In the court of public opinion, there can be little doubt it was the right decision. A positive – and some noted fortuitous – Covid-19 test had already averted another public relations crisis after it cast Prince Andrew out of the only Jubilee event he had been allowed to attend: a service of thanksgiving.
There was palpable relief from courtiers that he could not insert himself into royal proceedings again, this time in front of a global audience of an estimated billion.
And then, after less than a week of peace and quiet, there came briefings that the Duke of York was mulling his return to public life with some support from the palace and, as reported by The Telegraph, is asking for roles, including his colonelcy of the Grenadier Guards, back.
“It focused minds,” said a source. “This isn’t just a decision about public opinion, this is making it clear to him [Andrew] the expectations for the future.
“It isn’t just for the good of the family, but for his own good too.”
Garter Day, with its colourful pageantry of royal knights and ladies in their plumed hats and velvet robes, was not the place for a Duke without portfolio.
No place on official public duty
The Queen, sources said, was willing to listen to the opinion of her two heirs, who have both been adamant Andrew has no place on official public duty following his “stepping back”.
Prince Charles and the Duke of Cambridge may not have been able to block Prince Andrew taking centre stage at the service of thanksgiving for the Duke of Edinburgh, where he was photographed on the Queen’s arm, but in this they prevailed.
This time, the Duke of Cambridge uttered words to the effect of “it’s him or me” for Garter Day, it was claimed on Monday.
A source close to the Duke of York initially said it was his own decision to pull back from full attendance to an inside-only role.
With two future kings already in agreement over the public future of the Duke of York – limited to non-existent – the phone calls were to the point. Long after the Garter Day programme had been sent to the printers, showing the Duke of York originally in the procession, the Queen made the final call this weekend, smoothing things over to reach agreement with Prince Andrew as only she could.
“There are two roles in this situation, a mother and a monarch, and the Queen looks at it both ways,” said a source. “A mother will always have an interest in her son’s well-being.
“When it comes to the monarchy, there are other people in the family who are also now entitled to a view.”
It was, another source said, an exercise in “clarity” for a Duke who still asks for more of his royal responsibility back.
“There is a difference between constantly asking and being given,” one said. “Mothers have a way of letting us down gently, sometimes so we don’t even notice.”
And so the Duke was still invited for lunch, joining his family and the Knights Companion and Ladies Companion. Despite remaining a member of the Order of the Garter, he was not photographed, other than driving to the castle from nearby Royal Lodge wearing his ordinary suit and tie.