Previously, until recently, denying any recollection of meetings with Virginia Roberts, Prince Andrew agreed to pay his accuser an unknown amount of megabucks.
Of course, monetary settlement is not an admission of guilt. Perhaps foolish Andrew really had this in mind when, quite recently, and contrary to the laws of common sense, he claimed that he wanted to get his day in court.
But be that as it may, if anyone at Buckingham Palace dared to hope that it would now be possible to forget about this whole ugly business, he made a disastrous mistake.
Make no mistake: this fiasco is the worst scandal that has gripped the royal family since the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936. Compared to him, Megzit looks like a cup of tea spilled at a palace garden party.
Nor can we take comfort in the thought that at least every senior member of the royal family displays impeccable sanity.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew watch the flight from the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping The Color on June 8, 2019.
Just yesterday, Michael Fawcett, Prince Charles’s closest aide, was once again at the center of allegations that he paid homage to Saudi billionaire businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz.
Scotland Yard is currently investigating claims related to the Prince’s Foundation. Charles denies any knowledge of an alleged offer of honors or British citizenship based on donations to his charities. This may be true, but apart from Andrey’s misdeeds, this is not just bad PR. This is a kind of devastating story that – as the country inevitably speculates about what succession might look like – could fatally undermine the credibility of Charles’s affiliation and, by extension, his very kingship.
Andrew’s own crisis began with a sex scandal. Now it’s a money scandal. And in some ways it’s much worse.
Why? Because as tragic as Ms. Roberts’s experiences at the hands of the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein were – and I have no doubt they were too horrific for words – the question of who ultimately paid for this alleged rape victim’s silence hurts the most. the heart of the monarchy.
We, the taxpayers, have more than just idle curiosity about this. No, we are obliged to demand an answer to the question: where did the money come from, which in some circles was reported up to 12 million pounds sterling?
How did Andrew, with his tiny naval pension and a £250,000 stipend from the Queen, find the fortune to settle the dispute out of court?
No matter how the answer to this question is given, it will be a public relations disaster not only for Andrew, who certainly deserves to be blamed, but for the entire royal family.
Prince William, Prince Andrew and Prince Charles attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral at Windsor Castle on April 17 last year.
Money could only come from one of the three sources, or a combination of them.
First, the millions came from the queen’s “private” fortune.
If so, then the Sovereign could effectively finance what the respected former Chief Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal called “blood money”.
Let’s be perfectly frank: if the Queen is seen paying Andrew’s bills to silence an underage rape victim, that would be the worst public scandal ever.
It is the contagion of communicating with her terrible youngest son, who is really not needed by the 95-year-old monarch in her Jubilee year.
The queen and courtiers have so far masterfully managed to alienate her from her second son.
But if it turns out that the monarch paid Ms. Roberts, she will be drawn, albeit reluctantly, into the sordid orbit of Epstein and his hideous prisoner ex-Madame Ghislaine Maxwell (a couple that Andrew saw fit to invite to his daughter’s 18th birthday). birthday). It’s too terrible to even imagine.
A second potential source of money used to fund Andrew’s settlement would be the sale of his vulgar Swiss chalet and possibly his ranch-style Sunninghill Park, a hideous building in the Stockbroker’s Belt for which he was paid the contact person against the odds. , and which was immediately demolished.
Undoubtedly, this is what the prince wants us to believe: that he courageously sold his assets and sold everything to pay for lawyers out of his own pocket.
But even this does not free him from some inquisitive questions. We remember, for example, that in 2007 he sold Sunninghill to Kazakhstani oligarch Timur Kulibayev – oddly enough, for about £3 million more than his market value.
Perhaps the sale of the Swiss chalet will not turn out to be as clean a deal as the snow on the pistes of Verbier.
And how was the chalet financed in the first place?
However, we are most concerned about the third possible source of Andrew’s money.
And the reason for this should be obvious: because we would be the source, as taxpayers. The Sovereign Grant cost the taxpayer nearly £70m in 2020, more than double the £32m it cost in 2012.
But this is only one aspect: the income of the Queen from the Duchy of Lancaster (about 25 million pounds sterling a year) and the income of Prince Charles from the Duchy of Cornwall go directly to the two of them.
Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts, 17, and Ghislaine Maxwell at Maxwell’s townhouse in London.
This is despite the fact that, as MP Dame Margaret Hodge, former chairman of the parliamentary committee on financial oversight, said: “To assert that [the Duchy of Lancaster] is an [the Queen’s] private property is a little disingenuous.
Were these funds used to help Andrew along with his legal worries? If yes, then directly or indirectly we pay for his legal protection. And we don’t like the idea of paying Rottweiler lawyers to rake money off alleged victims of child sex trafficking, or dismissively calling them “money-hungry sex kitties,” as Andrew’s overpriced lawyers described Ms. Roberts.
Remember, Andrew has form when he offers terrible value for money, even by the desperate standards of second-tier royals like him.
Too often during his unmourned tenure as “special envoy for business” in this country, the Foreign Service has been baffled when Andrew, described by one Gulf diplomat as a “clown”, appeared on a taxpayer-funded plane with his entourage. long-suffering staff.
This could include, for example, a valet with an ironing board, which had to be carried around because the Duke of York did not like other people’s ironing boards, a maid who had to lay out his soft toys in the right order. order around his bed or a footman who was supposed to serve him mineral water at room temperature.
Much of this nonsense was ultimately paid for by us – as is much of Andrew’s life today.
A measure of how much the British people respect the Queen is that they were willing to ignore Andrew’s silly bad manners and the vulgarity of his extravagant ex-wife.
I believe Andrew’s gigantic payment to Ms. Roberts will be the moment when the country finally rethinks its financial relationship with the royal family. How could we do otherwise?
This money cannot, never be ignored. We stopped worrying about whether he was sweating or not, eating pizza in Woking with his kids, or dancing the night away with someone barely older than his daughters.
We no longer even ask if his story, or that of Virginia, is true. Instead, we ask: Who bought Virginia’s silence?
And until we get an answer, we’ll continue to ask the burning question: Is the cost of Andrew’s legal troubles and the latest spending of millions – his extravagant lifestyle, his chalets, his planes, his quirky friends in America – not Andrew himself, Yes, at least to a large extent the British taxpayer?
If true, this out-of-court settlement has dealt a blow to the monarchy’s reputation that is as devastating as the story of what this obnoxious man did or didn’t do decades ago to an unfortunate 17-year-old girl.