Prince Andrew: The playboy prince

Rock widow Courtney Love's claim that a randy Duke of York arrived at her Hollywood home in the early hours looking to party is not as far-fetched as it sounds

Let's be scrupulously fair to Prince Andrew: the rock singer Courtney Love may not be the most reliable of witnesses, particularly when she's got a book to promote.

It's hard to deny, though, that there was a ring of truth to Love's recent claim that a lonely Duke of York once beat a path to the door of her Hollywood home, in search of female company.

The extraordinary tale took a further twist this week, when key details were grudgingly confirmed by Buckingham Palace: Yes, Andrew had once paid a nocturnal visit to Love's house, they admitted, but it was six years ago and no, he hadn't been in search of females.

Either way, the affair is more-or-less guaranteed to cement to the Prince's unwanted reputation, rivalled only by his younger nephew, Prince Harry, as the playboy of today's Royal Family.

Despite his advancing years, and the often-overlooked fact that Andrew is a teetotaller, critics loudly decry the fourth-in-line as a high-living layabout, whose station in life rivals even the late Princess Margaret's for its opulence, indulgence, and sheer pointlessness.

His nicknames - Randy Andy, or Air-Miles Andy, to mention but two - describe a globe-trotting, blazer-clad playboy, who uses helicopters and private jets to ferry him between a never-ending succession of yachts, holiday resorts, and some of the world's finest golf courses.

The press, of course, likes nothing more than to reinforce this stereotype, publishing shots of him relaxing on yet another stretch of foreign sand, preferably accompanied by a fawning selection of scantily clad, Euro-trashy females.

Even Andrew's official job, as Britain's "Special Representative for International Trade and Investment," prompts criticism. Cynics moan that it requires the taxpayer to finance his leisurely lifestyle to the tune of £355,992 a year.

Noting that the Queen donates another £249,000 in pocket money to her second son each year, they raise eyebrows at the frequency with which Andrew's overseas visits coincide with sporting events, or short trips to top golf courses.

Then there's the Prince's colourful love-life. In the decade since his divorce from Sarah Ferguson, prudish observers have noted that Andrew is known to have had relationships with at least 15 different women.

Not only is this energetic stuff for a man of 46, they say. It also offers a poor example to his daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, who have themselves upset traditionalists by posing for Tatler magazine wearing only their scanties.

The tubby, fun-loving prince's well-documented bedroom antics may also hide a deeper and more unhealthy emotional loneliness, the critics claim. Supporters of Prince Andrew, for their part, say he's the victim of a republican witch-hunt, claiming that his current job provides invaluable PR to help UK plc do business in potentially lucrative corners of the world. They point out that the Duke of York fulfils more than 300 appointments a year in the role, but say that - as with many PR jobs - the measure of success is almost impossible to quantify, and therefore, communicate to the public at large.

But Andrew's problems are not unique. Instead, they are shared by all those royal offspring who are not born next in line to the throne: unremitting public scrutiny, without any clearly-defined role or function in which to immerse themselves.

Perhaps, then, this paradox explains the surreal incident Courtney Love described for the first time when she turned-up to plug her diaries Dirty Blonde on Russell Brand's chat-show.

"Prince Andrew turns up at my house at one in the morning and he wants to party," she recalled, before a million viewers. "He's come to Hollywood to look for chicks. I don't know what he expected at my house; I think he thought it was going to be like a party," recounts Love.

With the detached air of a man who does this sort of thing for a living, Andrew drank a cup of milky tea, and installed himself on Love's sofa with the time honoured royal chat-up line: "So, what do you do all day?"

As Kurt Cobain's notorious widow suggested, those words could only have come from a man who has at least some right to be called the quintessential playboy prince.

The pads

The Duke's property portfolio is not what you might call understated. His most famous asset is Sunninghill Park, a 30-room pile in Berkshire's stockbroker belt that is known as South York, on account of its resemblance to JR Ewing's South Fork ranch in the TV soap Dallas.

That home, which he shared with the Duchess of York has been on the market for several years, following their divorce in 1996. However, it has steadfastly refused to sell, and remains the primary residence of his ex-wife and daughters.

As far as bachelor pads go, Andrew has extensive apartments at Buckingham Palace, where he is able to entertain most female acquaintances in relative privacy.

His official country residence is Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park. The rambling 17th-century pile, which he moved-into following an £8.5m refurbishment in 2004, was formerly home to the late Queen Mother.

Female companions are not generally invited to Royal Lodge, and news that a girlfriend, the US actress Angie Everhart, had stayed there was recently reported to have had Andrew's ex-wife "spitting feathers".

The toys

Not for nothing is the Prince known as "air-miles" Andy: Last year, he was criticised by the National Audit Office for spending £3,000 on a royal chopper to fly him just 50 miles, to a lunch with Arab dignitaries.

In the previous year, after he had been appointed captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, Andrew cost the RAF an eye-watering £32,000, on supersonic jets to fly him between London and St Andrews.

He's also got a well-publicised affection for yachts. In 2002, Andrew was photographed with a collection of bikini-clad girls on a Brazilian millionaire's speedboat, during a "business trip" to South America that cost the taxpayer £130,000.

The year before, he had been snapped on board a yacht off the coast of Thailand, surrounded by topless women, including Jenny Frost of the pop group Atomic Kitten.

Oh, and when he isn't hiring yachts, the Prince tootles around in a James Bond-style Aston Martin, which he leases at a "special rate".

The women

Things have been complicated for "randy" Andy since the 1980s, when he was forced to ditch his first love, the actress Koo Stark, after it emerged that she had once appeared in a soft-porn film. His marriage to flame-haired Sarah Ferguson in 1986 produced two children, but also ended in tears: they announced their separation in 1992 and were divorced four years later. Since then, its been all go: Andrew has squired at least 15 women, ranging from Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of dodgy tycoon Robert, to Denise Martell, a former Playboy model from Los Angeles. Other girlfriends have included the PR girls Aurelia Cecil and Caroline Stanbury, left, and the businesswoman Harriet Staveley. His current squeeze is the 36-year-old actress, Angie Everhart. Like Andrew's ex-wife, Everhart is a ginger-nut, and was invited to attend his daughter's birthday, in a semi-official capacity. Just what attracts this string of beauties to the multimillionaire prince is anyone's guess. However, one former squeeze has told friends his bedroom manner extends to modelling girlfriends' underwear by way of a joke.

The holidays

Traditional royals divide holidays between the slopes of Europe's posher ski resorts, and the Highland splendour of Balmoral. Andrew, though, prefers a (reassuringly expensive) week on the beach. His recent "working" visit to the Philippines was jollified by a brief, relaxing stay at a £500-a-night scuba-diving resort called Amanpulo.

Other recent destinations have included Dubai, Aman resorts in Asia, the USA and France, and Peter Island in the Caribbean, a spa retreat famous for a treatment known as the Salt Island scrub. Following the 2002 World Cup final, he was spotted strolling along the beach at Eurotrash favourite St Tropez with a female companion.

If Andrew goes skiing, Verbier gets the nod, particularly when ex-wife and daughters come. Best for a "lads" ski trip, however, is the more discrete US resort of Aspen.

The hobbies

Golf, golf and more golf. Andrew is one of the game's foremost patrons, and - although the exact figure is a closely-guarded secret - is thought to play off a handicap of between six and eight.

He's a former captain of the Royal & Ancient, and has played at some of the finest courses in the world, but not without considerable controversy over the expense to the British taxpayer. A decade ago, the Labour MP Tony Banks described Andrew as a "useless, overweight parasite" for hiring a private jet to attend the Open Championship in Scotland.

In 2001, he spent £10,000 using the Queen's flight to watch the closing stages of the same tournament at Lytham St Annes, while in 2004, he snubbed the D-Day anniversary celebrations in France, in order to attend a golfing dinner at St Andrews. Cynics have noted that the Prince's overseas visits as trade ambassador often coincide with sporting events such as Grand Prix (he is a motor-racing fan) or take him to some of the world's finest golfing locations.

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