Prince Andrew: ‘He was more popular than Diana’

Author Nigel Cawthorne on the duke – and The Crown.
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The fourth season of The Crown focuses in detail on the breakdown of two relationships, the one between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher and that of Charles and Diana.

While quite interesting historically and well done, it is the relationship between the Queen and Prince Andrew that casts its shadow into the future.

WATCH: Prince Andrew denied sweaty dancing with Virginia Roberts due to ‘peculiar’ condition

The 22-year-old Andrew played by a fresh-faced and raffish Tom Byrne is the only one of her children who was at ease in the presence of Olivia Colman as the Queen, making her relax and laugh. But not for long.

Landing his helicopter on the front lawn for a tête-a-tête with mum, the swashbuckling TV Andrew admits to the Queen that he commandeered it, claiming a “matter of national importance by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces”.

The Queen Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew and The Queen’s relationship in The Crown isn’t quite accurate. (Credit: Getty)

During the scene the Queen’s growing sense of alarm at Andrew is palpable, rising from his keen description of sensual pleasures, “doesn’t sound blue at all”, she chides; his moral compass, “Are you sure it was even legal?” she worries; his intelligence, “You are clever” she all but sighs.

Olivia’s Queen concludes in 1982 to Philip that Andrew is her greatest disappointment, “I was shocked. If he doesn’t change … “

Is The Crown’s sly suggestion of a third breakdown, the one of the Queen’s relationship with Andrew, even remotely true? Not really. On this point, the script of The Crown S4 is factually inaccurate and couldn’t be more emotionally off the mark.

In 1982, both the Queen and Philip were intensely proud of Andrew. Rather than a scandal-prone duke, he was one of Britain’s most popular figures and – for the period covered by this season at any rate – a key figure in their blueprint for the perpetuation of the Elizabethan monarchy.

Andrew’s popularity was the result of decades of careful planning at Buckingham Palace. Andrew’s success was as much the validation of their love for their son as for their parenting skills.

Everything about his life was stage-planned and now he’d exceeded their wildest expectations. In 1982, Andrew even outshone Princess Diana’s popularity. Handsome, tall, sporty and self-confident, Andrew was at that time a glamorous foil to his not so photogenic older brother – the diffident, complicated, and plain-looking Prince of Wales.

Prince andrew Prince Charles
There once was a time the public favoured Andrew (left) over brother Charles (right) due to his good looks. (Credit: Getty)

Switching on the famous Christmas lights on London’s Regent Street that November, he astonishingly drew an even greater crowd than Princess Diana a year before.

Teenage girls and housewives lined the streets, shouting, “We want Andy!”, fainting as if he was a pop star, and being lifted over the crowd for medical attention as if in a crush at a concert. After his short speech the police were unable to disperse the crowds.

The manager of the Jaeger shop where the prince was attending a party said, ‘It’s absolutely amazing! I’ve not seen anything like it since the days of Beatlemania.”

The news a week earlier of his relationship with actress Koo Stark had not dented the prince’s growing popularity.

It was the culmination of Britain’s “Andymania” that first struck when Andrew visited Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

A group of British wives unfurled a banner reading: “Hi Andy, come and have coffee.” When he visited Blantyre in Malawi, a husband bet his wife £5 that she would not dare ask Andrew for a dance. “The next thing I knew I was in his arms, looking up into his eyes, such fabulous blue eyes,” she swooned of the heart-throb.

As to Koo Stark, The Crown IV strains at the seams as well. In order to make the Queen exasperated with Andrew, it suggests his relationship, the first true love of his life, was public before the Falklands War.

Princess Diana
At his height of his popularity, he even outshone royal favourite Princess Diana (pictured). (Credit: Getty)

But unless the series means to correct history, the couple met in February 1981. During the conflict, she sent him a photo of herself with a T-shirt emblazoned “Weird Fantasy”, but they kept their relationship a close secret.

Koo met the Queen at Balmoral upon his return in a gold ra-ra skirt. In fact, the Queen and Philip were hardly at a loss as to what to do with Andrew and Koo.

Once the press found out about the couple, they also found out that Koo had featured nude in two soft-porn films as a teenage girl losing her virginity in a multitude of colourful and surprisingly inventive ways.

That was also when the relationship ceased to flourish. After speculation that Koo would be invited to Christmas at Sandringham, she instead went off to Gstaad alone. Dutifully, Andrew broke off the relationship shortly after, though they remained friends and Koo continued to kindle his interest in photography.

Koo Stark
Andrew’s relationship with Koo Stark (pictured) was controversial. (Credit: Getty)

The Queen and Philip had had a steely determination to carve out a role for him that, during her reign, was to be substantially more than merely being Charles’s understudy. But it came with strings attached on both sides. It is on this theme that a later scene about Andrew’s 1986 wedding to Fergie in the series also misses the point. Charles snaps: “You can hardly blame the newspapers for wanting to write about something other than the wedding of a fringe member of the family who’ll never be king.”

In fact, Charles and his 10-year younger brother were still very close. When a Canadian newspaper called Andrew “six feet of sex appeal”, Charles had good-humouredly said that Andrew was “the one with the Robert Redford looks”.

The 1986 marriage of Andrew and Fergie was in Britain a complement to the marriage of Charles and Diana. Andrew was extremely close to Diana. During the Falklands War, he told fellow officers that there were only four women in his life: his grandmother, his mother, his sister and Diana.

With the two popular couples and their closeness, Buckingham Palace seemed to have struck gold in Britain. To a large extent, Buckingham Palace has been instrumental in Prince Andrew’s public role, creating it and directing it.

Given the mess he is currently in, that is where the real pain lies for the Queen. It is not just Andrew who bears responsibility. That knowledge would be unbearable for any parent and is the true source of agony for Andrew’s mother.

For more, pick up a copy of New Idea Royals Monthly. On sale now!

New Idea Royals
(Credit: New Idea Royals)

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