The Duke of York

From war hero to globe-trotting playboy The Duke of York has played a number of parts in his time. While his love of the good life is apparent, his dedication to the Navy and his involvement with charitable organisations sets him apart from the lay-about prince role he is so often cast as.

Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward Mountbatten-Windsor is the Queen's third child. He was the first child born to a reigning British monarch since his great-grandmother Queen Victoria gave birth to her youngest daughter Beatrice in 1857. He was named after his father's father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark.

Prince Andrew the younger was baptised in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace on 8 April 1960, by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Geoffrey Fisher. The Queen kept Andrew more shielded from the public than she had his older siblings Charles and Anne, to the point there was speculation that he was deformed.

By all accounts Andrew was an extroverted, mischievous and charming young child. He took pleasure in tying together the shoelaces of castle guards as they stood at attention and when the swimming pool at Windsor Castle was turned into a bubble bath Andrew was the prime suspect. The Queen taught him to read and count, and, following royal tradition, he was schooled at home for the first years of his life by a governess.

At eight, Andrew went to Heatherdown Preparatory School in Berkshire, before following his older brother Charles to Gordonstoun School in Morayshire, Scotland, in 1973. In 1977 Andrew spent seven months on a Round Square exchange at a school in Ontario, Canada. He returned to Gordonstoun and graduated with A-levels in English, history, economics and political science in mid-1979.

Rather than attend university as did his older brother Prince Charles, Prince Andrew opted to attend Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. After pilot aptitude testing at the Royal Naval College Flight, Andrew joined as a trainee helicopter pilot in May 1979. He entered Dartmouth in September of that year and the following year trained with the Royal Marines as a Green Beret at the Commando Training Centre, Lympstone.

After graduating Dartmouth Andrew undertook flying training with the Royal Air Force and then learned to fly the Gazelle helicopter with the Royal Navy at Culdrose, Cornwall. He then learned to fly the Sea King helicopter and in 1982, joined the 820th Naval Air Squadron aboard the HMS Invincible aircraft carrier.

War broke out only months after Prince Andrew got his first serving position in the Navy with Argentina invading the Falkland Islands. The prospect of a royal prince on the front lines of a dangerous conflict made the British government unsure at first and there were moves to have Prince Andrew shifted to a non-combatant role.

But, at the insistence of the Queen, he was permitted to continue serving aboard the Invincible. Prince Andrew flew Sea King helicopters in various missions throughout the war including anti-submarine missions and several dangerous evacuation and search and rescue assignments. He and the crew of the Invincible were greeted at Portsmouth by the Queen and Prince Philip when the war ended and Prince Andrew was feted as a war hero.

In February, 1984, the Prince converted to the Lynx helicopter and was promoted to Lieutenant. At the same time his mother made him a Personal Aide-de-camp and he transferred to HMS Brazen, where he served as Flight Pilot until 1986.

In 1985, Prince Andrew started dating Sarah Ferguson after they met at a party to celebrate the Royal Ascot races at Windsor Castle. The two had known each other since they were children and had met occasionally over the years. Prince Andrew had developed something of a reputation as a fly-boy ladies' man, being affectionately nick-named Randy Andy by the British tabloid press.

He famously dated the model and erotic film actress Koo Stark after returning from the Falklands. Ferguson, with her bright red hair and unaffected manner, reined Prince Andrew in and the two were married on 23 July 1986, at Westminster Abbey. On his marriage, the Queen gave Prince Andrew titles his grandfather and great-grandfather had held: Duke of York, Baron of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh.

The Duke of York returned to the Navy though and was kept busy with postings and assignments. In 1986 he took a helicopter warfare instructor's course and joined 702 Naval Air Squadron as a helicopter warfare officer until April 1988.

His first daughter, Princess Beatrice, was born on 8 August 1988, but the prince was posted to the HMS Edinburgh as an Officer of the Watch and Assistant Navigating Officer and took part in a six month operation to Asia.

The Duke of York and Sarah's second child, Princess Eugenie of York, was born on 23 March 1990, but the pressure of his commitments to the Navy and an increasing tabloid focus on Sarah began to tell. The Duchess of York was criticised in the press for her looks, her weight and her demeanour and she had an absentee husband who she later told an interviewer she saw only 42 days per year.

The Duke of York continued to move up the ranks becoming a Lieutenant-Commander in February 1992, and passing the ship command examinations a month later. A short time afterwards, The Duke and Duchess of York announced they were to separate.

Massive media interest followed the announcement with the tabloids relentlessly pursuing "Fergie", as Sarah Ferguson was known. A few months after the couple's split she was photographed topless having her toes sucked by American businessman John Bryan.

The Duke of York returned to the Navy, commanding the Hunt Class Minehunter HMS Cottesmore until 1994. In the mid-1990s he was Senior Pilot of the navy's largest flying unit - 815 Naval Air Squadron - and then appointed to the Ministry of Defence as a staff officer in the Directorate of Naval Operations.

In 1996 the Duke and Duchess of York divorced. The divorce was amicable and the two are still very good friends with joint custody of their daughters. The Duke is said to have stood by Ferguson after the divorce when she became badly in debt and the couple shared accommodation at the prince's home in Sunninghill Park.

From 1999 the Duke, now promoted to Commander, joined the Diplomacy section where he worked until leaving the Royal Navy in 2001.

The Duke of York has a vast number of patronages and links to associations. Among the many, he is Commodore of the Royal Thames Yacht Club, President of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain, Trustee of the National Maritime Museum, Patron of the Tall Ships Youth Trust, and holds many more patronages in the arts and in the fields of medicine and charity and volunteer work.

The Duke of York has not settled down in middle age and since leaving the navy Andrew has returned to cultivating his playboy-prince image. He is still a regular on social scenes in London and Los Angeles and royal watchers estimate he has had at least 15 girlfriends since his divorce from Sarah. The Duke of York's role as a "roving ambassador for British industry" seems to frequently coincide with golf tournaments and he has been criticised for using taxpayer money to indulge his passions.

In 2002 The Duke of York was photographed on a luxury boat during a "business trip" to South America that cost the taxpayer £130,000. He was given the nick-name "air miles Andy" in the press after it was revealed the Royal Air Force had spent £32,000 ferrying him back and forth from St Andrews Golf Club after he was appointed captain there.

According to reports by the Daily Mail, the Duke was preparing to marry businesswoman Amanda Staveley in 2003 but she denied this. He remains on friendly terms with his ex-wife - with the former couple living together from 2008 after Sarah's house burnt down in 2007. In July 2011, she revealed that the Duke had helped her clear her multi-million pound debts.

The Duke's current role is that of the United Kingdom's special representative for International Trade and Investment on behalf of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

His suitability for this role was questioned by shadow justice minister Chris Bryant in February 2011 over his friendship with a Libyan gun smuggler.

However, he still holds this role today and promotes the UK at trade fairs and conferences across the globe. The Duke regularly tours Canada to undertake military duties that he holds there.

The Duke is also the patron of the Middle East Association, the UK's main organisation promoting trade and good relations with the Middle East, Turkey, north Africa and Iran.

As part of his royal duties, he is the patron of Fight for Sight, a charity dedicated to researching treatments for blindness and eye disease.

In the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year, Prince Andrew is just one of the royals taking part in tours across the UK and abroad.

On 20 March 2012, the Duke opened Northampton College's redeveloped campus before meeting with some of the town's businesses and organisations to discuss apprenticeship schemes.