Queen dodges tough decision on Prince Andrew birthday honour amid pandemic shutdown

Queen arrives at Ashworth Centre with Prince Andrew in 2018

The Queen will not have to decide whether Westminster Abbey will celebrate Prince Andrew’s birthday this year due to the coronavirus restrictions. Traditionally the royal church marks the birthdays of senior members of the Royal Family by ringing its bells. However, last year the Abbey sparked fury when they rang the bells for the Duke of York’s 60th birthday despite the royal stepping down from public life following backlash about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

A spokeswoman for the London-based church defended the decision ahead of Andrew’s February 19 birthday last year.

She said: “Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar and the bells are rung for the birthdays of HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh; their children; and TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children.

“There are no plans to change these arrangements.”

The decision would have to be taken in consultation with the Queen as the Abbey comes under the direct jurisdiction of the monarchy.

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England’s new strict lockdown rules which came into force today will be reviewed on February 15 but even a partial relaxation is unlikely to see the bells ring for Andrew’s birthday.

A spokesman from Westminster Abbey confirmed to Express.co.uk the church’s bells will not ring until all coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Boris Johnson’s Government has already warned that it may take time for restrictions to be eased with Michael Gove indicating measures being in place until at least March.

Westminster Abbey told this website: “The Abbey bells have not rung since March last year and will not ring again until all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted – particularly those relating to social distancing.”

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An Abbey source earlier told Newsweek: “There won’t be any bell ringing at least until March and even then it would be very dubious I would have thought.”

Speaking about the backlash last year, Nigel Cawthorne, author of ‘Prince Andrew, Epstein and the Palace’, told the Daily Express: “There was an enormous uproar at the beginning of the year when the Government requested that local councils celebrate Prince Andrew’s 60th. In the end, it didn’t happen, though the bells of Westminster Abbey did ring.

“Although the Queen is the supreme governor of the Anglican church, she cannot tell the churches what to do on her own.

“The exception is Westminster Abbey, which falls directly under her responsibility. It would be a major sign of displeasure if she failed to ring the bells again for his 61st birthday.”


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The Queen already gave a show of support to her second eldest son in January 2020 when he publicly accompanied her on a visit to church.

This was after she had accepted his decision to step back from public life and royal duties for the “foreseeable future”.

The Duke of York made the announcement in 2019 after a widely-criticised interview with BBC Panorama.

In a statement, Andrew said: “It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein have become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support.

“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.”

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