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Sunday , December 5 , 2010
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From HRH to ‘His Buffoon Highness’
- Former UK envoy who served in Calcutta mounts blistering attack on Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew (left) and Simon Wilson

London, Dec. 4: A senior British diplomat who served as the UK’s deputy high commissioner in Calcutta has mounted an extraordinary attack on Prince Andrew who has been labelled “His Buffoon Highness” (HBH) instead of “His Royal Highness” (HRH).

Simon Wilson, who was the ranking British diplomat in Calcutta until last year, has now retired from the foreign office but even so his no-holds-barred attack on Prince Andrew, who travels the world as an ambassador for UK plc, is unprecedented.

This is the not the first time that there have been critical reports about Prince Andrew’s role as trade ambassador — though to be fair there was none following his visit to Calcutta in March this year.

Wilson’s attack appears today in the Daily Mail in an article whose title sums up what the diplomat has to say: “A boorish, bungling freeloader: Blistering verdict on Prince Andrew by envoy who worked with him.”

Although Prince Andrew’s former wife, the Duchess of York, popularly called “Fergie” (after Sarah Ferguson), has sometimes been an embarrassment to herself and the royal family, he has remained commendably loyal to her.

The Daily Mail points out that “documents controversially made public by WikiLeaks this week reveal that Prince Andrew was described as ‘cocky’ and ‘rude’ by a US ambassador as he carried out his duties as Britain’s special trade representative. He also boasted about UK influence and alleged that countries such as France were corrupt. These comments brought a rebuke from Business Secretary Vince Cable and a warning from former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind that the Prince had been ‘unwise’.”

The paper says that “former diplomat Simon Wilson who has worked closely with Prince Andrew… was Britain’s Deputy Head of Mission in Bahrain from 2001 to 2005 and was later the most senior British diplomat in Calcutta, with responsibility for eastern India, until he retired last year.”

The Mail says that Wilson “gives an unprecedented and devastating insight into Prince Andrew’s performance in a role for which increasing numbers of people consider him unsuited”.

“How it all came back to me when I read this week’s revelations about Prince Andrew committing a series of gaffes while at large as this country’s official trade envoy,” begins Wilson.

“He was a regular visitor to Bahrain during the five years I worked there as Britain’s Deputy Head of Mission. Unfortunately, HRH the Duke of York was more commonly known among the British diplomatic community in the Gulf as HBH: His Buffoon Highness. This nickname stemmed from his childish obsession with doing exactly the opposite of what had been agreed in pre-visit meetings with his staff. He… appeared to regard himself as an expert in every matter.”

Wilson goes on: “Colleagues put this behaviour down to an inferiority complex about being mentally challenged. ...his attitude certainly drew attention to the fact that he was usually out of his depth at meetings. …He assumed the title of Special Representative for International Trade and Investment in 2001.

Officially, he doesn’t get paid for the role, but the style in which I observed him carrying it out beggared belief. He travelled with a team of six, including equerries, private secretaries, protection officers and a valet…. There was also a 6ft-long ironing board that he insisted went everywhere he went. On one of his visits to Bahrain, I remember the valet carrying the ironing board through the front entrance of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.”

There is a personal anecdote from Wilson: “My wife, who has a passing resemblance to Sarah Ferguson, soon became the butt of a number of schoolboy jokes by the Prince. He even suggested that my wife had ‘touched him up’ under the table. This was our first introduction to his boorish behaviour.”

Not everyone was impressed with Prince Andrew. “Of course, royals love other royals so, from that point of view, Prince Andrew’s role probably works for the Gulf — but less so for other countries. In India, for example, where I saw him in action at the flagship UK Trade and Investment India Business Awards gala in Mumbai in November 2006, people seemed less impressed with minor royals. This was particularly the case after HBH delivered a speech in a leaden tone and then left official guests open mouthed as he skedaddled off to a private party (not in his official programme) at the home of India’s richest businessman, Mukesh Ambani.”

Wilson concludes: “It’s well known by diplomats there are serious shortcomings in HBH’s operations — but who is going to put their career on the line by criticising a member of the Royal Family?”

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