The monarch giveth, and the monarchy taketh. With Queen Elizabeth II‘s blessing, her son Prince Andrew has announced that will be stepping back from his royal duties, in the wake of the train wreck that was his BBC interview about his connections to Jeffrey Epstein. (The prince spent more time talking about Pizza Express and his alleged inability to sweat than he did expressing remorse for those affected by the late sex offender.)
It’s worth noting that the Queen reportedly also gave Andrew her blessing to do the interview, which was free of editorial restriction. But by no means does it seem that she intended to sabotage her second son, who’s long been perceived as her favorite. In fact, in the context of the past few decades, Andrew’s step back from the public eye seems all but inevitable. Between his ties to Epstein, his notorious lifestyle, and his marriage to Sarah Ferguson, the prince had already gotten into enough trouble by 2011 that Vanity Fair did a deep dive into Buckingham Palace’s “major P.R. problem: how to handle Prince Andrew.”
Just a year later, Andrew’s older brother seemed to have stumbled upon a solution. In 2012, Prince Charles was one of just a handful of royals to join the Queen on Buckingham Palace’s balcony during the Diamond Jubilee, let alone participate in the celebrations. Andrew, it seems, was not invited, though he wasn’t alone; by contrast, the previous Diamond Jubilee saw nearly two dozen guests join the Queen on the balcony.
In preparation for his star turn—when he takes over the throne from his mother, Queen Elizabeth II—Prince Charles has been not-so-subtly campaigning for the royal family to downsize ever since. The plan, it seems, is to keep the focus on those in the direct line of succession, thereby minimizing the degree to which the royals can be criticized for their use of public funds. Of course, it also potentially reduces the impact that any future Prince Andrews might have on the core royals.
At the moment, the queen spends her days enjoying activities such as horseback riding and using self checkout. At 93, she’s a spritely nonagenarian if there ever was one. (Her husband, Prince Philip, who has retired from public duties for health reasons, not so much.) But eventually—and likely sooner rather than later—Prince Charles’s time will come. The royal family seems to recognize as much: According to the BBC, Charles was right there alongside the Queen in the family’s “long discussions” with Prince Andrew before he announced his plans to step back.
The British tabloids seem fully convinced that Prince Charles is thrilled by his brother’s move. And while whether more and more royals will join Andrew in taking a step back in the future remains unclear, one things is certain: No matter how far down the core royal family whittles its numbers, there will always be generations’ worth of royal drama.