Prince Andrew has been stripped of the Freedom of the City of York after councillors unanimously voted to remove his title in the wake of his settled sexual abuse case.
Councillors in York gathered this evening to debate revoking the prince’s Freedom of the City honour, awarded to him in 1987. After discussing the motion for around half an hour, it passed unanimously.
A number of the councillors and members of public who spoke at the meeting at York Racecourse on Wednesday also called for either the Queen or the Government to strip Andrew of the title Duke of York. Labour councillor Aisling Musson said it was time to remove: ‘This stain of an association with this city.’
Andrew is the first person ever to have the Freedom of the City removed, councillors were told. There were two formal abstentions – from the Lord Mayor and Lord Mayor elect.
Lib Dem Darryl Smalley, City of York Council’s executive member for culture, leisure & communities propose the motion.
He said tonight: ‘The Honorary Freedom of York is the highest honour we, as a city, can bestow on those who represent the very best of York. The honour is held by many notable and accomplished people who carry it with pride and responsibly.
‘Having been stripped of his military roles and royal patronages by the Queen, we believe that it is right to remove all links that Prince Andrew still has with our great city.
‘I was pleased to see councillors of all parties support this motion and make it clear that it is no longer appropriate for Prince Andrew to represent York and its residents.
‘The removal of this honorary title sends the right message that we as a city stand with victims of abuse. The next logical step is now for Prince Andrew to do the right thing and relinquish his Duke of York title.
‘If he fails to do so, the Government and Buckingham Palace must step in to remove his title to finally end Prince Andrew’s connection to York.’
It follows a slew of authorities, institutions, schools and even golf clubs, which have all sought to distance themselves from the disgraced duke since he settled his civil case with Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking victim Virginia Roberts.
In the wake of the case, which was settled in February, the 62-year-old was also stripped of his military roles and royal patronages and was told he would no longer be known as ‘His Royal Highness’.
Prince Andrew, at the York racecourse in 2015 to open the new weighing room on the first day of The Dante Festival. The racecourse was the site of tonight’s vote to strip him of the title
Lord Mayor of York Cllr Chris Cullwick (centre) during a meeting of the York City Council at the York Racecourse, where councillors passed a motion to remove the Duke of York’s Honorary Freedom of the City
The city council meeting in York had been scheduled to take place virtually last month but the plug was pulled just two hours before it was due to start following objections from Labour councillors. Pictured: York Minster
The prince pictured with his accuser Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, who was found guilty in 2021 of child sex trafficking
In the wake of his sex abuse case, which was settled in February, the 62-year-old (pictured driving around Windsor) was also stripped of his military roles and royal patronages and was told he would no longer be known as ‘His Royal Highness’
York City Council considered the motion: ‘The Council resolves that, pursuant to Section 249 of the Local Government Act 1972, the City of York Council withdraws the Honorary Freeman of the City status from the Duke of York which was conferred upon him in 1987.’
The meeting in York had been scheduled to take place virtually last month but the plug was pulled just two hours before it was due to start following objections from Labour councillors.
The decision to cancel the initial meeting caused fury among councillors, but York Council’s Lib Dem Group said the vote would go ahead on the same motion in April.
The spokesman said: ‘The votes taken remotely would have been seen as recommendations and would have had to go to the Chief Operating Officer to be confirmed as decisions.
‘Virtual meetings took place during Covid when the COO agreed with all the recommendations. It is purely because the agenda item on this meeting was very, very political.
‘It was felt it would be better to hold it safely and properly in person once members were ready and healthy enough to attend.
‘Quite a few councillors had recently tested positive for Covid and the real concern was many of them were vulnerable.’
The Duke is the first VIP to be stripped of his Freeman status since Jimmy Savile, who had his taken by Scarborough Council in 2011.
Ahead of the cancelled meeting last month, Darryl Smalley, a Liberal Democrat councillor for York City, told the Independent: ‘York’s unique connection to the crown and the monarch is an important part of our city’s legacy and history.
‘However, as a council and city, we stand with victims of sexual abuse and are doing all we can to end violence against women and girls locally.
‘As such, it is inappropriate that Prince Andrew retains his ambassadorial title that is intrinsically linked to our city.’
Mr Smalley had previously called on Prince Andrew to be stripped of his title.
A survey by York’s daily newspaper The Press found that 88 per cent of its readers want to see the prince’s Duke of York honours taken away from him.
Phil Pinder, a retailer in the famous cathedral city told The York Press in February: ‘York deserves better. He has been stripped of his royal duties; he has done a settlement out of court ending the prospect of any kind of legal clearing of his name so the only option is for him to permanently step down as the Duke of York as well.
‘York deserves another royal to represent it instead.’
He suggested the ‘controversial’ choice of Prince Harry, who lives in the US and holds the Duke of Sussex title.
There are also multiple petitions to remove the Duke of York honour from Prince Andrew.
One with 1,500 signatories says: ‘Not only has ‘Prince’ Andrew demonstrated a lack of morals, lack of humanity and lack of judgement by protracted fraternising with Jeffrey Epstein, his recent interview confirms he lacks the ability to reflect, show insight and learn.
‘Most importantly, it reveals a total lack of caring for others.
‘These are not Yorkshire values. Having him associated with such a proud, fair and straight talking county is contradictory and embarrassing. Remove the title.’
Prince Andrew made his first public appearance since he withdrew from public life following his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, who was found guilty in 2021 of child sex trafficking, at the service for his father Prince Philip.
The shamed royal insisted on accompanying the Queen from Windsor Castle to the thanksgiving event at Westminster Abbey.
But to the shock of many in the congregation he then escorted his mother all the way to her front-row position – in full view of the live broadcast cameras. It had been expected that the Dean of Westminster would take the Queen to her seat, with Andrew behind.
The decision to remove his Freeman status would not automatically strip the Queen’s youngest son of his ‘Duke of York’ title, however councillors last month suggested they would call on Buckingham Palace and the government to have it removed
It was claimed the Queen ‘personally paid £2m to Virginia Roberts’s charity’ as part of Andrew’s £12m settlement.
‘Stipulation of Dismissal’ documents were filed with a court on March 8, with lawyers on both sides calling for the legal action to be dismissed, indicating the settlement has been paid.
As the order was published, the Treasury confirmed no taxpayer funds were used for either the payment to Virginia Roberts or for the Duke of York’s legal fees.
A freedom of information request asked whether any money from the Sovereign Grant to the Royal Family or any other government money was used. The Treasury insisted: ‘No public money has been used to pay legal or settlement fees.’
The joint order filed with the New York court said each party would pay their own costs and fees.
There were reports the Queen or even Prince Charles contributed to the settlement by paying it or loaning him the money until the sale goes through of a £17million Swiss ski chalet he owns with ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York.
Mrs Roberts had sued Andrew for alleged sexual abuse. She claimed he had sex with her when she was 17 after he was trafficked by his friend, the late billionaire paedophile Epstein.
The duke will make a ‘substantial donation’ to a charity for sex abuse victims set up by Mrs Roberts, now a 38-year-old mother-of-three. He said he now regrets his association with Epstein.
Andrew, who was forced to step down from royal duties and public life as a result of the scandal, previously claimed he had no recollection of meeting Mrs Roberts and has always strongly denied her allegations.
He agreed to the settlement in February.