Two things stand out from the grovelling legal statement that Prince Andrew issued last night.
One is the absence of any suggestion that he might be innocent of the very serious sexual offences that Virginia Roberts (now Mrs Giuffre) has been publicly accusing him of for seven long years.
Often, when vast sums of money are paid to settle a high-profile legal case, the person writing the cheque gets to insert a clause that might vaguely exonerate them. It tends to contain words to the effect that they deny wrongdoing.
Although there is no suggestion that Andrew is, in fact, guilty, that no such privilege was afforded to him reflects the degree to which he has been forced to concede defeat.
Put simply, his tin-eared response to this long-running scandal has seen him slowly, but surely, run out of options to avoid a costly and squalid court case that would further damage the British monarchy, perhaps irreparably.
The only option remaining was to accept this abject public humiliation.
Friends: The Duke even invited the American to social events Balmoral and Sandringham
The second curious line in Prince Andrew’s legal statement came when he insisted that he had ‘never intended to malign Ms Giuffre’s character’. He expressed regret, indeed, that his accuser had ‘suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks’.
What he didn’t say – but perhaps should have – was that the lion’s share of the unfair and sometimes vicious public attacks that the 38-year-old mother of three has been forced to endure in recent times have emanated squarely from Prince Andrew, his PR team, their lawyers and what remains of his circle of friends.
Only a few weeks ago, for example, the prince’s attack-dog £2,000-an-hour attorneys were attempting to persuade a judge that an old newspaper article that had dubbed Miss Roberts a ‘money hungry sex kitten’ ought to be used as evidence in court.
The piece, published in 2015 by a New York tabloid, had made the disgraceful and factually untrue claim that this victim of child sex abuse was some sort of willing accomplice of Andrew’s paedophile chum Jeffrey Epstein.
Cat and mouse: He kept avoiding being given legal papers
Specifically, it had quoted a discredited and estranged former boyfriend of Miss Roberts alleging that she’d acted as a sort of madam for the late financier, taking the role of ‘head bitch’ at his Palm Beach mansion, where she ‘had nine or ten girls she used to bring to him’. This hurtful slur was unsupported by any credible evidence whatsoever.
It also had little relevance to the substance of her civil case for ‘battery and infliction of emotional distress’ which revolved around an entirely separate matter: Miss Roberts’s claim that she was paid to sleep with Andrew on three occasions in 2001, when he was 41 and she was 17, just a few years older than his teenage daughter.
One of the alleged trysts, for which she claimed to have been paid $15,000 (at the time around £10,000) occurred first in the bathroom and then the bedroom of Ghislaine Maxwell’s mews home in London’s Belgravia. Another took place at Epstein’s New York mansion. A third on his private island in the Caribbean.
Responding to such claims by calling your accuser a ‘money hungry sex kitten’ is, at best, distasteful and at worst downright offensive. It certainly won’t de-escalate the problem. Indeed, when the judge (perhaps inevitably) told Prince Andrew to sling his hook, he witheringly observed that the nasty article had only been dragged into the litigation for ‘public relations purposes’.
Back in October, to cite another example of misplaced aggression, the duke’s lawyers had made similarly hurtful allegations via a 36-page legal memorandum accompanying a failed motion to dismiss the case.
Tieless: But he had said he always wore one when out in London
It alleged that Miss Roberts had spent a decade ‘profiting’ from ‘lurid’ sexual abuse claims, and accused her of now seeking to secure ‘another payday at his expense’.
There was no acknowledgement whatsoever of the fact that, notwithstanding the specifics of her claim against the prince, she was already a court-certified victim of child sex abuse who had been paid compensation by Jeffrey Epstein in the mid-2000s.
Even in the final stages of litigation he sought to hide behind legal niceties, attempting to have the case dismissed because of an agreement Miss Roberts signed with Epstein about 15 years ago, and then to have it thrown out because she lived in Australia. Both failed.
Some might regard these manoeuvres as part of the inevitable back-and-forth of an adversarial court case. But while seeking to portray an abused woman as a cynical gold-digger might have worked half a century ago, when Prince Andrew’s moral compass was perhaps formed, it was never likely to play well in today’s court of public opinion. That the duke failed to realise this very basic truth speaks volumes about the pomposity and arrogance that got him into this whole mess in the first place.
Calamitous: With Emily Maitlis before the 2019 TV broadcast
Time and time again, as the long and ugly Epstein scandal has played out, he’s been caught on the back foot by lawyers, PRs and his own reckless stupidity. His efforts to sweep the affair, which involves some of the most serious charges ever levelled against a British royal, under the carpet have betrayed consistent and at times dazzling ineptitude.
Think back, if you will, to the absurd saga that played out in August when lawyers for Miss Roberts spent the best part of a month attempting to serve legal papers at his home in Windsor.
Rather than simply accepting delivery, which was bound to eventually be made, the prince instead chose to cower from view, creating a bizarre media circus in which various couriers and private investigators were filmed fruitlessly ringing various royal doorbells.
On one occasion, an American private investigator named Cesar Sepulveda was pictured handing a business card to royal police officers. On another, a court hearing was shown a courier receipt that read: ‘Hi. Your package was delivered Wed 08/18/2021 at 8.28am. Delivered to Royal Lodge at Windsor…Received by A POLICE OFFICER.’
Time and time again, as the long and ugly Epstein scandal has played out, he’s been caught on the back foot by lawyers, PRs and his own reckless stupidity
Perhaps most famously of all, consider the historic PR disaster that was the prince’s 2019 interview with Emily Maitlis.
Assuming, against all available evidence, that he’d be a convincing advocate, he failed to express even the vaguest sympathy for Jeffrey Epstein’s hundreds of victims, and instead chose to go squarely on the offensive against Miss Roberts, casting her as a fantasist and saying: ‘I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.’
When Miss Maitlis asked about the notorious photograph of them together, taken on the night in March 2001 Ms Guiffre alleges she first slept with Andrew, the prince proceeded to endorse a bizarre conspiracy theory positing that it was some sort of forgery.
‘I have absolutely no memory of that photograph ever being taken,’ he said. ‘From the investigations that we’ve done, you can’t prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph. So it’s very difficult to be able to prove it but I don’t remember that photograph ever being taken.’
Perhaps most famously of all, consider the historic PR disaster that was the prince’s 2019 interview with Emily Maitlis
In an effort to convince viewers that the image had somehow been ‘doctored’, he then added: ‘I don’t believe it’s a picture of me in London because when I would go out in London, I wear a suit and a tie.’
Unfortunately, it took less than 24 hours for pictures to emerge of him wearing the exact same outfit while leaving Chinawhite nightclub a couple of months earlier. The image also appeared to show the duke perspiring heavily, casting doubt on his bizarre insistence that Miss Roberts’s recollection of an encounter at Tramp nightclub was unreliable because he’s somehow unable to sweat.
Incredibly, Andrew is reported to have initially left the interview, filmed at Buckingham Palace, under the impression that it had been a staggering success. It was only when the footage aired, to public disbelief, that it slowly began to dawn on him that the opposite might be true.
It was, of course, a characteristic failure of judgment that allowed Andrew to be sucked into the vortex surrounding Jeffrey Epstein in the first place.
Seemingly blind to the dangers of consorting with ultra-wealthy foreigners, no matter how distasteful their lifestyle or opaque their sources of wealth, the man who would go on to hang out with an endless succession of corrupt dictators during his stint as British trade envoy decided to bring a rackety sex offender into the heart of the royal establishment.
Incredibly, Andrew is reported to have initially left the interview, filmed at Buckingham Palace, under the impression that it had been a staggering success
Epstein was invited to Balmoral and ‘straightforward shooting weekends’ at Sandringham.
He even turned up at the Queen’s birthday party at Windsor Castle. And even after he’d been convicted and jailed for child sex offences, the prince saw fit to travel to New York, where he stayed at his house.
The duke attended dinner parties, and, in yet another PR disaster, was photographed walking with Epstein in Central Park.
Preposterously, he later sought to argue – during the notorious Maitlis interview – that the primary purpose of the 2011 trip was to end their friendship, and that this was the ‘honourable and right thing to do.’
Andrew added: ‘I admit fully my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.’
The duke attended dinner parties, and, in yet another PR disaster, was photographed walking with Epstein in Central Park
By then, legal issues had begun to rear their ugly head.
But rather than seeking a resolution, he refused to engage even with the forces of law enforcement. Requests from the FBI to interview the duke as a witness were left to gather dust.
Meanwhile, compromising evidence, such as flight logs that put Miss Roberts in London on the weekend in 2001 when she claimed to have first slept with the duke, continued to drip into the public domain.
Perhaps his greatest mistake was to assume that throwing muck at Miss Roberts would make her go away. His PR men, lawyers and friends repeatedly sought to discredit the accuser, or besmirch her reputation, perhaps most fruitlessly when they endorsed the aforementioned conspiracy theory suggesting that the picture of them together was an elaborate fake.
‘Look at his fingers in the photo. The duke has quite chubby fingers. They don’t look right and nor does the height of the duke and the girl,’ was how one briefed journalists, adding insultingly: ‘Sadly — it seems to us — this girl is simply out to make a name for herself.’
If that was indeed Miss Roberts’s intention, she has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, thoroughly vindicating herself and earning millions of dollars in the process.
As for Prince Andrew, his greatest fear is that last night’s settlement will trigger claims from other girls who may allege that they too were trafficked by Epstein.
But if this long legal nightmare does continue, he’ll only have himself to blame.
Eleven years of revelations and denials that brought down a Duke
February 27, 2011 In a world exclusive, the Mail on Sunday speaks to Virginia Roberts about her time with Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Andrew. The MoS publishes the now-infamous picture of the prince and Miss Roberts for the first time.
December 30, 2014 As part of a civil claim against Epstein, lawyers for Miss Roberts say she was forced to have ‘sexual relations’ with Andrew in London, New York and on Epstein’s Caribbean island.
January 21, 2015 In an affidavit filed as part of the civil claim, Miss Roberts says she had sex with the prince three times, adding: ‘I knew he was a member of the British Royal Family, but I just called him ‘Andy’.’
July 6, 2019 Epstein held on sex trafficking charges. He is found dead in jail the next month.
November 16, 2019 Andrew’s car-crash interview on BBC Newsnight. He withdraws from public duties.
January 31, 2020 Miss Roberts – and three others – implore Prince Andrew to talk to the FBI.
July 2, 2020 Andrew’s friend and Epstein’s lover Ghislaine Maxwell arrested. She was convicted of recruiting girls to be sexually abused last month.
August 9, 2021 Miss Roberts files a civil claim against Andrew in New York, seeking unspecified damages for battery, including rape, and the infliction of emotional distress
October 29, 2021 Andrew accuses her of making up the allegations in return for a ‘payday’.
January 12, 2022 Judge Lewis Kaplan says a 2009 deal between Epstein and Miss Roberts, in which she was paid $500,000 not to bring further cases against ‘potential defendants’ cannot benefit Andrew.
January 13, 2020 Andrew is stripped of remaining military titles and royal patronages. Palace says he will ‘defend [the] case as a private citizen.’
January 26, 2022 Lawyers for Andrew demand a trial by jury and issue 41 denials to Miss Roberts’ civil claim
February 15, 2022 Andrew agrees to settle.