Tradition or Reform? Question That Splits the Royals; MAIL ANALYSIS ON HOW A REBUKE FOR ANDREW EXPOSED A PALACE RIFT

Article excerpt


AFTER 20 minutes at the bedside of his grandmother, Prince Andrew headed for his chauffeur-driven car.

Seeing well-wishers outside the King Edward VII Hospital he bounded over to give an impromptu bulletin on the Queen Mother's hip operation.

It was, typically of Andrew, charming and upbeat, paying tribute to her spirit and including a humorous reference to stern matrons.

By the time he was back at his Ministry of Defence desk in Whitehall word had reached Buckingham Palace of his off-the-cuff comments - and a rebuke was being prepared.

It was not the custom, he was reminded, to give interviews or upstage more senior royals who arrived to see the Queen Mother after his visit.

The reproach, orchestrated by courtiers but endorsed by the Queen, emphasises a rift between leading members of the family. They are divided on one question - tradition versus reform.

At stake is a radical shake-up of the monarchy, with the Queen caught in the middle of a debate which has split her family and advisors.

Championing tradition is Prince Philip. The 76-year-old Duke, dedicated to the Queen and duty, resents the erosion of royal privilege and the way the death of Princess Diana has mobilised calls for change.

Although he helped orchestrate reforms in the Sixties and Seventies when the Palace opened its doors to television, he now believes that undermined the 'mystery and history' of the Royal Family.

He is supported by the Queen Mother who, unsurprisingly for one whose values and opinions were forged so long ago, is opposed to change.

A third traditionalist is Princess Anne, a natural conservative who lost patience with Diana and the Duchess of York when she felt their behaviour undermined the royals.

Yet Anne is not frightened of change. Her children, Peter and Zara, were brought up without titles and she places great store by the advice of her husband, Captain Tim Laurence, who is thought to support change.

Prince Charles is, in the words of one courtier, 'a reluctant reformer borne out of realism'. He accepts public opinion demands change and shares Tony Blair's desire to develop a 'People's Monarchy'.

But he is determined to be King, and is loathe to strip away centuries of tradition.

He is supported by Prince Andrew, firmly in the modernist mould.

Prince Edward, although resentful of losing his Civil List payment, is counted among

the reformers and famously stood up to Philip's wrath when he left the Royal Marines to develop a career of his own choosing, not that of tradition. …