Things get pretty mixed up over the course of 1600 years, but there is a smidge of the blood of Alfred the Great in the veins of Prince Andrew. In fact he has some kind of relationship to most of the occupants of the English throne. And while some of them are admirable human beings, the plain fact is that there are some monsters in there too. They really don’t constitute a great advert for family values in the round. Some of them took mistresses in a raffish and charming way, like say Charles II. Others would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. Henry VIII even started a new religion so he could marry who he chose, and later was quite prepared to cut former wives heads off to avoid all the bother of a divorce. George II managed to devote almost his entire energies during his reign to his mistresses.
So it would hardly be all that surprising if Prince Andrew, who is after all no longer even a spare to the heir, would spend his life indulging himself. And if some of those activities might seem distasteful to ordinary people? Well it was pretty much ever so. There isn’t much point in being a member of the upper classes if you have to pander to the prejudices of the lower ones.
Having said all that, it doesn’t look much like Prince Andrew has actually done anything untoward in this case. The tabloids are dropping plenty of innuendo, but they are hardly renown for scrupulous attention to the facts. In fact the only real embarrassing fact in the case is Andrew’s friendship with a distinctly unsavoury financier. His friend it appears, has used his wealth and power to get access to underage children and has served time for it.
I think this is the real lesson of the story. Rich and powerful people don’t always act badly. But when they choose to they can get away with a lot more than the rest of us. This is one of the constants of human nature. And if behaviour can be inherited – as biologists believe it can – this is something that is not leaving the gene pool any time soon. Gengis Khan left a huge number of descendants, and pettier tyrants have no doubt done much the same thing over the centuries.
This is the way the world is, and it is as well to keep it in mind. Inequality of income is pretty closely related inequality of power. And the more unequal things become the more the powerful will abuse the weak in every sense of the word. This ought to bother us in a world which is becoming more unequal than at any time in history. What Prince Andrew did or didn’t get up to hardly merits a moment’s thought against that backdrop.