It is a short flight by private jet – his own, naturally – from David Rowland’s luxury Channel Islands hideaway to tax-efficient Luxembourg, home of the private bank controlled by the businessman’s family.
And over the years no one has enjoyed those triple comforts provided by the tycoon’s enviable generosity quite as enthusiastically as Prince Andrew.
After one such trip on the £40 million jet owned by Tory donor Rowland, the son of a scrap merchant, Andrew was moved to rhapsody about its luxury.
Multimillionaire David Rowland paid off a £1.5 million loan for Prince Andrew (pictured together at Royal Ascot in 2006)
‘I have a completely different outlook on life and its possibilities now – whilst trying not to let it go to my head,’ he wrote to the property dealer’s son, Jonathan, adding, ‘Very difficult!’
Yesterday just how grateful he remains to the man who has a £600 million fortune was clear after it emerged that Mr Rowland had paid off a £1.5 million loan the Duke of York had taken out with his friend’s bank.
The extraordinary revelation shows how inextricably enmeshed Andrew’s life has become with those of the very wealthy he likes to surround himself with.
They include the disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, over whom the Prince remains in legal limbo, to the Kazakh oligarch who paid £3 million over the asking price for the Prince’s former marital home, and David Rowland.
Video grab of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank wedding showing financier David Rowland in the background, with Kate Moss to hisr ight
And of them all it is the enduring relationship with Mr Rowland, one of the Conservative Party’s biggest benefactors, that remains the most opaque.
Their friendship has been mutually rewarding. Thanks to Andrew, ‘Spotty’ Rowland met the Queen at Balmoral and just three years ago he had one of the most prized front row seats – close to the Royal Family – at the Windsor wedding of Princess Eugenie.
But then this is the way Andrew operates, rubbing shoulders with the very rich who delight in the cachet of being with the ‘royals’ and introducing them to their friends.
And in that regard Mr Rowland, who obtained his nickname after making his first £1 million aged just 23 and still suffering from adolescent skin problems, has certainly enjoyed the kudos.
Mr Rowland paid off a £1.5million loan Prince Andrew had taken out from Banque Havilland, which is owned by Mr Rowland
On a visit to the magnate’s property on the tax haven of Guernsey in 2005, Andrew unveiled a bronze statue of his friend (in Churchillian pose, complete with cigar) as part of a black tie celebration of Mr Rowland’s many successes.
And when Mr Rowland wanted a prominent figure to open a new branch of the Banque Havilland – the bank takes its name from his Guernsey estate – who else but Andrew was on hand to do the honours?
In his speech the prince lavished praise on Mr Rowland who at that time – in 2009 – had surrendered his tax exile status of four decades in order to donate money to the Tories.
‘I welcome the initiative of an English family who took the risk of investing outside the borders of the United Kingdom,’ he said. ‘Such a motivated team that is able to work beyond borders and cultural barriers can only expect success.
‘In the past I have had the pleasure to meet and work with the Rowland family in the framework of my functions and I wish the family every success in this new business venture.’
Mr Rowland basked in the applause that followed Andrew’s address.
That moment solidified an unlikely kinship between two men from very different backgrounds. In other ways, they have much in common.
Both have unconventional private lives and neither enjoy having their wealth or its whereabouts scrutinised.
At the time their friendship became public knowledge, Andrew was still UK trade ambassador and was defending himself against accusations that he had exploited the role, particularly in the connections he made on his frequent five-star, taxpayer funded trips to Central Asia.
But according to Bloomberg, the financial news outlet, Andrew who had operated as ‘an unofficial door opener for Rowland and his family’ for more than a decade, opened a loan facility with Banque Havilland, which by March 2017 had been extended some ten times to a total of £1.25 million.
The Banque Havilland SA headquarters in Luxembourg, which is at the centre of the affair
In November of that year the loan was extended by a further £250,000 to cover the Prince’s ‘general working capital and living expenses’.
The loan sheds a light on something that has puzzled the public and royal observers for years: how has the Prince maintained such a lavish lifestyle on a Royal Navy pension and an allowance from the Queen.
Intriguingly Bloomberg said leaked internal documents suggested staff had raised concerns that the unsecured loan was ‘not in line with the risk appetite of the bank’.
Though, almost incredibly, Bloomberg added that the credit application suggested the Queen could repay the loan if her son was unable to find the money.
Less than two weeks after getting the increased loan, Bloomberg says, Mr Rowland wired £1.5 million to a UK Banque Havilland account belonging to Andrew.
Questions about the links between the Duke and the Rowland family have raged for years and these disclosures will only add to doubts about potential conflicts created by his social circle. On various occasions Mr Rowland, who is ranked 226th in Sunday Times Rich List, has been described as financial advisor to the Prince.
And there was uproar over Andrew’s decision to allow the businessman’s son, Jonathan, to accompany him on trade envoy missions to China and Saudi Arabia.
Two years ago it was reported that Andrew had travelled on the Rowlands’ sumptuous 14-seater private plane on at least five occasions while on official royal business. It was after one such trip that he wrote that gushing email of thanks to Jonathan Rowland.
The friendship dates at least to 2005 – the year of the statue unveiling. It was a visit that revealed a lot about both men.
For Andrew it was about breaking precedent. Normally members of the Royal Family stay at Government House when visiting Guernsey. On this occasion Andrew stayed with the Rowlands.
The official explanation was that ‘it was going to be a late night’. But Havilland Hall is only 500 yards from Government House.
Eleven years ago in this news-paper I revealed how Andrew had invited his friend to Balmoral where, after meeting the Queen, he was entertained to a picnic lunch. During the same trip he was introduced to the Prince of Wales.
Nevertheless in 2018 ‘Spotty’ was among the favoured friends upon whom Andrew bestowed a much coveted invitation to his younger daughter’s wedding at St George’s Chapel.
The links between the men were further entrenched when Mr Rowland paid £40,000 towards the debts run up by the Duchess of York after her business empire collapsed in 2010. At the same time the Duchess had accepted £15,000 from Jeffrey Epstein, which she later admitted had been a ‘gigantic error of judgement’.
Further links surfaced after it emerged that the Prince and Mr Rowland had secretly flown to Libya together when Andrew met its brutal leader Colonel Gaddafi.
And last year Bloomberg said during Andrew’s tenure as trade ambassador he helped the Rowland family ‘pitch their services to potential clients’.
But it is not just money that cemented their friendship – though Andrew is drawn with giddying propensity to the super rich. Like the Duke of York, who lives with ex-wife, David Rowland has had an somewhat unorthodox approach to family life.
He married first when he was 21 and had two children. By the time he and Sheila were divorced in 1985, he already had another son with another woman. Linda became his second wife. The first Mrs Rowland remained deeply involved in his family affairs.
Forced to stand down from his public life in the fall-out from the Epstein affair, Andrew has become a virtual recluse. In the publicity-shy David Rowland he has a friend who has continued to stand by him. It is a virtue that even his enemies say commends him.