Andrew Lownie is a biographer of the British royal family who has written books about the Mountbattens and the Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936 for love. He recently submitted a request to the UK Foreign Office to gain access to the documents of Prince Andrew, the protagonist of what he announces will be his next biography. And the response he has received has been a resounding no, despite the fact that he relied on freedom of information. According to what was answered last August, all the official documents of the Duke of York will be kept classified as secret material until 2065, as there is a rule that dictates that all documents of members of the British royal family must remain locked up. until 105 years have passed since his birth. “It seems like something quite extreme,” Lownie lamented after his request was denied. So those papers will not see the light of day while Andrés lives, unless he does so until he is 105 years old. And that means leaving behind papers that include his correspondence with ministers or details of his agreements while he served as the United Kingdom’s special trade representative.
The majority of documents from the different ministries of the British Government that are kept in the National Archives, in Kew Palace, north of London, become public after 20 years. But all those who are from the royal family are treated differently. There is an absolute exemption from freedom of information requests for files relating to the sovereign, the heir to the British throne and the second in line of succession. That means government departments can reject requests for access to them without having to justify them in terms of the public interest. According to the response now received by Lownie, those exceptions also apply to other members of the British monarchy, including Prince Andrew, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra. “We are in the absurd position that Prince Harry can reveal the most intimate details of royal life for months for his commercial benefit and the family are currently at odds with each other, but historians cannot look at the archives,” lamented the writer speaking to The Telegraph.
According to the British media, Lowie assures that this shielding is part of a strategy to keep members of royalty away from public scrutiny and “preserve the mystique.” He has tried to avail himself of freedom of information to access files from the time when, after retiring from the Navy, Prince Andrew began to serve as his country’s special envoy promoting British products abroad. It was between 2001 and 2011 when the Duke of York held the position of United Kingdom Special Representative for Trade and Investment. The year in which he left that position was precisely in which the man who was Queen Elizabeth’s favorite son was already being the subject of numerous criticisms due to her friends. Among his controversial relationships were Saif Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan arms trafficker Tarek Kaituni and Jeffrey Epstein, who in 2008 had already been sentenced to 18 months in prison for a case of prostitution of minors. In addition to the prince’s discussed contacts with Timor Kulibayev, stepson of the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kulibayev purchased Andrew of England’s Sunninghill Park residence for £15 million, three million pounds more than the price set in 2007. His resignation as special trade envoy came shortly after the British media published a photograph in which he was seen walking through Central Park (New York) with Epstein, after he had been released from prison after spending 18 months incarcerated.
Lownie’s attempts to view documents about meetings and Andrés’s travel arrangements and companions when he toured the world on behalf of the British Government – trips normally paid for by taxpayers, although he did not draw a salary for that position – have been met with frustration: “This culture of secrecy is often the default position,” he told The Telegraph. Lownie also claims that both the Department of Business and Trade and the Foreign Office have assured him that they do not have any documents relating to any trip made by Prince Andrew. “I know, from talking to diplomats, that they should both have material,” the writer complains.
“Members of the royal family are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, but I hope that with a new reign the exemptions will only apply to issues relating to national security, relations with another country, information provided in confidence, etc. , along with data protection considerations,” said Lownie. “There is a strong public interest in knowing, for example, who is paying for Andrew’s security now that he is not a working royal,” he adds. Elizabeth II withdrew all military titles and royal patronages from her son in January 2022 due to his friendship with the American pedophile and when he was going to face a trial for sexual abuse of a minor, which ultimately did not occur because he reached an agreement with Virginia Giuffre, whose content is unknown at the moment.
“Delays in the release of documents create a vacuum for speculation and fantasists. His release would help to a certain extent restore confidence in the institutions, and no less in the monarchy,” the writer lamented in response to the response received.
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