious financial deals, and his shoddy treatment of royal staff. The endless press coverage about his daughters’ regular foreign holidays hadn’t helped their cause, and they got the boot along with their dad, being told that henceforth they should make their way in the world as private citizens and wouldn’t be receiving handouts or jobs from the palace.
Queen Elizabeth, who is immensely fond of them, tried to soften the blow by insisting that they should still be accorded the automatic deference due to them as “blood princesses.” This means, for example, that Kate, who is not of royal blood, is required to curtsey to them if they meet without Kate’s husband William present. (If William is present, Kate takes on her husband’s rank and the princesses must curtsey to her.)
This is not just a theoretical matter; the queen is known to expect the protocol is rigorously followed, as Meghan Markle found out, telling Oprah Winfrey that she was astonished to learn she had to curtsey to the queen even in private: “I thought genuinely that was what happens outside I thought that was part of the fanfare,” Meghan said of being told by Harry to curtsey to Elizabeth. “I didn’t think that was what happens inside. And I said, ‘But it’s your grandmother,’ and he said, ‘It’s the queen.’”
“Andrew was devastated by his brother’s edict, believing that his daughters should not be forcibly removed from a life, with all its pluses and minus points, that they had been born into.”
Andrew was devastated by his brother’s edict, believing that his daughters should not be forcibly removed from a life, with all its pluses and minus points, that they had been born into. In a foreshadowing of Prince Harry’s row with the British government objecting to the removal of his right to automatic security protection while visiting the UK, Andrew was particularly outraged by the removal of his daughters’ security detail.
But of course, the world was a very different place back then, not least because Prince Harry was on the balcony in 2012 and expected to play a huge role in royal life for the next 50 years. Harry’s acrimonious departure has left a gigantic hole in the line-up of warm bodies that the palace can deploy to the thousands of mind-numbingly dull charity and community events that, without a royal presence, even a minor one, often struggle to raise cash or interest.
Supporters of the York girls have argued since the day Harry and Meghan set sail for a new life in America that they should be recalled to active duty, and indeed were it not for their father’s disgrace, there is a very good chance they might already have been.
The two are well-liked within the family, with Eugenie—who is more outgoing than Beatrice—and Harry being so close that Harry allowed Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, the former bartender who worked for George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila brand, to live in their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, for much of the past two years.
“Charles is unlikely to change his mind, not least out of a fear of looking weak or implicitly admitting fault, so a full Yorkist restoration is generally considered unlikely while he sits on the throne.”
They were also spotted out for dinner with Meghan and Harry in California earlier this year, and Harry and his cousin attended the Super Bowl, at a time when there was saturation negative coverage of Andrew owing to his sex trial in the British and American media. It was a very public show of mutual support.
The couple only moved out of Frogmore Cottage in recent weeks. They have now relocated to Portugal, where Eugenie is continuing her tech job and her charitable projects—most notably her work with an anti-slavery coalition—and Jack is working with a friend of Clooney’s, developing a luxury Portuguese resort.
Beatrice is a director at trendy British gallery Hauser & Wirth. She spends time in London and in the West Country, and is sometimes spotted around the trendy Wiltshire village of Bruton, where the gallery has an outpost.
Charles is unlikely to change his mind, not least out of a fear of looking weak or implicitly admitting fault, so a full Yorkist restoration is generally considered unlikely while he sits on the throne. But in the dim and distant future when William, who is extremely fond of them both personally, although he is 7 years older than Beatrice (33) and 8 years older than Eugenie (32), becomes king, who knows what might be possible?