n the wake of the on-going scandal and possible court case regarding his friendship and involvement with convicted paedophile, the late Jeffrey Epstein, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, has relinquished his honorary membership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the R&A said: “I can confirm that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has received notification that the Duke of York will relinquish his honorary membership. We respect and appreciate his decision.”
Less than two weeks ago, the Prince lost his honorary titles at three courses in Northern Ireland: Royal Portrush, Royal Belfast and Royal County Down. Back in 2019, when the Open Championship returned to Royal Portrush for the first time in nearly 70 years, Andrew attended the event, causing outrage when it was reported he spent £16,000 of taxpayer money on a private jet to carry him across the Irish Sea.
This latest development follows the Prince’s failure to block a civil lawsuit brought by Virginia Guiffre earlier this month, his motion thrown out in a New York court. Guiffre claims she was sex-trafficked by Epstein and his friend/associate Ghislaine Maxwell and forced to have sex with the Prince when she was 17 and underage. The Prince has always denied those charges and recently requested a trial by jury.
That legal development prompted Queen Elizabeth II – Andrew’s mother – to remove all of his military affiliations and royal patronages. In an official announcement, Buckingham Palace intimated that “the Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”
A member of the R&A since 1992, Andrew was captain of the club during its 250th anniversary year in 2004. He was the sixth member of the British Royal family to hold that office and the first to serve on one of the club’s many committees. He was a member of the club’s amateur status committee from 2000 to 2003 and also offered patronage to more than 20 other golf clubs and associations. Many of those can now be expected to discreetly ask for his resignation.
By way of example, around 18 months ago, Graham Callander, general manager of the Royal Burgess Golfing Society in Edinburgh, told The Guardian newspaper that Andrew’s membership of the club had “not particularly” caused problems.
“We are following the lead from the R&A,” Callander said. “As far as I’m aware, he is still a member of the R&A. They are the governing body, so we take a lead from them. If they did something, I think we would follow suit.”
Another part of Andrew’s golfing portfolio was the now defunct Duke of York Young Champion’s Trophy. Established in 2001, it staged junior events all over the world and boasted Rory McIlroy and Women’s British Open champion Anna Nordqvist amongst its past participants.
Still, it was Andrew’s membership and eventual leadership of the R&A, and its ties to making the rules of the game everywhere in the world except the US and Mexico, that was the most prominent example of his devotion to the game.
“It is an enormous privilege, an honour and a dream come true for me to be invited to become the captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, especially in its 250th anniversary year,” Andrew said at the time.
In the years that followed, Andrew was a regular visitor to the Open Championship, the Ryder Cup and other significant golf events, often clothed in official R&A sweaters, shirts and waterproofs. No more though. And it remains to be seen what the club will do with two paintings inside the R&A clubhouse, which sits behind the first tee at the Old Course, in which the Prince features prominently. One hangs outside the member’s dining room. The other can be found just inside the entrance to the club’s Forgan House facility that sits to the right of the 18th green on golf’s most famous course.