LONDON — Prince Andrew's upcoming 60th birthday will now be a more subdued occasion than previously planned.
The British government changed its policy late Thursday so government buildings will not hoist the flag for Andrew’s birthday, and local town halls will not be obliged to do it, either.
This change applies only to the prince, who stepped back from royal duties amid a backlash over his association with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender.
Over the course of 2020, the Union Jack continue to flutter atop government buildings at full staff on the birthdays of nine other senior members of the British royal family: Queen Elizabeth II, but of course; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Princess Anne; Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex; and Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have also stepped back from royal duties and are now living in Canada. The new flag policy does not apply to them. The government flies flags only for the queen’s husband, her children and their spouses, and the direct line of succession.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters Friday that government officials held discussions with Buckingham Palace on Thursday. The spokesman said that officials will be “advising councils that there is no requirement to fly flags on the 19th of February, following the decision of the Duke of York to step back from public duties for the foreseeable future.” He said that the palace agreed with the decision.
The change follows reports that some town councils were upset at being told they had to fly the flag on Andrew’s birthday. Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson told the Liverpool Echo that it would not have been “appropriate.” He added: “This isn’t to do with being anti-royal. We have flown the flag for the queen before.”
Andrew, who served as a pilot in the Royal Navy, will also be missing out on a military promotion this year. On his 50th birthday, he was promoted to rear admiral. On his 55th, he became vice admiral, the position he holds now. Normally, on his 60th, he would be expected to be promoted to admiral, the highest rank in the Royal Navy for serving officers.
“Following the decision by His Royal Highness to step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, The Duke of York has asked the Ministry of Defence if this promotion might be deferred until such time that His Royal Highness returns to public duty,” a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said in a statement.
Last month, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan said that Andrew had provided “zero cooperation” with the FBI investigation of allegations of sex trafficking by Epstein.
Andrew has not commented publicly on the prosecutor’s claims. After his interview with the BBC — panned as “nuclear explosion level bad” — he issued a statement saying that he was willing to work with authorities.
Not all of the planned public acknowledgments for Andrew’s birthday have been nixed. Bells will ring out around 1 p.m. on the duke’s birthday, just as they do every year. Westminster Abbey, the central London church that has hosted 16 royal weddings, will continue that tradition. A spokeswoman for the church said, “There are no plans to change these arrangements.”