Saturday, February 24

Prince Andrew stripped of freedom of York by councillors | Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew has suffered another indignity after councilors in York unanimously voted to remove his honorary freedom from the city.

An extraordinary meeting of York city council on Wednesday also heard councilors call on Andrew to relinquish his Duke of York title in the wake of his now settled sexual assault civil case.

The freedom of York was granted to Andrew in 1987, essentially a wedding gift after his marriage the previous year to Sarah Ferguson.

At the time there was a huge, joyful civic ceremony, which attracted crowds of more than 200,000 people. Thirty-five years later it has been ignominiously removed after a meeting at York racecourse which lasted barely 25 minutes.

Darryl Smalley, the Liberal Democrat councilor who proposed the motion, said he was pleased to have won the support of councilors from all parties on the council.

“The honorary freedom of York is the highest honor we, as a city, can bestow on those who represent the very best of York,” Smalley said. “The honor is held by many notable and accomplished people who carry it with pride and responsibly.

“Having been stripped of his military roles and royal patronages by the Queen, we believe that it is right to remove all links that Prince Andrew still has with our great city.

“The removal of this honorary title sends the right message that we as a city stand with victims of abuse. The next logical step is now for Prince Andrew to do the right thing and relinquish his Duke of York title. If he fails to do so, the government and Buckingham Palace must step in to remove his title from him to finally end Prince Andrew’s connection to York.

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Aisling Musson, a Labor councillor, said the council owed it to the people of York, “particularly those who have been affected by sexual violence, abuse or human trafficking. Our first duty is not to our reputation but to their wellbeing and protection.”

Apart from two abstentions from the lord mayor and the lord mayor elect, all councilors at the meeting voted for Andrew to be stripped of the title.

Martin Rowley, a Conservative councillor, called for reassurance that in the future “nobody receives a freedom of the city award as a result of right of birth, or standing in the community”.

Andrew’s freedom of York had been almost forgotten about until a former council official tipped off the Guardian, which prompted York city council staff to search the archives and in turn led to Wednesday’s extraordinary meeting.

In February it was announced that the prince had settled his case with Virginia Giuffre who had claimed she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, a claim the prince has denied.

The out-of-court settlement meant that Andrew made no admission of guilt. International lawyers said that the financial cost to Andrew was likely to be more than $10m (£7m) even before he paid his own legal bill, which is expected to run into millions.

The cost to his reputation has been huge. In February it was announced the Queen was stripping Andrew of his military affiliations and royal patronages from him. He also can no longer use the HRH royal style in any official capacity.

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He remains, however, the Duke of York – much to the chagrin of many in the city. Rachael Maskell, the MP for York Central, has said it was “untenable for the Duke of York to cling on to his title another day longer”. A poll for the city’s newspaper, the Press, showed that 88% of people agreed.

An act of parliament would be needed for Andrew to be stripped of being the Duke of York, a title given to him by his mother in 1986 when he married Ferguson.

Buckingham Palace and a spokesperson for the Duke of York declined to comment.

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