Forgiving Prince Andrew: can the country ever move on?

Justin Welby back-pedalled after his call for forgiveness sparked an angry backlash

Prince Andrew
(Image credit: Chris Jackson/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has distanced himself from remarks in which he appeared to suggest the country should forgive Prince Andrew.

During an interview with ITV News last night, Justin Welby was asked about the Duke of York, who paid an undisclosed sum as a settlement to Virginia Giuffre, who had accused him of sexual assault, allegations that Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied.

“I think we have become a very, very unforgiving society,” said the Archbishop. “There’s a difference between consequences and forgiveness.

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“Now with Prince Andrew, I think we all have to step back a bit. He’s seeking to make amends and I think that’s a very good thing.”

However, a spokesman for Welby said this morning that “the archbishop was not referring specifically to Prince Andrew when he said we must become a more forgiving society,” reported The Times.

A fresh statement from Welby said he was making a “broader point” that he hopes “we can become a more forgiving society,” but he conceded that “these are complex issues that are difficult to address in a short media interview”.

Nevertheless, Welby’s statements have re-opened the question of whether the British public can ever take Andrew, who has denied any wrongdoing, back into their hearts.

‘Most disliked’ royal

In March, Andrew came at the bottom of the Ipsos popularity rankings of the royals with just 2% choosing him as their favourite member of the Royal Family.

Then this week, as the nation prepared to celebrate 70 years of Queen Elizabeth II on the throne, new YouGov royal favourability data showed that Andrew remains the most disliked royal with a net score of -80. Just 5% of the public see him positively, while 85% view him negatively.

Andrew ‘de-royaled’

When the Queen chose Prince Andrew to accompany her down the aisle at Westminster Abbey for Prince Philip's Service of Thanksgiving in March, it provoked plenty of disapproval.

Writing for Unherd, Rector Giles Fraser said even the colourful condemnations on social media “expressed what many might nonetheless feel: that such is the nature of Andrew’s extensive failures as a human being, he should have been locked away in a royal basement, not paraded before the country”.

Jonathan Aitken, the former Conservative cabinet minister who was jailed in 1999 after being accused of perjury and perverting the course of justice, said of Andrew “my advice to him would be, do not despair” because “there are second chances” and “he needs a quiet way of finding them.”

Speaking to The Telegraph in February, he added that “Prince Andrew should prepare himself for a long wait for the national mood to soften” but “it probably will” because “the British public in its own time is more forgiving”.

However, Robert Lacey, a royal historian, told The Guardian that Andrew “has been de-royaled” and “he has now got to live a private life, and any suggestion he could return to public life is delusional.”

Seeking to make amends

The British public is likely to want evidence that Andrew is “seeking to make amends”, said Piers Morgan in The Sun. If “forgiveness is accepting that someone made a mistake, we need to know what Prince Andrew thinks his mistake was,” continued Morgan.

“All we’ve seen from Prince Andrew is ‘I’m going to clear my name,’ followed by ‘I’m writing a fat cheque to avoid going to court,’” wrote the columnist. “That's not acceptance or repentance, and Andrew – I'm sorry – I think the public might find the forgiveness part quite difficult without you keeping your half of the deal,” he added.

Writing on Twitter today, the author and activist Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu went further. “If Prince Andrew wants to be forgiven (for what?) he should’ve gone through a trial to prove his innocence,” she wrote.

It seems that Twitter is “absolutely fuming” as Andrew takes “his first tentative steps back into the spotlight” during the Jubilee week, reported The List. However, it is still unclear how many Jubilee events Andrew will in fact attend, noted The Independent.

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