Prince Andrew’s decision to step back from public duties begs a question: What does a prince without a royal role actually do? And, more importantly for British taxpayers: Who pays for it?
The answer: No one knows for sure.
Prince Andrew, whose royal title is His Royal Highness The Duke of York, is the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and a brother of Prince Charles. He is also the first royal to step down since Edward VIII abdicated over his relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936.
In pictures: Britain's Prince Andrew
“It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organizations and charities that I am proud to support,” the prince said in a statement on Wednesday.
Royal commentators suggested that the Duke of York’s move became inevitable after the controversial BBC interview.
“He has been allowed to resign, but I’m sure it’s been made clear that he would have been forced out because he’s become a national embarrassment,” said Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator.
What will he do?
Prince Andrew’s official role, until Wednesday, was to support the Queen in her work, for example by attending events on her behalf.
That part of his life is over. While he will still likely attend the “family” events, such as the Trooping the Colour ceremony marking the Queen’s birthday or her Christmas celebrations at Sandringham, he won’t be cutting ribbons or attending charity events on her behalf.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that he is really without a role, it’s an early retirement,” Fitzwilliams said.
It’s not the first time Andrew has lost a role over Epstein.
Following his retirement from the Navy, he had carved out a function for himself as a champion of British businesses, traveling the world promoting the British brand.
But he was forced to quit as the UK’s special representative for trade and investment after he was photographed with Epstein in Central Park in 2010. At that time Epstein was a registered sex offender who had served 13 months in prison on prostitution-related charges.
Andrew continued to support business in the UK informally, through several initiatives and charities. While many of these are now parting ways with him, he appears to be clinging on some.
Buckingham Palace said Thursday that the Prince would continue working on his Pitch@Palace project in a private capacity and without the backing of the Palace.
The program was set up in 2014, with the aim of connecting entrepreneurs with business people who could help develop their ideas.
What happens to his allowance?
Like all full-time working royals, the prince was getting a living allowance from the Queen.
Some of the money came from the so-called Sovereign Grant which is given to the Queen by the government every year to cover the costs of travel, security, staff and the upkeep of royal palaces.
However, most of his income was funded from the Queen’s Duchy of Lancaster, a private estate of commercial, agricultural and residential properties that dates back to 1265.
The Duchy produced £21.7 million ($28 million) in income for the Queen during the most recent fiscal year. The palace doesn’t release any detailed data though, so it is unclear how much was Andrew getting.
The palace did not respond to a request for that information.
Where will he live?
The prince currently lives in the Royal Lodge in Windsor. The historical building used to be the home of the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret.
It is not unheard of for royals who are not working for the “firm” full-time to live in an official royal residence.
And what about the wedding?
Princess Beatrice, Andrew’s daughter, is getting married next year. As the father of the bride, Andrew is expected to play a major role in the wedding.
However, Fitzwilliams said it will now be more difficult for Beatrice to have the kind of high-profile televised wedding her sister Eugenie had last year.