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In all her 70 years on the throne, was this perhaps the most challenging decision she has had to make as Queen?

That it would have to be taken on a day brimming with such personal significance as the memorial service for her beloved Philip surely only added to its complexity.

The question itself was a relatively simple one: should she take Prince Andrew’s arm for the short walk from her car to her seat in Westminster Abbey’s South Lantern?

And if not Andrew’s whose? Because for all the simplicity of her choice, the consequences would reverberate far beyond the perimeter of the ancient Abbey.

That the Duke of York should have every right to pay homage to his father at yesterday’s service was never in doubt. What was uncomfortable for other senior family figures, we understand, was how close he should be to the heart of the action.

Sitting with his daughters in the largely anonymous second tier of family members was one thing, striding centre stage as his mother’s liegeman was potentially perilous.

Here, remember was a man who had been banished from royal life, stripped of his honorary military titles and other patronages, and forced to relinquish the style ‘His Royal Highness’ in any official capacity.

Exiled, in effect, after reportedly paying £12million to settle his sex-abuse lawsuit.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, right, arrive for a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey in London on Tuesday

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, right, arrive for a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey in London on Tuesday

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, right, arrive for a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey in London on Tuesday

And as the Mail reports today, his proximity to the Queen at yesterday’s thanksgiving has provoked dismay at the Palace.

Officials are wary of any softening of the position of no return to royal duties for the Duke of York. One insider spoke of a fear of ‘mission creep’ – that having taken so prominent a position at the memorial, Andrew might start appearing at other national events such as June’s Jubilee celebrations.

So what should we make of the prince’s enhanced position yesterday? Certainly he appeared at times to cut an uncomfortable figure, jaw clenched and eyes flickering from side to side as he slowed to match the unhurried pace of the Queen.

On the surface it appeared the Queen had made a gesture of extraordinary maternal graciousness. It showed that her love for her favourite son was undimmed and that she believed in him.

Such a powerful and public endorsement would also suggest that she wanted to remind people he had not admitted any wrongdoing and, for all the repulsiveness of the Jeffrey Epstein affair, he had not been found guilty of anything but gross misjudgment.

Perhaps this was the Queen putting motherhood ahead of monarchy. Over the years she has been criticised for placing her duties to the Crown ahead of her family. Here then was the most powerful of reminders that, for all her devotion to service, being a mother is a higher purpose.

But this does present a danger for the royals: one of misunderstanding. Andrew’s appearance alongside his mother comes only weeks after the Queen publicly expressed her wishes that the Duchess of Cornwall should in time be made Queen Consort.

People now know that the crowning of Camilla is the will of the Queen. It is entirely possible that, in the same way, people will accept her approval of Andrew.

Naturally some wonder if this shows a road to a future redemption for Andrew. If, at her request, people can accept the idea of Camilla as Queen, was this the monarch’s way of asking people to show a measure of forgiveness for her son?

But the optics of the occasion yesterday have prompted some expressions of unease.

After watching the duke accompany his mother, Nazir Afzal, former chief crown prosecutor for north-west England, bitingly commented: ‘I’m all for rehabilitation but it starts with facing justice, accepting responsibility and working to rebuild victims’ confidence. None of that is present here so far.’

Perhaps, but this fails to take into account the special place Andrew has in the Queen’s life and heart. Both she and Prince Philip were immensely proud of his long Royal Navy service and, in particular, his bravery in the Falklands War 40 years ago, when he flew helicopter decoy missions, luring Argentine missiles away from the British fleet.

He has also been the most steadfast of sons. During the long months of Covid bubbles and the decline and death of Philip, Andrew was his mother’s most consistent supporter.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is helped into her car by her son Prince Andrew, right, after attending a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey in London

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is helped into her car by her son Prince Andrew, right, after attending a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey in London

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is helped into her car by her son Prince Andrew, right, after attending a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey in London

When her own health suffered, he was regularly in attendance at Windsor Castle, not far from his own home of Royal Lodge. For months his brothers and Princess Anne were grateful for his attentiveness and that his proximity to the castle meant he could spend time with their mother.

There was one other significant factor in yesterday’s royal tableau. Had it not been Andrew at her side, and the Queen wanted a family member to escort her, the choices were either Prince Charles, Prince William or Prince Edward. But all three princes had their own families at the Abbey, while the divorced Andrew – in the absence of his ex-wife – was unaccompanied.

According to the order of service, he was due to take his seat alongside his daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, who arrived with their husbands. This indicates his role may not have been planned or even widely known.

Aides suggested the Queen would have been content for a member of the Abbey clergy to guide her to her seat. But it is entirely characteristic of her to prefer the familiarity of her own family for such a task.

What yesterday demonstrated above all was the Queen’s remarkable will. Her will to be at the service, her refusal to use a wheelchair or to be hidden away from view. And if it was her will to have Andrew at her side, then so be it.

Source: dailymail

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