Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, has been in the news lately, for all the wrong reasons.
One bit of fallout has been that he has withdrawn from public duties for the foreseeable future. But it’s not exactly clear what that means. In some cases, he has “stepped down” from or resigned some offices ~ chancellor of a university, patron of a well-known trust, etc. It is not clear if he offered his resignation or if it was requested. Stepping back from public duties, as Prince Phillip, who is 98 years old, has done is perfectly understandable ~ but Prince Philipp’s title as Colonel-in-Chief of my former regiment, The Royal Canadian Regiment, remains. Her Majesty has not reassigned that duty to anyone. (It also happened, rather more forcefully, when, in 1914, Kaiser Willhelm was stripped of his (many) British titles and honours.) Prince Andrew seems to be a bit different. At 59 he’s not old, especially not when one considers how active mother (93 years old), his brother (71) and his older sister, Anne (69) are in their official duties. But he does appear to be in disgrace. There are suggestions that the “withdrawal” is not voluntary on his part; he may be being banished from public life.
Prince Andrew is Colonel-in-Chief of three Canadian Army reserve force regiments …
… the Queen’s York Rangers (Toronto), the Princess Louise Fusiliers (Halifax) and the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada (Cambridge, ON). As has been noted, in the media, “The title of Colonel-in-Chief isn’t merely symbolic. It can’t be wiped off a web page and forgotten. In fact, it’s not clear the Canadian government could rescind Prince Andrew’s appointments at all, even if it wanted to … [because] … “The position of Colonel-in Chief is a symbol of a direct relationship between the Sovereign and the members of that regiment,” said Richard Berthelsen, an expert on the Crown and Canada. “It’s not like a patronage. It has a much deeper meaning. It is something that is official and is recognized in the Canadian Forces as having significant importance to history and heritage of that unit” … [and] … Commonwealth regiments can only be granted a royal colonel-in-chief by the Queen herself. Most appointed serve in that capacity until they die. The Queen Mother was Colonel-in-Chief of the Toronto Scottish Regiment for 64 years, until her death in 2002.” Prince Phillip has been Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Canadian Regiment for 66 years, since December 1953.
In fact, reports (link above) say that “Prince Andrew’s announcement that he was stepping away from public duties put the Canadian military into an unprecedented and somewhat baffling situation. No one within the department knew at first what it meant for Prince Andrew’s role within the Canadian Armed Forces. His statement, broad and vague, did not address his military roles, in Great Britain and across the Commonwealth, at all.“
I’m not surprised that officials in DND are baffled. Royal (and vice regal) colonels-in-chief are, normally, pretty harmless, but tricky, parts of the largely ceremonial heritage of the Canadian Forces … royal visits are (I can attest from personal experience) bothersome to many and, sometimes, expensive, but are, in general, thought to be worth more, in terms of military morale and good public relations, than they cost. Prince Andrew, now, seems to be making a notable exception to that very general rule: he might be a detriment to both moral and public relations.
Now may just be the time for Mr Donald Booth to spring into action. Who is Donald Booth? No one would blame you for asking. He is a civil servant, somewhere in the bureaucracy, who is (presumably amongst other duties) the Canadian Secretary to the Queen. He reports to Minister of Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, and is the primary conduit for communications between the Government of Canada and the royal family. Perhaps, when the news cycle is quieter, Mr Booth might ask Her Majesty to consider whether or not she wants Prince Andrew to continue with those colonel-in-chief duties here in Canada.
I neither know nor care if any of the rumours swirling around Prince Andrew are true or not, but I do know that military morale, which is, as Napoleon said, to all the physical things in war as three is to one, can be easily enhanced or damaged by many things and the reputation of a regiment’s colonel-in-chief might be one of them. I think Prince Andrew can best serve the regiments of which he is colonel-in-chief by stepping away from them before there is any more bad news.