Thank goodness Prince Charles is heir to the devoted Queen says PATRICK O’FLYNN

In the event, it is difficult to contest the consensus view that Andrew suffered a “car crash” that will be remembered for several cringeworthy moments – from a self-professed tendency to be “too honourable”, being used as an excuse for staying with a convicted paedophile, to the claim he had a rare condition that caused him not to perspire and therefore he could not have been in Tramp nightclub sweating away in the company of the then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts. The latter detail may go down somewhere between the alleged condition of Jeffrey Archer’s back and the state of Oscar Wilde’s bedsheets in the “too much information” section of any future compendium of public scandal.

When scandals like this afflict the Royal Family, one’s sympathies are naturally directed towards Her Majesty the Queen, whose own strength of character has allowed her to make good on her promise, made on her 21st birthday, to devote her whole life to the service of her subjects.

Prince Andrew’s conduct will, rightly, be the subject of continued intense scrutiny. After all, even he admits he “let the side down”. Quite how much will now surely be drawn out in more agonising detail by a media no longer given to the deference of days gone by.

But there is, I suggest, some solace to be found in this princely pickle for that solid majority of Brits who consider themselves steadfast royalists. And it is this: ever since the abdication crisis we have been blessed by good fortune when character traits were being dished out between royal heirs and their younger “spares”.

For all his past embarrassments, who could doubt that deep-thinking Charles is a more suitable heir than Andrew? The same surely applies in the case of the eminently sensible William, as opposed to wild card Harry, despite the latter’s natural charisma and warmth.

Most tellingly of all, how fortunate we were that, upon the death of George VI, it was serious Princess Elizabeth and not the enthusiastic socialite Princess Margaret who was in direct line of succession.

It may be that in all these cases having the status of “spare” encouraged a more cavalier approach to life in the younger sibling, while the older heirs had to face up to the inescapable and daunting prospect of one day becoming monarch.

But that was not true in the case of Andrew’s great uncle David – the man with playboy tendencies who briefly became Edward VIII before stepping aside to pursue other interests, leaving his shy younger brother to pick up the pieces.

Keen followers of the royals may recognise several interests in common between Andrew and his great uncle – youthful womanising, golf and a jet-set lifestyle being foremost among them. So, by many accounts, are flashes of charmless arrogance.

If the Duke of York thought his apparent self-image as a brilliant, selfless and much misunderstood adornment to public life was going to get him off the hook with the British public then he has clearly got another think coming. I suggest he make it a long one.

Though he is clearly not given to heeding the advice of media insiders, mine would be pretty tough: if you wish to restore your standing then drop out of the public eye and set about a long-term charitable endeavour, preferably relating to improving the circumstances of Armed Forces veterans – that at least will remind the public of your own gallant service in the Falklands War.

In fact, think John Profumo after the Keeler affair – the former War Secretary worked for 30 years for the Toynbee Hall charity in East London and pretty much fully restored his reputation.

But while Andrew – now only eighth in line to the throne – has made his bed, this scandal should not be treated as being on a par with the Queen’s “annus horribilis” of 1992, still less with the tragic death of Princess Diana – the only episode that really did place the future of the monarchy in serious jeopardy, albeit briefly, during Her Majesty’s long reign.

When compared to other pieces of our constitutional furniture – from the House of Commons to the House of Lords and a civil service no longer widely trusted to be politically impartial – the Royal Family is, I am glad to say, in pretty good nick.

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