Prince Andrew remains hopeful that he’ll one day resume his royal duties.
Secrets of Prince Andrew, a new documentary premiering Monday on A&E, examines the unraveling of the British royal — through his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the sexual abuse claims made against him by Virginia Giuffre and his train wreck BBC interview.
The two-part special also looks at the bigger picture of the Duke of York’s life as the favorite son of Queen Elizabeth II, the touted eligible bachelor (“Randy Andy”), the war hero and the missteps under his ever-shifting position within the family as “spare” to now-King Charles.
“I think he does still hope he can be restored to royal life and he can play a full part in the royal family,” executive producer James Goldston tells Yahoo Entertainment, “however unlikely that may seem.”
And it does seem unlikely, considering he was stripped of most of his titles and removed from royal duties following his association with Epstein, who was accused of running a sex trafficking ring, coming to light and Giuffre’s disturbing allegation that the duke sexually abused her when she was 17. Andrew settled a civil lawsuit brought against him by Giuffre in 2022.
Is Andrew — described in the doc as an “accident waiting to happen for years” — in denial? “It’s a complicated question,” Goldston says. “Prince Andrew has obviously quite vigorously defended himself.” He adds, “It’s been trial by media. There has not been a criminal case.”
Andrew’s life in banishment — and ‘complicated’ relationship with Charles
While Andrew didn’t directly participate in the doc, his days of interviews may be over after the 2019 Newsnight fiasco that fueled Giuffre’s lawsuit, he authorized Paul Tweed, a defamation lawyer and long-time friend, to speak on his behalf. Tweed is “as close as you’re gonna get right now” to hearing from Andrew himself, Goldston says, and gives “real insights into what Andrew and the family are thinking.”
Andrew has a lot of time to think. “Banished” from royal duties by his mother not long before her September 2022 death, his life is “a much reduced circumstance, both in prestige and in terms of his finances,” says Goldston. Under Charles, now the king, he’s also been stripped of his private quarters in Buckingham Palace. Plans to move him from his home, which he shares with ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, have been shelved. “He’s very close to his daughters,” Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, “and by all accounts still very close to Fergie. But I think beyond that it’s been very hard.”
In the doc, Tweed describes Andrew as being in a “horrendously difficult position … regardless of everything else you think.”
Things have been especially hard with Charles. “For the brothers, it’s very complicated,” Goldston continues. “You see in the film when they were growing up, they were from birth marked with different lives” as the heir and the spare. “That was very complicated for their whole lives. Prince Charles being heir to the throne — and with that all of the prestige and all of the money and all of the attention. For spares through history, that’s a complicated emotional place to be.”
The doc digs into the financial discrepancies in the brothers’ lifestyles too, with Andrew receiving “astonishingly” less money than his brother from the start, according to Sheldon Lazarus, also an executive producer. “This is in no way to defend any of the behavior, but if you want to live a royal life, it costs royal money, and Andrew didn’t necessarily have that sort of backing like Prince Charles had.”
With the birth of each of Charles’s children, Prince William and Prince Harry, and grandchildren, of which there are now five, Andrew dropped further down the line of succession.
‘Extraordinary parallels’ between spares Andrew and Harry
As for whether Andrew sees himself as better positioned within the royal family than Harry — who, along with wife Meghan Markle, has gone scorched earth on his family since stepping down as a senior royal, including in his blistering memoir Spare — there are “extraordinary parallels,” says Lazarus. “History will judge probably both of them in different type of ways.”
“I think it’s a question about the role of the royal family — in this generation and the generations to come,” he continues. “What is the role of the British royal family and the British monarchy? I think the Harry story and the Prince Andrew story has shown very big chinks in what the royal family means. Obviously for us, it was very important to make an incredibly balanced documentary and tell the real story that we discovered without any bias for the audience to make up their own minds, but I think there are some big questions about the future and what the royal family means today.”
Goldston adds that these issues of succession have “echoed through history and drama” from “Shakespeare, to the Lion King to the present day. It’s always a complicated issue, and, I think, it’s very hard to resolve. Everyone in that position — it’s a challenging role.”
‘It will go down in royal history of how not to do something’
A large part of the film revisits Andrew’s disastrous interview with Newsnight‘s Emily Maitlis, in which he broke his silence about his connection to Epstein and denied having met Giuffre (citing his alleged medical inability to sweat as part of his defense). The outlet’s booker Samantha McAlister talks in the doc about spending one entire year trying to make the interview happen, and all the developments along the way. Of course, Andrew ultimately did the interview — going against the advice of Tweed — and it ended up being a “gift” for Giuffre’s legal team when they sued him.
“Everyone — even Andrew’s top advisors, including [Tweed] — said: ‘Under no circumstances should you do that [interview],'” Lazarus says. “The big question is why? Why did he do it? And if you look at the timeline, it was possibly the worst thing” for his situation. “I think it’s incredibly telling to the detached attitude to reality which I think it showed. I think it will go down in royal history of how not to do something.”
While Maitlis and her producers were left slack-jawed by Andrew’s interview, knowing it would blow things up, the prince and his team thought he did a great job. After the interview wrapped at Buckingham Palace, the Newsnight team was “offered gin and tonics” and invited to stay for movie night at the palace. “They were slapping themselves on the back,” Lazarus adds.
It was an actual “slam dunk,” however, for David Boies and Sigrid McCawley, the attorneys representing Giuffre, who also appear in the doc. Lazarus says, “They could not believe they had that in terms of the discovery. For a legal team, it was an absolute gift. They were more shocked than anybody that he would say that on television — and it was global news within seconds.”
Goldston marvels at the impact of the Newsnight interview, saying “I’ve been a journalist my whole career — in the U.K. and in the United States, as president of ABC News for a long time — and I think we do see the film as a tribute to journalism. As a journalist, you recognize that they did something quite extraordinary.”
While there are many headshaking moments in the doc, Lazarus says it was so important to them to make it balanced and not “a hatchet job or a takedown on Prince Andrew. As documentarians, we wanted to make something of quality and to basically let the viewer in on this extraordinary moment in history — in royal history.”
The Secrets of Prince Andrew premieres Monday, Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.