'Ek could have worse tags than ‘Air Miles Andy’”, Prince Andrew once remarked, “although I don’t know what they are.” Yeah, well … SPOILERS. I’m not sure if the Duke of York would have better luck if he considered the question again today, in light of Various Events of the past few years. His infamous Newsnight interview revealed him to be a man of such baroque stupidity that in some ways its most sensational revelation was that Prince Edward must have been the clever one.
And so to events overnight in New York. For the first time, the Queen’s second son has been made the subject of a US lawsuit, a civil case brought by Virginia Giuffre, formerly Roberts, teenage victim of Andrew’s former close friend, the late underage sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Giuffre alleges that the Queen’s second son sexually abused her when she was a minor on three occasions – in London, in New York, and in the British Virgin Islands. Quite a lot of air miles, there, though I fear we can rule out HRH cashing them in for a free flight to the US any time soon. The prince has not commented on the case but he has always denied the claims saying they’re false and without foundation.
He won’t be sweating even now, of course – as Andrew famously explained, he is biologically incapable of perspiration because he OD’d on adrenaline in the Falklands. And you know, no matter how many times I type that, I always need to take a moment to get my eyebrows down off the roof.
Anyway, this latest development may well represent Giuffre’s last available option for personal agency in pursuit of justice for her claims. Otherwise, she can only await the glacial creep of the various investigations into the now-dead Epstein and his associates, including the financier’s alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell, who is herself awaiting trial in the US.
Helaas, accounts differ as to the level of the prince’s assistance with any of these various inquiries. Last January, the then-New York attorney general, Geoffrey Berman, declared HRH had offered “zero cooperation” up to that point. According to Berman, not a lot had changed six months later. “If Prince Andrew is, in werklikheid, serious about cooperating with the ongoing federal investigation, our doors remain open,” he reiterated last summer, “and we await word of when we should expect him.” Reading that, you might have felt minded to pencil him in for the 12th of never, but the prince’s legal team countered that he had “on at least three occasions this year offered his assistance as a witness to the DOJ”. In the suit filed on Monday, the documents state: “Again Prince Andrew stonewalled – ignoring (die) plaintiff’s letter and emails without any reply or response, thereby making this action necessary now.”
Let’s move on, dan, to a recap on the three locations referenced in Giuffre’s case. The Virgin Islands relates to Epstein’s private property in the territory, apparently known locally – though perhaps not altogether opaquely – as “Paedophile Island”. On the New York allegation, Prince Andrew has already asserted that he couldn’t have had “activity” with Giuffre at Epstein’s Manhattan address that night as he was staying with the then British consul general in New York, Sir Thomas Harris. Or as Harris put it: “It doesn’t sound like he stayed with me,” adding that he had “no recollection” of the claimed royal visit, and it had not appeared in the Court Circular as would be convention. The London allegation arguably comes with the most helpful aide memoire for the prince, what with the existence of a photo of Andrew with his hand resting on the bare hip of Giuffre in an upstairs room of Ghislaine Maxwell’s home. Maxwell herself is smirking in the background of the picture, allegedly taken after a visit by her, the prince, and Epstein to Tramp nightclub.
All sorts of claims have been made about this photograph and what it shows. Placing those allegations and denials to one side for a moment, let’s just focus on what we can see, and ask ourselves a basic question. Namely: what are three big-hitters in their 40s doing hanging round late at night with a 17-year-old runaway? Is this the behaviour of non-weirdos? Not really, let’s face it. Virginia Roberts wasn’t a whole lot older than Andrew’s eldest daughter at the time, which perhaps ought to have crystallised his thinking. Far better to take her to Pizza Express than to run the gauntlet of the aged slimeballs at Tramp.
Nor was it the behaviour of a non-weirdo to continue to hang out with a Tier 1 sex offender AFTER he had been to prison for procuring an underage girl for prostitution, as the Duke of York undeniably did in the case of Epstein. And let’s not forget it wasn’t just one girl, in some kind of he-said, she-said situation. As the Palm Beach police chief who ran the case summarised: “This was 50-something ‘shes’ and one ‘he’ – and the shes all basically told the same story.”
As for what’s next for Andy, I wouldn’t pin hopes on him being a blockbuster Tower of London exhibit for autumn. It was almost exactly two years ago that the fallout of his Epstein friendship hotted up for him again, and back then the prince headed straight to join the Queen’s summer retreat to Balmoral, where he was accompanied by his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson. Andrew was even prominently displayed in the prime seat next to his mother in the car on the way to the local church. He and Fergie then private-jetted off for a second time to Sotogrande – though oddly some random private plane Meghan and Harry had recently taken was deemed of far more febrile and condemnatory interest to most of Fleet Street at the time.
You certainly wouldn’t bet against the same pattern being followed this year. Prince Andrew and Fergie are already reported to be imminently expected at Balmoral, suggesting he is not exactly the Banned Old Duke of York. Perhaps we shall see him with mama again, pursing his lips with the grave satisfaction of one who knows that Balmoral’s humble kirk does not actually have an extradition treaty with hades.
In the immediate wake of the Newsnight interview, a YouGov poll found that a mere 6% of the UK public believed Prince Andrew to be telling the truth. It does seem particularly notable that he asserts he was “acting honourably” in flying all the way to New York in 2010, supposedly to end his friendship with Epstein. Strangely, he has yet to regard it as a matter of honour to fly to New York to clear his own name. If he fails to take up this new opportunity to do so in a court of law, he and his surrogates can hardly complain about being tried in the court of public opinion.