Prince Andrew’s murky royal status: Is he back in the good books?

The Queen’s second son visited the Chinese Ambassador to the UK last week and conveyed a message on behalf of Her Majesty, despite stepping back from royal duties last year.

The Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming revealed the Duke of York and his family visited his residence last week to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Ambassador Liu shared two photos to his official Twitter page, one of himself with Prince Andrew and another which included him, his wife, Prince Andrew, Sarah Ferguson, their eldest daughter Princess Beatrice and her fiancé Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
The ambassador also revealed Prince Andrew had conveyed a message of support from the Queen, tweeting: "Her Majesty The Queen sent an encouraging message to President Xi and Chinese people: At the critical time of fighting coronavirus, I express my sincere sympathy for Chinese people, and pray for the speedy control and victory over the virus."
Adding, "It was conveyed by Duke of York."
The fact the Queen's second son conveyed a message on her behalf has caused some confusion since Prince Andrew had supposedly stepped back from royal duties last year, with some wondering whether he was already making a comeback as a working royal.
In November 2019 the Duke of York announced he would be stepping back from public duties for the foreseeable future after scrutiny over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein reached boiling point following a disastrous interview with BBC's Newsnight.
In a statement released on November 20th, the 59-year-old said it had become clear that his former associations with Jeffrey Epstein had become "a major disruption to my family's work and the valuable work going on in the many organisation and charities that I am proud to support."
He added he had, therefore, asked the Queen for her permission to step back from public royal duties for the foreseeable future, which she granted.
Since the interview aired, in which the Prince vehemently denied the allegations laid against him claiming he had had sexual encounters with one of Epstein's accusers when she was a teenager, many organisations and charities supported by the Prince distanced themselves including some those involved in his initiative Pitch@Palace.
Following Prince Andrew and his family's visit to Ambassador Liu's residence a Palace spokesperson told ITV's Chris Ship that it had been a private meeting and that they would not "comment on what was, or was not conveyed".
Prince Andrew and his family's visit to the residence of the Chinese Ambassador to the UK has people confused. (Image: Twitter/@AmbLiuXiaoMing)
Private or not, it still begs the question of just what Prince Andrew's current royal status entails.
Unlike the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's royal exit where they surrendered all ability to represent the Queen, the agreement of Prince Andrew's status has remained behind closed doors and as a result is clearly causing confusion.
Most recently, the controversies surrounding the father-of-two has resulted in the UK re-examining their flag-flying policy ahead of Prince Andrew's 60th birthday next week.
Andrew is one of ten members of the Royal Family whose birthdays have usually been marked by the flying of the Union Jack flag on government buildings.
This year however, the government has decided it will not fly the flag, following criticism that it would be inappropriate in the wake of the allegations laid against him as well as the fact he's no longer a working royal, and it has left it at the discretion of local councils to decide if they will fly the flag on town halls or not.
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Despite the controversies, the Queen hasn't been shy about supporting her son, who most recently was pushed into the spotlight once again after he was accused of not assisting the FBI in their investigations surrounding Epstein.
In late January, following the confirmation of Prince Harry and Meghan's departure, the Queen stepped out with Prince Andrew to attend a Sunday church service in Sandringham, with Prince Andrew all smiles as greeted churchgoers with his mother.
The prince is set to walk his eldest daughter, Princess Beatrice, down the aisle in May, when she marries her fiancé Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi at The Chapel Royal at St James's Palace, with the Palace confirming the wedding date and venue at the weekend.