King Charles ‘risks family royal rift’ over Prince Andrew

Sarah Ferguson calls Prince Andrew a ‘good, kind man’

King Charles reportedly faces a Royal family rift over the decision said to have been taken to move Prince Andrew, his eldest brother, out of a 30-room mansion that has been his home for 20 years.

The Duke of York is said to be under pressure to downsize from the Grade II listed Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, Berkshire, to the former home of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Frogmore Cottage. However, the prince is refusing to do so — and is reportedly being backed by some members of “The firm” — the informal nickname for the Royal family and its associated institutions.

A close associate of the Duke of York has said that he cannot be forced to vacate the premises because his name is on the lease with the Crown Estate, and not the Royal family’s. It is thought that the lease has 90 of its 110-year contract to run.

In comments made to The Times, the source said: “That’s not a matter for the King. It’s a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The only way you could get him to move out would be through an arrangement — he would have to agree.”

The source also dismissed claims published in the media recently that the Duke could be forced out of the home he continues to share with his former wife Sarah, Duchess of York, by having the property’s utilities cut off.

They added that any move to force him to vacate the premises would not make the King a “very popular person within the family” as there were “other members of the family who would not want to see a member kicked out”.

However, the costs of running the Royal Lodge may be a factor in forcing the issue one way or the other. According to the royal biographer Tom Bower, the upkeep of the mansion and its land amounts to around £1million plus staffing costs.

It is thought Prince Andrew’s annual income is around £270,000, including a £20,000 Royal Navy pension, although it is not known what the Queen left him after her death. Mr Bower was reported as saying that with the lease being in his name, Prince Andrew may not necessarily have sufficient funds to maintain the property.

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“All crown leases have termination clauses,” he said, “for example, if you’re not paying for upkeep in a way they think desirable. So I would think the lease won’t protect him forever. They can always say the paintwork isn’t good enough. That’s how he can be winkled out.”

But the source close to the prince said, with him no longer involved in official royal duties, he would not require a great number of staff. “What people don’t understand is that this is a guy who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, has never taken drugs,” they said. “He goes to bed early and he gets up early. He’s very regimented.”

The prince was withdrawn from royal duties following a calamitous BBC Newsnight interview in 2019, conducted amid the furore over his alleged connections with the disgraced billionaire and child abuser Jeffrey Epstein, and with Virginia Giuffre, an alleged victim of Epstein’s sex trafficking ring who sued him in a lawsuit filed in the US federal court. He eventually settled with his accuser for a sum thought to be in the region of £3million. The duke has always vehemently denied the allegations.

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