The Government's Order To Fly Union Jacks For Prince Andrew's 60th Has Not Gone Down Well

Windsor councillor who supports Royal Family rejects diktat as "wholly inappropriate in the prevailing circumstances".

Downing Street has been forced into a hasty rethink after complaints about a diktat that town halls should fly a flag for Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday.

Councils had been sent an email instructing them to mark the Duke of York’s birthday by flying the union flag on February 19.

The message was sent by civil servant Matt Stevenson – private secretary to Dame Melanie Dawes, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Andrew stepped down from royal public life in November after the fallout from his disastrous Newsnight appearance, and the Queen cancelled her son’s formal birthday celebrations soon after.

The prince was accused of showing a lack of empathy for sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein’s victims and of failing to show regret over his friendship with the disgraced financier.

Virginia Giuffre, previously known as Virginia Roberts, claims she was trafficked by convicted sex offender Epstein and alleges the duke slept with her on three separate occasions, including when she was 17 – still a minor under US law.

Andrew, who strenuously denies the allegations, is facing calls to talk to the FBI and US prosecutors.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the instruction to formally mark his birthday did not prove universally popular.

Tory councillor Phil Haseler, of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, tweeted: “Whilst I’m very supportive of the Royal Family I personally believe it is wholly inappropriate in the prevailing circumstances for councils to fly the Union Jack for Prince Andrew’s birthday!”

Speaking to HuffPost UK, he added: “Allegations of a serious nature have been made against Prince Andrew, as a result of which he has stepped back from public duties.

“He has so far failed to stand up to his responsibilities and make himself available to be interviewed by law enforcement officers.

“As a member of the royal family he should be setting an example not only to the citizens of the UK but to the world, he has so far failed to do so.

“To fly the flag for his birthday would be a sign of respect, Prince Andrew does not command that respect with the behaviour displayed to date.

“It would be highly disrespectful to the complainants and plainly inappropriate to fly the flag for his birthday.”

Meanwhile Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson told the Liverpool Echo the council would not be flying the flag. He said: “No, we won’t be doing that. I don’t think that would be appropriate.

“This isn’t to do with being anti-royal, we have flown the flag for the Queen before.”

An unnamed council source told The Sun: “Making this gesture while there is a cloud hanging over the duke is hugely insulting to Epstein’s victims and those wanting answers.”

The prime minister’s official spokesperson played down the instruction, saying: “This was an administrative email about long-standing policy.

“I understand DCMS and the royal household are considering how the policy applies in changing circumstances such as when members of the royal family step back from their duties.”

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew

A government spokesperson later said councils will not be required to fly flags to mark the Duke of York’s birthday.

They said: “The Department of Culture, Media and Sport will be advising councils that there is no requirement to fly flags on February 19 following the decision by the Duke of York to step back from public duties for the foreseeable future.”

Republic, a campaign to replace the monarchy with an elected head of state, said councils had better things to worry about than “daft royal protocols”.

Republic CEO Graham Smith said: “This is crass and offensive, and that even at the best of times it’s nonsense to be flying flags for Andrew’s or anyone else’s birthday.

“Councils are struggling to provide core services, they have better things to worry about than daft royal protocols.

“And to think we should be celebrating a man who has serious accusations of sexual assault hanging over his head is particularly appalling.

“It’s time we ended the whole nonsense of flying flags for royal birthdays.

“It’s inappropriate in a democracy and the public aren’t interested. I think we’d all rather see councils spend their time and money getting services delivered.”

One place that will still mark Andrew’s birthday will be Westminster Abbey, it has been confirmed.

A spokeswoman for the central London church 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.”


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