Are Prince Andrew and Duchess Fergie consciously recoupling? The question arises after a timely welter of reports suggesting just that. Over the past fortnight, there has been a marked uptick in the number of off-the-record briefings suggesting that the Duke and Duchess of York are rekindling their union, which was memorably sundered in the annus horribilis of 1992.
It’s funny what brings once-parted couples back together – be it shared interests, a sense of unfinished business, or simply the chance to distract from an international sex-trafficking scandal to which you’ve been linked. I will find space for the duke’s strong denial of all this unpleasantness a bit further down the article.
For now, I think it helps to think of Andrew and Fergie as the Liz Taylor and Richard Burton of drawing your attention away from the fact that the Duke of York had nothing to do with his recently deceased friend Jeffrey Epstein’s pending trial, taking in locations from London to New York to a Virgin Islands property known locally as “Paedophile Island”. As far as Andy and Sarah goes, it’s like Burton once said of Taylor: “I might run from her for a thousand years, and she is still my baby child.” But the legal, consenting form of baby child. Which is, in this case, a financially exuberant duchess most recently in the news only last weekend for taking almost £300,000 from a Hong Kong businessman, as payment for – according to this Johnny Hon – “introduc[ing] me to a few people in Hong Kong”. I imagine Fergie was invaluable in this capacity.
At some level, you do have to doff your fascinator to Fergs, whose unerring, Teflon-coated ability to find new revenue streams no matter how many financial scandals she’s been involved in has never once stopped a certain type of royal-watcher cooing how unfairly she’s been treated. The ongoing injustice now plays out on her Instagram, with a recent post detailing the vicissitudes of a joint luxury stay in the Bahrain Ritz Carlton as guest of the cuddly crown prince. “Such a joy to be invited to attend the Bahrain Grand Prix with @hrhthedukeofyork and Beatrice,” wibbled Fergie. “Excited to meet @frankiedettori_ #familytimes @f1 #luckyme.” Not sure luck has a whole lot to do with it, but there we go.
Back to the present, and Andrew and Fergie have until recently been holed up with the Queen at Balmoral. Last Sunday, Andrew rode in the car next to Her Maj on the way to church (do me a favour), beaming all the way like a 59-year-old man who feels almost sure that his mother represents a lack of consequences for him. Which, let’s face it, you wouldn’t rule out. So yes, until a couple of days ago, Balmoral was Andrew’s physical location. But where’s he at, mentally? According to the Sun: “Royal insiders have revealed that Andrew is starting to ‘s*** himself’ over renewed attention.” I can’t help feeling this is one of those occasions where we really need to know what type of “royal insider” is being quoted on the shitting-himself front. Is this a) one of those made-up ones who talks exactly like a Sun journalist, b) just another of the myriad hangers-on who tittle-tattle for cash, or c) one of the retinue of servants charged with physically changing Andrew’s sheets? By rights, he should be at (c) stage, given that it was some Buckingham Palace flunky’s job last week to issue a statement reading: “Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.” No doubt this is the sort of misunderstanding that could befall anyone. I mean, who among us? WHO AMONG US?
Either way, Andrew left Scotland by private jet earlier in the week. He has since boarded his second private jet in just a few days, along with Fergie, who we learn has whisked him away to a Spanish hideaway in Sotogrande. The Sun’s headline showing pictures of the pair being driven away from the Malaga runway is “FERGIE TIME”, reminding us that in the royal family, there is always a bit extra to get what you need.
Indeed, the general standard of refereeing of these people is completely biased. How else to explain that even with this level of WTF-ery, the villain of the royal piece remains Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex? Far more time and column inches is already being devoted to fuming about the private jet that took Prince Harry and Meghan took to Ibiza last weekend for her birthday. Guys! Yoo-hoo! You’re looking at the wrong private jet! If you need help prioritising your royal private jets, here’s a simple way to do it: one’s got Meghan in, and the other’s precious cargo is a prince who has been linked to an international underage sex-trafficking scandal. Alas, we always look the wrong way in this country. And, indeed, when we are on tour, as travelling blister Nigel Farage proved in Australia this week. As reported by the Guardian, Nigel gave a speech to Sydney’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where his big targets were Meghan and Harry, and the Queen Mother (dead), who Nigel described as a “chain-smoking gin drinker”. Nigel Farage having a go at someone for liking a drink and a fag, is it? Very good.
Or take the Mail’s Sarah Vine, whose rolling anger at Meghan feels much more a matter for her therapist than her newspaper column readers. I don’t want to diagnose projection at a distance but perhaps a well-meaning friend of Sarah’s might point out that she and Meghan have so much more in common that she has thus far acknowledged. They are both married to people about sixth in line to their respective thrones. Both have been accused of grandeur: during the Tory leadership contest in the immediate wake of the EU referendum, a misdirected email of Sarah’s revealed her reminding her husband that “Dacre/Murdoch instinctively dislike Boris but trust your ability enough to support a Boris-Gove ticket”. Both have been lazily cast as pushy wives urging their husbands on. And, in the final analysis, we taxpayers were billed for far more of both of their interior decoration schemes than feels reasonable.
Still, plenty more Meghan misdemeanours to fuss over, no doubt, while Andrew hides away in his hideaway. As the duke himself once remarked: “I could have worse tags than ‘Airmiles Andy’ – although I don’t know what they are.”
In Bond terms, Gerard’s stock has fallen
It is always a pleasure to hear from the cinematic personage of Gerard Butler, an actor absolutely committed to taking himself entirely seriously. As, indeed, he should. Even the summaries of Gerard Butler movies are a good indication of the delights contained therein. “Gerard Butler plays a conflicted cop.” “Gerard Butler plays a US submarine commander.” “Gerard Butler plays the world’s leading meteorologist”.
Gerard Butler is currently promoting Angel Has Fallen, the third part of a trilogy already comprising Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen (“Gerard Butler plays a Secret Service Agent”). And in the course of the interview circuit, we have been encouraged to rue the movie summary that never was. Namely, why we have never seen the words: “Gerard Butler plays James Bond.”
“Listen,” entreated Gerard of Capital FM listeners this week. “Here’s the thing. You know what I love? I love Bond, I grew up on Bond but the cool thing with this is, we created our own franchise.”
Quite. If asked to name a more iconic franchise than Bond, I would certainly say the Something Has Fallen trilogy. As would Gerard.
“We created our own Bond,” he explains, “and that’s more fun than to have to play Bond, and be compared to the others like ‘he’s not as good as him’, ‘better than him’, ‘no, nobody ever beats Roger Moore’, ‘oh Sean Connery …’; I won’t ever have to go through that.”
The luckiest of escapes for everyone but cinema lovers, then, and we look forward to seeing which role Gerard will next inhabit.