October 18, 1976 12:00 PM

On some distant and solemn day, when Prince Charles is crowned king of England, he had better check his throne very carefully before sitting down. If his younger brother, Prince Andrew, is around, chances are a whoopee cushion will also be in the vicinity. It is no secret in the British royal family that in Andrew they harbor a practical jokester of shameless proportions. On any visit to a department store, he can be found pawing enthusiastically through the novelty section’s rubber masks, hairy hands and stink bombs.

But, at the age of 16, Andrew is more than the family gagster. He is second in line to the throne and has been going through a carefully supervised education that will enable him to take over should anything happen to his brother, Prince Charles, 27. Andrew’s grandfather, George VI, was himself a younger brother who became king when Edward VIII abdicated in 1936—and was woefully unprepared for the task. Palace insiders believe that Queen Elizabeth has sought to avoid that possibility with Andrew.

Both Andrew and his brother Edward, 12, have had a less sheltered upbringing than Charles or Princess Anne, 26. Charles initially was taught alone by a governess and Anne had only two girls as classmates. Andrew’s education has been coeducational since he was 4. Three years ago Andrew followed Charles to Gordonstoun, an outdoors-oriented Scottish boarding school with a student body of 420, including 110 girls. Andrew frets over his studies (a palace intimate calls him “nonacademic”), enjoys making pottery and regales his classmates with a limitless supply of jokes, many of them off-color. “Some of us call him ‘the sniggerer,’ ” a fellow student has said, “because he sidles up and says, ‘Have you heard the one about…’ ”

The young prince’s initiation at Gordonstoun was rough. “He had a bit of the ‘I am the prince’ about him,” one of his classmates has confided. “He soon had it knocked out of him. The ribbings he got were unmerciful.” In fact, in 1974 Andrew was hospitalized for two days with dizzy spells after being knocked about during some dormitory hijinks.

Andrew is a first-rate athlete. Prince Philip taught him to sail and swim. The late racing champion Graham Hill taught him to drive. Ex-Wimbledon contender Dan Maskell polished his tennis game. Andrew also is enthusiastic about aviation and has flown a glider. (Unlike the rest of his family, he doesn’t care much for horses.)

One of Gordonstoun’s girl students speaks well of her distinguished schoolmate. “He knows how to make you feel special,” she told a London newspaper. “He’s not a bit wet [dull].” (Teenagers in Canada also went gaga when Andrew visited there for the Olympics this summer. “He’s better than Robert Redford,” gushed one.) Not surprisingly, the lithe Andrew is a star on the dance floor. “He certainly knows how to spread himself around,” said one partner. “Just when you think you are getting somewhere, he goes off with another girl.” The crush—and the security—around the prince makes dating tricky. “Andy doesn’t seem to notice, but I found it most distracting,” said a 15-year-old blonde. “It’s a real passion killer.”

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