Prince Andrew on The Crown

The Crown Really Went There With Prince Andrew

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The Crown’s season four depicts a youthful Andrew, Duke of York, that heavily foreshadows the scandals that will dog him later in life.

***Spoilers for The Crown Season 4****

In season four’s fourth episode of The Crown, “Favourites,” Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) sets out to determine which of her four children is her favorite. This is spurred by Prince Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) declaring that her son Mark, who has gone missing, is her favorite child. The Queen’s husband Prince Philip (Tobias Menzies) is also easily able to name his favorite child—their only daughter, Anne. But the Queen is stumped, so she arranges individual meetings with her progeny to check in with them and see if she can ascertain which one she loves most.

It’s both a bizarre and somewhat comedic setup that works to showcase the rampant dysfunctional strain that runs through the royals. The Queen doesn’t like what she sees in her Child Review. Prince Edward (Angus Imrie), the youngest child who is still away at boarding school, proves to be awkward, bullied, and “vengeful.” Princess Anne (Erin Doherty) seems bitter and detached from her own family, while begrudging the attention Princess Diana receives in the press. She admits to her mother that her only source of happiness is an extramarital affair. The oldest child and heir to the throne, Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), is shown as indulgently sulking around his grand new estate, ignoring his despondent pregnant wife while he worries about constructing gardens that reflect his soul.

The Queen doesn’t crack a smile with any of her children, in fact, until the cheeky Prince Andrew (Tom Byrne) arrives via a helicopter that he commandeers and pilots straight onto the royal grounds.

Viewers who are unfamiliar with the British Royal Family—and indeed, their ongoing scandals—might not have caught what The Crown does so archly with its depiction of Andrew here. With this season set in the late ’70s and ’80s, Andrew is in his early twenties and is serving in the Royal Navy, enrolled as a helicopter trainee pilot. At his lunch with the Queen, he seems the only one of her children who is at ease and prone to smiling and joking. One can see why Andrew might emerge as the “favorite,” and indeed he has long been rumored to be the Queen’s, which partially explains why he has gotten away with so much egregious—and allegedly criminal—behavior over the years.

Andrew launches into an anecdote that we can surmise is The Crown’s writer Peter Morgan taking more than a bit of creative license—or as the British might say, “taking the piss.” It’s not exactly subtle, but in this case, Andrew deserves it. “This,” I explained to the cat, “is what we call ‘foreshadowing.'”

Seated across from his mother the Queen, Andrew begins describing the “blue” movie his girlfriend at the time, American actress and photographer Koo Stark, had starred in:

Prince Andrew: Really? You’re not familiar with The Awakening of Emily? … It’s really not blue at all. It’s set in the 1920s, and follows an impressionable, nubile 17-year-old girl, Koo.

Queen Elizabeth II: Seventeen? I’m not sure I want to know more.

A: Don’t be such a prude, Mummy. The story is that she returns home from a finishing school in Switzerland, to her mother’s country house in the English countryside. … Anyway, there she meets several twisted and perverted older predators, who seduce the vulnerable and helpless young Emily, as we follow her induction into sensual pleasures.

Q: Yes you’re right, that doesn’t even sound blue at all. Are you sure it was even legal?

A: Who cares?

Andrew blithely relates the movie’s plot of sexual predation with relish and seeming delight. The viewing audience is, of course, meant to take this exchange as a loud alarm klaxon signaling what will come to be Andrew’s downfall—his close, years-long friendship with doomed pedophile, sexual abuser, and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew’s association with Epstein had drawn heat for years in the 2000s, resulting in the termination of Andrew’s role as trade envoy in 2011. “Several twisted and perverted older predators” is a group that Andrew will eventually be named to himself.

In 2014, a court filing on behalf of Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who alleges she was sex trafficked by Epstein, named Prince Andrew among other prominent men that she was made to have sex with as a minor. Giuffre has since detailed her alleged encounters with the Prince. Andrew vehemently denied the allegations of sex with minors, though he continued to see Epstein socially even after the latter plead guilty to sex crimes, as you do when you’re a complete idiot who believes that you’re above the law and that Mummy will always have your back.

But it wasn’t until Epstein’s crimes became all-consuming international news and a focus in the post-Me Too era that Andrew began experiencing real consequences. When Epstein was arrested again in 2019 and charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors for sex, Andrew came under enormous scrutiny.

That was when the Prince made a catastrophic PR move, giving a March 2020 interview on BBC Newsnight regarding his relationship with Epstein and offering up a litany of excuses as to why he could not have been present during the alleged sexual encounters. The interview was not received well, to put it mildly. As Wikipedia notes:

The interview was described as a “car crash”, “nuclear explosion level bad” and the worst public relations crisis for the royal family since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Experts and those with ties to Buckingham Palace said that the interview, its fallout, and the abrupt suspension of the Duke’s royal duties were unprecedented.

Prince Andrew is now feeling the repercussions of his close association with Jeffrey Epstein—though these repercussions are long overdue, and it’s clear that if he were anyone else, Andrew might be facing serious criminal charges. The backlash reached its zenith as of May 2020, with Andrew permanently resigned from all public roles because of his Epstein ties and the disastrous interview.

That means no more royal duties, no more chancellorships, even his patronages are no longer “his.” Students and communities lobby to have his name removed from public buildings. Andrew is a pariah to the British public, with a majority believing he should be stripped of his titles and extradited to the United States, where he’s a person of interest in a criminal investigation. It’s been reported that the Prince fears extradition to the U.S., and will likely hide behind the protection of his royal status in the U.K. for the foreseeable future.

Actor Tom Byrne, who plays Prince Andrew, told Radio Times that his scene with the Queen was actually filmed prior to the infamous Newsnight interview. “I think the thing is, at the time of filming it wasn’t that public, what Andrew has since been attached to. It wasn’t as public as it is now,” Byrne said.

If this is the unsubtle way Andrew is treated in The Crown production even before his “nuclear explosion level bad” interview, I’m curious to see what the show does next season. While the horrors of his Epstein connection and the surrounding allegations should be bad enough to destroy anyone, this is only part of Andrew’s many, many scandals over the years, including obscenely lavish personal spending and other unsavory “friends.”

Later in “Favourites,” the Queen gives us some more foreshadowing as she remarks to her husband, “As for Andrew, I was shocked. If he doesn’t change …”

Spoiler alert, Ma’am: it’s only worse from here on out.

(image: Netflix)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.