Farewell, Earl of Inverness?

Time for a clean sweep of the broom?

I’m writing this as we come out of an official period of mourning after The Queen’s funeral. Never a monarchist, I was surprised by how saddened I was to hear of her death, especially as it came so soon after photos of her looking so well. But hers had been a long life, and – as we have heard, from everyone, including even the ‘official supplier of TVs to Balmoral’ – it was a life well lived.

The level of respect that the nation has shown to our late Queen, has been remarkable. Notable were Aberdeenshire’s farmers and horse riders, who lined the route of her final journey from Balmoral. Hundreds of thousands paid their respects by queueing to file past her coffin in St Giles’ Cathedral and Westminster Hall, and millions gathered in public places to watch her funeral.

Now, time for reflection

But now that we’ve paid every possible respect, and before the country gets into full-blown coronation-planning mode (will it be 2nd June, the 70th anniversary of his mother’s coronation?), we need time for serious reflection.

What kind of monarchy will we get from King Charles III, and, more importantly, will it reflect our modern nation?

We respected the Queen, not necessarily the monarchy

The greatest cause of the nation’s dwindling respect for the monarchy must be Andrew, the Duke of York, and Earl of Inverness.

Because if we have discovered anything about ourselves from the almost blanket coverage of Elizabeth’s reign, it is this; most of us had some degree of respect for The Queen as an individual and recognised the diligence with which she carried out her duties. However, we feel less love for the institution of the monarchy, and the pomp, ceremony, and strict protocols that surround it.

The greatest cause of the nation’s dwindling respect for the monarchy must be Andrew, the Duke of York, and Earl of Inverness. Caught up for decades in allegations of shady dealings with corrupt governments, and regimes with dodgy human rights reputations, he’s often been accused of exploiting his status for personal gain.

The Giuffre cause caused outcry and disgust

A statement from the Palace in response to Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit against the Earl of Inverness

But the allegations of sexual assault made against him by Virginia Giuffre when she was 17 caused the biggest public outcry and disgust. In January this year, a civil suit was brought against him, which he reportedly settled with a £12million pay out. As a result of that case, Andrew’s HRH status and military affiliations were removed, along with his royal patronages of over 300 charities.

Unsurprisingly, repeated calls were immediately made by Highland politicians for him to be stripped of his title of Earl of Inverness. That title had been bestowed upon him by the Queen after his marriage to Sarah Ferguson. An online petition that gained traction in January has recently seen more signatures added.

It’s frustrating that the Giuffre case wasn’t allowed to play out in court, although no disrespect to the claimant for that; I’d have taken the money too, rather than face the scrutiny of the world’s media. But at least we would have known. That lone protester on the Royal Mile spoke for many of us. I wouldn’t have chosen that occasion, but I am with him.

Can we ‘disentitle’ Andrew?

I am also with all those who believe Andrew’s association with Inverness is a stain on our city, as it is a stain on York. King Charles should strip him of his titles, I say! Sadly, it’s not that easy.

Currently, there is no legal mechanism by which either the monarch, or parliament, can remove titles, no matter how badly behaved an ‘honorary’ might be.

But there might be some light on the horizon. In June, York MP Rachael Maskell introduced a ‘Removal of Titles’ bill in the House of Commons. If passed, the bill will enable Andrew to be stripped of his titles, including Earl of Inverness. Maskell’s bill is due to get its second reading on 9th December.

More important issues to focus on

Arguably, there are far more important things for the world, the country, and Inverness (and York) to be worrying about than the royal family.

I have been frustrated that I have had to search through pages, and pages, and pages of almost identical reminiscence about The Queen’s long and healthy life to reach ‘real’ news about Friday’s upcoming mini budget, or the mass grave of 400 Ukrainians that was discovered after the recent Russian retreat, or that Liz Truss’s most senior adviser has been interviewed by the FBI for allegedly trying to influence a foreign election.

What is happening to help ease the energy crisis the country is facing? Or spiralling inflation? Or in support of the green agenda?

But this time of non-royal-news blackout will pass, as the nation rises out of official mourning. We just need to think about what sort of ‘new-normal service’ we wish to resume.

This column is published by Highland News and Media in newspapers across the north of Scotland. If you can, please support print media and the future of independent  journalism by buying a paper, or subscribing online. 

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