Charles and William protect throne: Queen may not have acted alone in demoting Andrew amid sex scandal

The Queen may not have acted alone in demoting Prince Andrew, with one royal expert reporting that his brother and nephew - heirs to the throne - helped orchestrate the move. 

Buckingham Palace on Friday announced that Andrew, the Duke of York, had been stripped of his honorary military roles and patronages as he battles a civil sex case against Virginia Guiffre in the United States. 

A statement from Buckingham Palace read: "With the Queen's approval and agreement, the Duke of York's military affiliations and royal patronages have been returned to the Queen.

"The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen."

The Duke of York, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, will now fight the civil sex case as a private citizen, stripped of his royal titles - a move that's said to have been supported by his own brother and nephew.

Nicholas Witchell, a royal correspondent for the BBC, said Prince Charles - the Queen's first-born son - and his son Prince William, had a hand in advising the Queen to strip Andrew of his privileges. 

Speaking on BBC News at Ten, Witchell said: "I think we can detect the hands of Charles and William in all of this.

"It would be very odd if the Queen was not consulting them - was not taking their counsel - particularly in the absence of the Duke of Edinburgh [the Queen's late husband, who died last year]."

"They will be concerned, I'm sure, for Andrew at a human level, but they are very much more concerned for the reputation of the institution."

Andrew's ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, is said to be "devastated" and "regrouping" with their daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

Andrew stepped back from royal duties in 2019 due to controversy surrounding his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a high-profile American financier and convicted sex offender, who took his own life that year while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. 

Epstein's ex-girlfriend and longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell, a British former socialite, was found guilty in December of recruiting and grooming teenage girls to be sexually abused by Epstein.

Giuffre, one of Epstein's accusers, claims she was forced to have sex with Andrew three times when she was 17 two decades ago, which the Duke of York has consistently denied. 

Earlier this month it was revealed that Giuffre agreed in a 2009 civil settlement with Epstein to restrictions on her ability to sue others. The deal also provided for Giuffre, also known as Virginia Roberts, to be paid $500,000.

Andrew said Giuffre's 2009 deal with Epstein shielded him from any liability. But earlier this week US District Judge Lewis Kaplan said Giuffre could pursue her claims against the 61-year-old royal.

A statement on behalf of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday said the Duke of York's New Zealand military patronage had ended. 

"In New Zealand, the Duke of York was formerly the Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal New Zealand Army Logistic Regiment (The Duke of York's Own). As a result of patronages returning to the Queen, his appointment has now ended," the statement read. 

"Any further changes to Royal patronages and appointments would be a matter for the Prime Minister to raise with the Queen of New Zealand in due course."