The King has formally asked Parliament to create two new counsellors of state to deputise for him, ensuring that Prince Harry and Prince Andrew will not be called to do so in his absence.
The members of the royal family who will soon be permitted to stand in for the King when he is unable to fulfil certain duties is now set to be extended to the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex.
The request is a damning blow for Prince Andrew, who has been mired in controversy following allegations of sexual assault by Virginia Giuffre who claimed he had sex with her when she was a minor and had been trafficked by his friend, the billionaire paeodophile Jeffrey Epstein.
In March, Prince Andrew paid millions to Ms Giuffre to settle the civil case. He has consistently claimed he has never met Ms Giuffre and has denied all allegations against him.
Despite this, the Queen’s second son was stripped of his military titles and royal patronages in January this year.
During the late Queen’s reign, the Counsellors of State dilemma was left unresolved, with sources saying there would be no change in the law despite the scandal surrounding Andrew, and Harry’s permanent departure for the US.
Public debate and pressure to resolve the situation increased when the Queen caught Covid and became increasingly frail.
But the King has moved, just two months after his accession, to address the issue, appearing to underline there is no way back into public life for his brother Andrew, as well as sidelining his son Harry, who now resides in California.
Rather than removing Prince Andrew and Prince Harry from the list entirely, however, the King has instead sought to add his siblings, Princess Anne and Prince Edward.
Charles said the aim of the increase was to “ensure continued efficiency of public business when I am unavailable”.
Provisions for the counsellors are made under the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953 and those who can currently stand in for Charles include the Queen Consort, and the four most senior adults in the line of succession – Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice.
The King’s intention was announced on Monday in a signed message read to the House of Lords by the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Parker of Minsmere, who is the most senior official in the royal household.
Speaking at the despatch box in the upper chamber, Lord Parker said he had the honour to present a message from the King “signed by his own hand”.
The independent crossbencher told peers: “The message is as follows: ‘To ensure continued efficiency of public business when I am unavailable such as while I am undertaking official duties overseas, I confirm that I would be most content, should Parliament see fit, for the number of people who may be called upon to act as Counsellors of State under the terms of the Regency Acts 1937 to 1953 to be increased to include my sister and brother – the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex and Forfar – both of whom have previously undertaken this role’.”
There were approving shouts of “hear, hear” from the red benches at the end of the King’s message being read out.
The news comes after Labour Peer Viscount Stansgate, the son of the late Tony Benn, recently questioned the current list of royals able to officiate when the King is not available, given it included Andrew and Harry “one of whom has left public life and the other of whom has left the country”.
It is thought any changes to legislation to increase the number of counsellors would be completed later this year before the prospect of the King and Queen Consort going on overseas tours in 2023, which may coincide with the Prince and Princess of Wales also being out of the country.