After a 20-year tenure at Royal Lodge, time is up for the Duke of York.
The King is preparing to withdraw private funding for security at the 30-room property in Windsor, which Prince Andrew has lived in since 2003 and shares with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, The Telegraph understands.
This means that if he wants to continue living in the Lodge, the Duke will need to find a small fortune to fund extensive repairs and maintain multimillion-pound security at the property – or else, hand over the keys.
It is a bluer January than usual for the beleaguered Duke. A tranche of US court documents published at the beginning of this year is putting him under fresh scrutiny over his friendship with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The legal papers related to a 2015 defamation case brought against Ghislaine Maxwell by Virginia Giuffre, who accused Andrew of abusing her as a teenager.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader and former director of public prosecutions, has backed calls for Sotland Yard to investigate. The Duke denies any wrongdoing.
The King is reportedly keener than ever for his brother to downsize and will not pay for round-the-clock security at the Royal Lodge indefinitely.
For his part, the Duke is said to be going nowhere fast, with friends telling The Telegraph last May that he intends to honour the 55 years left on his lease.
The Duke’s lease does indeed give him the right to live in the property until 2078, but the contract is understood to include a clause that he must maintain it to an appropriate standard.
With no visible income to speak of, it will be tough to cough up for essential repairs. So, if a moving van does pay a visit to the Royal Lodge, where could the Duke go next?
Previous attempts to relocate Prince Andrew to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s former marital home have failed, but it remains the most realistic option on the table.
If the Duke can be persuaded to move into the cottage dubbed “the outpost of the outcasts”, at least he will find it refurbished to a high standard – it was Soho House-ified by the Sussexes in 2019 and would mean the Duke could remain on the Windsor estate.
However, he would be dramatically downsizing.
St James’s Palace
As several apartments are used by other members of the Royal family, including his daughter Beatrice and the Princess Royal, St James’s Palace remains the second most likely scenario.
Pro: town centre location. Con: shared with several other members of the Royal family (and their household offices).
If he swerves the spare’s digs, the Duke could go for the heir’s: the Prince and Princess of Wales’s apartment 1A in Kensington Palace – refurbished at huge public expense – is currently sitting empty.
The Duke’s neighbours would be the Gloucesters and the Kents, as well as many royal staff.
However, it would go against the King’s wishes for the Duke to downsize. There are several other apartments at Kensington Palace also understood to be empty, but a move back to London is thought to be unlikely.
The Duke has already been turfed out of his office and private rooms there. But the vast palace is going to prove a problem for the King when the 10-year refurbishment is finished as he will have to justify the cost.
In truth, no member of the Royal family is particularly keen to live here as it’s too much of a goldfish bowl. Boasting 775 rooms, including 240 bedrooms, the palace would be a mighty upgrade on the Duke’s current digs.
But it is extremely unlikely, given his previous eviction and lack of status as a working royal.
King Charles’s private home was bought by the Duchy of Cornwall and leased to him for life. Perhaps he could spare a few rooms for his brother. Or pigs might fly.
There are plenty of apartments up for grabs at Windsor, the largest occupied castle in the world, but it would perhaps be considered too grand for the Duke.
He would also risk butting heads with his brother the King, who spends a lot of time there. It is also rumoured to have been earmarked for the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate has been vacant since the death of Prince Philip, who lived there in his retirement. Close to the coast, it has been described as “quite remote and very ungrand – the perfect bolthole”.
This would fulfil the King’s wishes and keep the Duke out of sight, out of mind, in altogether more humble surroundings. The Yorks used it as their base this Christmas, and reportedly last Christmas, too.
Castle of Mey
Should the King wish the Duke to be a literal outcast, he could be sent to the Castle of Mey, on the north coast of Scotland, roughly six miles west of John o’ Groats.
The castle was derelict until it was refurbished by the Queen Mother in the mid-1950s. The King spends a few days here over the summer.
Finally, if the King really wants to be rid of Andrew, he could also pass on his houses near Zalanpatak and Viscri in Transylvania.
King Charles owns several estates in Transylvania where a great-great grandmother of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, Hungarian Countess Klaudia Rhedey, was born and raised in the 19th century.