Why Epstein Accuser's Suit Against Prince Andrew, Looming Maxwell Trial Are Royal Problem
17:00 GMT 10.08.2021 (Updated: 13:22 GMT 06.08.2022)
The British royal family is at the centre of the ongoing scandal over Prince Andrew's alleged sexual abuse of Virginia Roberts, then a teenager, in 2001. She's just filed a lawsuit directly accusing the prince. Royal experts Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills and Richard Fitzwilliams discuss how the new case could pan out.
On 9 August, Virginia Giuffre (née Roberts) filed a lawsuit in the federal court in New York against Prince Andrew, the duke of York, accusing him of sexually abusing her on three different occasions when she was under the age of 18.
It's not the first time Giuffre has levelled accusations against the prince. On 2 March 2011, The Daily Mail published a photo featuring the Duke of York with his hand around Virginia's waist, which triggered a heated debate in the press. In 2014, Guiffre launched legal action in a Florida state court, claiming that the millionaire and convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein offered her to his influential peers, including Andrew. The prince has repeatedly denied the allegations, insisting that he has "no recollection" of meeting the alleged victim. Still, Guiffre's lawyer, David Boies, expects a response from the royal to the latest lawsuit: "I don’t think he’s going to try to stonewall the court," Boies said on 9 August 2021, as quoted by The New York Times.
Giuffre's legal action was set in motion just days before the expiration date of a New York state law determining the time frame during which individuals can file lawsuits alleging they were sexually abused as children.
'Never Complain, Never Explain'
"This is the first time a lawsuit has been directly filed against the duke of York, where there will now need to be some sort of response from his legal team," says Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills, founder and director of the British Monarchists Society. "Granted the filing has taken place in America and not the United Kingdom, we are still innocent until proven guilty, with no one above the law, be it a member of the public or a prince of the realm."
Prince Andrew's life was derailed by the accusations long before the filing in New York, according to Mace-Archer-Mills. "He has lost patronages and has even been missing from military events and others of which he was once a patron, that mean so much to him," he emphasises.
However, the Buckingham Palace mantra of "never complain, never explain" will not be helpful as the general public is growing "more demanding and insistent on facts and particulars of a story which involves members of the world's most popular family," according to the director of the monarchist organisation. He believes that the royal household – which has previously shredded Guiffre's allegations as unfounded – will step forward to protect the duke.
"Hopefully, with all the facts related to Prince Andrew and his defence which should be able to be supported, the Palace will help to defend the Duke of York, rather than sideline him and treat him like the black sheep of the family that has brought shame upon himself through a questionable friendship with a despicable and predatory individual," he suggests.
© Photo : Florida Southern District CourtPrince Andrew, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, and Ghislaine Maxwell. This photo was included in an affidavit in which Giuffre alleged that she was directed to have sex with Andrew
Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, and Ghislaine Maxwell. This photo was included in an affidavit in which Giuffre alleged that she was directed to have sex with Andrew
© Photo : Florida Southern District Court
"Friendship" With Epstein Backfired on Prince
Prince Andrew has become "an embarrassment to the royal family," while his November 2019 interview about the deceased paedophile Epstein poured even more gasoline on the fire, according to Richard Fitzwilliams, royal commentator and public relations consultant.
"[The prince] was a brave pilot during the Falklands War but his undesirable friendships, fondness for high living, and disastrous failure to express any remorse for Epstein’s victims in the interview with the BBC’s Newsnight programme, has led to what is almost certainly the end of his career as a senior working royal," the royal expert remarks.
Andrew gave an interview to the BBC just two weeks after Epstein committed suicide in his Manhattan prison cell. In his interview the duke made it clear that he didn't regret his friendship with the sex offender; that he had met with Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's alleged "madam," earlier that year; and that the infamous photo depicting him and Virginia Giuffre could be a fake. "I don't believe it's a picture of me in London because... when I go out in London, I wear a suit and a tie," he said. The interview brought a storm of negative reviews in the press and prompted calls for him to testify to the FBI about his friendship with the millionaire paedophile.
A survey, carried out after the prince's November 2019 interview, indicated that only 6 percent of Brits believed Prince Andrew’s account of his friendship with the convicted sex offender, 51 percent said they don’t believe him, and 43 percent were "unsure."
Soon after the interview, the prince retired from the royal duties while in February 2020 his name was removed from Pitch@Palace, the startup-mentoring platform founded by him in 2014. To add to the controversy, on 30 July 2020, a batch of 2015 court documents from a settled civil defamation suit filed by Giuffre against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's alleged "madam," was released by a US court, shedding further light on the woman's allegations against the duke.
© AP Photo / Chris Isonn this Sept. 2, 2000 file photo, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, driven by Britain's Prince Andrew leaves the wedding of a former girlfriend of the prince, Aurelia Cecil, at the Parish Church of St Michael in Compton Chamberlayne near Salisbury, England. The FBI said Thursday July 2, 2020, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was accused by many women of helping procure underage sex partners for Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested in New Hampshire.
n this Sept. 2, 2000 file photo, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, driven by Britain's Prince Andrew leaves the wedding of a former girlfriend of the prince, Aurelia Cecil, at the Parish Church of St Michael in Compton Chamberlayne near Salisbury, England. The FBI said Thursday July 2, 2020, Ghislaine Maxwell, who was accused by many women of helping procure underage sex partners for Jeffrey Epstein, has been arrested in New Hampshire.
© AP Photo / Chris Ison
Maxwell's Case & Prince's Unwillingness to Talk to FBI
The prince has not been proven guilty, notes Fitzwilliams, however, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Andrew's apparent unwillingness to be interviewed by the FBI over the Epstein case.
"His offer to cooperate with the FBI has led to a stand-off, where it has been reported that they want a face-to-face interview and he has offered written evidence," the royal expert says. "The FBI believed this could be helpful in tracking Epstein’s accomplices."
On 8 June 2020, US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman officially stated that the prince had repeatedly declined requests to schedule an interview while "falsely portray[ing] himself" as "eager and willing to cooperate."
While announcing Maxwell's arrest on 2 July 2020, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss once again called upon the British royal to "coming in to talk" with DOJ prosecutors,
According to Fitzwilliams, the duke of York's ties with Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend, could backfire on him and the royal family. Maxwell's trial on charges that she recruited teenage girls for Epstein will start in November 2021.
"If anything incriminating about Andrew were to surface when she goes on trial in the autumn, it would certainly be serious," the royal expert believes.