Prince Andrew, the royal family member whose decades of troubling behavior would take too much time to recap in full here (though properties like this are certainly a start), has had less of a public presence since a catastrophic interview about his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and subsequent settlement of a sex abuse claim by one of Epstein’s alleged victims. But journalistic efforts to seek answers about his tenure as Britain’s trade ambassador have been stymied by public information laws that offer special dispensation to members of the royal family—and as those investigative doors slam shut, Andrew appears to be returning to his family’s good graces.
Biographer Andrew Lownie has written books on (among other topics) the Windsors, Soviet spy Guy Burgess, and the Mountbattens, a pursuit that’s involved oft-expensive efforts to access archived and/or public documents as a basis for his reporting. For his latest book, on Andrew, Lownie submitted a Freedom of Information request to the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as well as its Department for Business and Trade.
His goal, Lownie said via X (formerly Twitter), was to gain insights into Andrew’s decade-long role as UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, a position the royal held from 2001 until mounting scandals seemingly spurred his departure in 2011. “Many questions remain about his role as trade envoy, a public appointment paid for by the taxpayer,” Lownie told the Daily Mail, but Lownie’s requests were officially denied.
The reason, it appears, involves special rules that pertain only to official documents related to the royal family. While most government papers are available via the country’s National Archives after 20 years, things are different for the royals: Per the Times of London, the king or queen, the heir, and whoever is second in line for the throne are exempt from any public information requests.
Other members of the immediate family, such as Andrew, have a slightly smaller shield: all files on them “must remain sealed until 105 years after the individual’s birth,” Tatler reports, which means Andrew’s work correspondence, travel arrangements, and other activities will remain under wraps until 2065.
Lownie is apparently crossing his fingers that the ascension of King Charles might prompt a change to the longstanding rule, news of which has infuriated Britons. “I would hope with a new reign that only pertinent FOI exemptions such as national security, relations with another country, information given in confidence etc. will be applied alongside data protection considerations,” he told the Telegraph. “The delays in release create a vacuum for speculation and fantasists; their release would go some way to restoring trust in institutions, not least the monarchy.”
News of Lownie’s request comes as royal-watchers speculate that, after a few years on the outs, Andrew is returning to the bosom of his family. On Sunday, Andrew attended church in Balmoral with other members of his family, even riding to services with Prince William and Kate Middleton. But while some caution that the family carpool plan shouldn’t be read as a sign that Andrew is going to resume his public duties, others point out how jarring it is that Andrew remains part of the Windsor unit, even as Prince Harry’s invitations to family events seem to be lost in the mail.
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