Why Prince Andrew is still ‘Duke of York’

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LONDON — The English city of York this week joined the legions who have sought to distance themselves from disgraced Prince Andrew, with city councilors voting unanimously to strip him of a minor title: Honorary Freedom of York.

But if they could have their way, many people in the city would like to see Andrew lose the title he is most closely identified with: Duke of York.

That’s a lot of workshop order. Beyond even the powers of the queen.

Prince Andrew has made an effort to travel to York over the years, local councilor Darryl Smalley said. He once opened a community center, and he visited several times after the city flooded badly in 2015. “People appreciated that, and they do appreciate a senior royal connected to the city,” Smalley said. “But now, that’s completely tarnished.”

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In February, Andrew settled a civil lawsuit with American Virginia Giuffre, who said she was forced to have sexual encounters with him when she was a teenager after being trafficked by US financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Organizations had begun to cut ties with Andrew in 2019, after he defended his relationship with Epstein, a convicted sex offender. But Andrew retained his military titles and dozens of royal patronages — until his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, relieved him of those in January.

“The queen removed all her other titles but didn’t remove the dukedom because she doesn’t have the power to do so,” said Rachael Maskell, who represents York Central in Parliament.

The Duke of York title was created in the 14th century. The one who marched up the hill and down in the nursery rhyme may have been Richard, the third Duke of York, who sparred with King Henry VI in the 1400s. Or it could have been King James II, who was Duke of York when he faced off against William of Orange. Or Prince Frederick, who led the British Army in the Napoleonic Wars.

For much of its existence, the title has been given to the second son of the monarch. Queen Elizabeth II gave the title to Andrew, her second son, when he married Sarah Ferguson in 1986. The previous holder of the title was the queen’s father, Albert, who was also a second son of a monarch. (Albert became king only after his older brother, Edward, abdicated.)

But while a British monarch can giveth a dukedom, she alone can’t take it away. That would require an act of Parliament. The last time that was done was in 1917, when the Title Deprivation Act allowed various British nobles with German connections to lose their peerages during World War I.

Bob Morris, a constitutional expert at University College London, said that if Parliament were to go that route with Andrew, it would be with at least a nod from the queen.

“I think the queen’s wishes would be respected in this, whatever they may be,” Morris said. “I can’t imagine Parliament doing it off its own bat in a matter like this.”

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Morris added: “It’s a measure of Andrew’s disgrace that anyone thinks it’s worthwhile to call for the title to be removed.”

A spokeswoman for Andrew declined to comment.

The people of York certainly think they should get some input.

“It seems at odds with modern monarchy that residents of a well-known city have no say in who represents them on the world stage,” Smalley said.

An online poll by a local paper, The York Pressfound that 88 percent of its readers wanted Andrew to lose his dukedom.

Residents who spoke to The Washington Post said they want their walled city to bring to mind ancient history, stunning architecture and chocolate making — not a prince entangled with a sex-trafficking scandal.

“It’s quite obvious he should really lose his title,” said an employee at one of the Duke of York pubs in the city, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters. “It doesn’t matter where you work in the city. That’s what people think.”

Many pubs and theaters up and down the country are called Duke of York, and at least a few have considered changing their names.

In York, a prestigious horse race this year was rebranded “the 1895 Duke of York Stakes,” with the time reference added to “better reflect” the specific Duke of York the event was named after.

It was at York Racecourse where the city council met this past week and took another small step, voting to rescind the freedom honor.

The city bestowed the honor on Andrew as a wedding gift, after he had become Duke of York. Previous recipients include Prime Minister Winston Churchill and actress Judi Dench. Others, from much further back, reportedly received perks with the accolade, like the ability to take a flock of sheep across a York bridge without paying a toll. Today, the honor is purely ceremonial.

Smalley said he proposed the motion because it was “important for victims of sexual abuse” and “important for people of York to distance themselves” from Andrew.

During the debate on Wednesday, some of the speakers referred to the prince as simply as “Andrew Windsor.” Several called on Andrew to relinquish his dukedom of him.

Campaigns for other dukedoms to be removed have fallen flat, as when people from the county of Sussex backed upon request saying it was “morally wrong and disrespectful” for Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, to use their Sussex titles.

Maskell said she would like to see legislation that would allow people to vote on removing titles and peerages, which she said could affect disgraced royals, Russian oligarchs in the House of Lords or peers sent to prison.

Earlier this year, Maskell called for a debate in Parliament on how aristocratic titles using a name from a specific location are assigned. The debate was not granted.

Morris said that given the legislative effort required to remove the title, it likely seemed Andrew would be known as the Duke of York for the foreseeable future.

“There could be circumstances where Andrew might be persuaded not to use the title, but that’s distinct from removing it lawfully,” he said. “Although people are slipping into just calling him Prince Andrew, just quietly doing it.”

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