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Prince Andrew might be the most hated royal in the family right now, even though he has some stiff competition as long as Meghan, Duchess of Sussex is still technically a member. But despite the Duke of York’s many transgressions, there’s one person who is sticking by his side no matter what: his mother, Queen Elizabeth.

Royal fans were shocked when Queen Elizabeth was spotted riding horses with Andrew on palace grounds mere days after he was officially fired from his royal duties. Most expected that Her Majesty would be furious with her son for bringing shame to the royal family. Obviously, they don’t understand the very close relationship Prince Andrew and Queen Elizabeth share.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, Duke of York | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth had Prince Andrew at a different stage of life

Prince Charles and Princess Anne were still young children when Queen Elizabeth took the throne. She quickly got to work filling the role she took so seriously, going on extended trips and leaving the children in the care of their nanny, often for months at a time. Charles has expressed his bitterness at being sent away to boarding school and ignored by his mother the queen most of the time.

But by the time Prince Andrew came along in early 1960, Queen Elizabeth was more settled in her role and confident in her abilities. The queen took off for a full 18 months after Andrew’s birth to spend time enjoying her new child.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew
Queen Elizabeth with her second son Prince Andrew| © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Prince Andrew was Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s ‘love child’

Plus, right before the queen announced her pregnancy, there were rumors that she and Prince Philip were having issues in their marriage. Royal experts say Andrew’s birth was proof of their commitment to each other.

Royal biographer Lady Colin Campbell told The Sun, “The marriage had a rough spell but the birth of Andrew showed the Queen and Philip were back on an even keel. Andrew was known as the love child and he was named after Philip’s father Prince Andrew of Greece as a tribute.”

She continued, explaining why Andrew would come to represent such an important moment in the queen’s family history. “I think the special relationship began right there because the Queen always associated Andrew with the re-booting of her marriage and a happy time in her life,” Campbell explained.

Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward | Fox Photos/Getty Images

The queen always treated Prince Andrew like he was special

During Queen Elizabeth’s extended maternity leave, she rarely took her infant son out in public, which led to speculation that he might be deformed in some way. But really the queen was just keeping him all to herself — which makes you wonder how she could be upset with Prince Harry and Meghan for attempting to do the same with Archie.

Young Prince Andrew made his public debut at the annual Trooping the Colour celebration when he was 16 months old. He was christened shortly after. Rumor has it that Queen Elizabeth intentionally conceived Prince Edward to be a playmate for Andrew so he wouldn’t be an “only child,” since his other two siblings were so much older.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew are still close today

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew | Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Their relationship changed over the years as Prince Andrew matured into a young man and then an adult, but one important fact remained the same: the queen always had a special place in her heart for Prince Andrew. Most royal experts believe he is her favorite child.

And that’s precisely why she refuses to believe that he committed any crime beyond trusting Jeffrey Epstein too much and falling for his lies. Royal biographer Andrew Morton put it this way: “With the Epstein scandal she – and the rest of the royal family – will take him at his word…They will believe he had no idea about Epstein’s true sick personality and his only mistake was to associate with him after he came out of prison.”

After exploring the queen’s close relationship with her son, it’s easy to see why she’d be spotted riding horses with him post-scandal. She still doesn’t believe her precious Prince Andrew did anything wrong.