The Queen, 95, gets back to work at Windsor Castle

The Queen, 95, gets back to work at Windsor Castle

The Queen has admitted to feeling frail for the first time but managed a smile as she returned to work at Windsor Castle despite scandals engulfing Princes Charles and Andrew that threaten to overshadow her Jubilee year.

Her Majesty, 95, leaned on a walking stick as she told incoming Defence Services Secretary Major General Eldon Millar and his predecessor Rear Admiral James Macleod ‘I can’t move’ in the Oak Room at her Berkshire home.

The monarch stood rooted to the spot and leaned on her cane as she pointed to her left leg or foot – but mustered a smile when the Armed Forces chiefs approached her and shook her hand.

The Queen is understood to have been feeling slightly stiff today, rather than having injured herself or being unwell.

The meeting marked her first in-person engagement since her Covid scare after coming into contact with her son Prince Charles two days before he tested positive.

Buckingham Palace has continued to refuse to confirm whether the Queen tested positive or negative for coronavirus, citing medical privacy, and saying last week she was not displaying any symptoms.

But she appears to have escaped the virus despite coming into contact with her son, whose wife Camilla has also since tested positive.

The monarch will have taken daily lateral flow tests over the past seven days, in keeping with current guidelines, and will have been closely monitored by her royal physicians. It is also not known whether she has self-isolated.

It comes amid a gruelling week for the head of state, with Prince Andrew finalising the settlement of a bombshell sex assault case against him yesterday.

Meanwhile the Met today launched a probe into a cash for honours scandal involving the Prince Charles’s charitable foundation.

Elsewhere in royal chaos today:

  • Prince Andrew faces questions on how he has funded his £12million settlement with Virginia Giuffre
  • It emerged the Queen and Charles had ordered him to sort out the impending sex case as soon as possible
  • Graham Smith, from anti-monarchy campaign group Republic, insisted taxpayers ‘deserve to know where the money is coming from for a settlement, which we must assume is in the millions, if not tens of millions’ 
  • Royal author Angela Levin told Sky News today: ‘I think that the Queen would have given him a big telling off’
  • Settlement with Giuffre reportedly includes clause that allows her to ‘write tell-all book’ on her ordeal
  • Royal experts said there will be no ‘return to the fold’ for embattled Duke and he should ‘disappear for a year’
  • The Queen returned to in-person engagement in Windsor after a Covid scare sparked by Charles and Camilla 

The Queen at an audience at Windsor Castle today where she met the incoming and outgoing Defence Service Secretaries

The Queen at an audience at Windsor Castle today where she met the incoming and outgoing Defence Service Secretaries

Queen Elizabeth II with Rear Admiral James Macleod (right) and Major General Eldon Millar (centre) at Windsor Castle today

Queen Elizabeth II with Rear Admiral James Macleod (right) and Major General Eldon Millar (centre) at Windsor Castle today

Queen Elizabeth II with Rear Admiral James Macleod (centre) and Major General Eldon Millar (right) at Windsor Castle today

Queen Elizabeth II with Rear Admiral James Macleod (centre) and Major General Eldon Millar (right) at Windsor Castle today

Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, pictured meeting Prince Charles, is one of Britain's most generous benefactors

Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, pictured meeting Prince Charles, is one of Britain’s most generous benefactors

Prince Andrew left the Royals mired in scandal with a murky £12million settlement with Virginia Giuffre, a victim of one of his friends, the paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein

Prince Andrew left the Royals mired in scandal with a murky £12million settlement with Virginia Giuffre, a victim of one of his friends, the paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein

Prince Andrew is pictured leaving Royal Lodge near his mother's home at Windsor Castle earlier this year

Prince Andrew is pictured leaving Royal Lodge near his mother’s home at Windsor Castle earlier this year

‘Cash-for-honours’ probe after Charles and ex-aide were reported to police

The Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into an alleged cash-for-honours scandal after the Prince of Wales and his former close confidant were reported to police over the claims.

The pressure group Republic contacted Scotland Yard last September and reported both the future king and Michael Fawcett, Charles’s former royal valet, on suspicion of breaching the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925.

At the time Clarence House said the prince had ‘no knowledge’ of the alleged cash-for-honours scandal.

Mr Fawcett, who has since resigned as chief executive of Charles’s charitable body The Prince’s Foundation, was accused of promising to help secure a knighthood and British citizenship for a Saudi billionaire donor.

Scotland Yard said in a statement: ‘The Metropolitan Police Service has launched an investigation into allegations of offences under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925.

‘The decision follows an assessment of a September 2021 letter. This related to media reporting alleging offers of help were made to secure honours and citizenship for a Saudi national.

‘The Special Enquiry Team has conducted the assessment process which has included contacting those believed to hold relevant information.

‘Officers liaised with The Prince’s Foundation about the findings of an independent investigation into fundraising practices. The foundation provided a number of relevant documents.

‘These documents were reviewed alongside existing information. The assessment determined an investigation will commence.

‘There have been no arrests or interviews under caution.’

Charles is president of the foundation but not involved with its governance, with the charity’s trustees overseeing its day-to-day activities.

Clarence House reiterated its previous statement: ‘The Prince of Wales had no knowledge of the alleged offer of honours or British citizenship on the basis of donation to his charities.’

The Queen welcomed Major General Millar and Rear Admiral Macleod into the Oak Room where she stood next to her desk earlier today.

She heard the pair walk past the room and exclaimed ‘I’m here’, adding: ‘I thought you may have stayed in there for ages.’

A member of the royal staff introduces the Armed Forces chiefs as the ‘incoming and outgoing Defence Services Secretary you Majesty’.

The monarch says ‘good morning’ and is asked ‘how are you?’ She says ‘well, as you can see, I can’t move’ as she reaches out and shakes hands with her visitors.

Admiral Macleod tells her: ‘Many congratulations on the start of your Jubilee year.’ The Queen says: ‘Well thank you very much indeed, that’s very kind.’

Admiral Macleod continues: ‘I noticed you’ve got Candy keeping guard because as we came down the corridor she was not going to let us get anywhere near you.’

She replies: ‘Oh really?’ Major General Millar says: ‘She gave us a little growl as we came in yes.’ Her Majesty says: ‘Oh did she, she doesn’t normally growl.’ Admiral Macleod adds: ‘She can obviously see through us.’

The Queen starts ‘she’s being rather, rather’ but appears to lose her train of thought. The clip cuts to a later conversation between the trio where the Armed Forces chiefs thank her for the meeting.

The Queen wore a floral dress as she greeted the pair as Major General Millar prepares to take over from Rear Admiral Macleod.

Today’s meeting came after she carried out her first official engagements yesterday since her coronavirus scare, although these were only virtual audiences from Windsor Castle with the Estonian and Spanish ambassadors.

The Defence Services Secretary is a member of the Royal Household, and they are the official link between the Queen and the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chiefs of Staff on all matters concerning the monarch’s relationship with the armed forces.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘Rear Admiral James Macleod was received by The Queen this afternoon upon relinquishing his appointment as Defence Services Secretary. Major General Eldon Millar was received by The Queen upon assuming his appointment as Defence Services Secretary.’

And ITV royal editor Chris Ship tweeted: ‘The Queen has held an audience in Windsor with outgoing and incoming Defence Services Secretaries.

‘Beforehand, she would have read this morning’s coverage of her son Prince Andrew’s settlement with his accuser and been informed of the police probe into Prince Charles’ charity.’

There would have been much for Major General Millar to discuss with the Queen, in the wake of Andrew losing his military titles.

Meanwhile the Duke of York agreed an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with Virginia Giuffre yesterday, after she sued him claiming she was trafficked by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, Andrew’s friend, to have sex with the royal when she was 17 and a minor under US law.

YESTERDAY -- The Queen receives the Ambassador of Spain, José Pascual Marco Martínez (centre), and Géraldine Dufort (left)

YESTERDAY — The Queen receives the Ambassador of Spain, José Pascual Marco Martínez (centre), and Géraldine Dufort (left)

YESTERDAY -- The Queen appears on a screen via videolink from Windsor Castle in Berkshire during a virtual audience to receive the Ambassador of Estonia, Viljar Lubi (centre), and Maarja Junti (left) at Buckingham Palace in London

YESTERDAY — The Queen appears on a screen via videolink from Windsor Castle in Berkshire during a virtual audience to receive the Ambassador of Estonia, Viljar Lubi (centre), and Maarja Junti (left) at Buckingham Palace in London

Full statement from both parties in Andrew’s case 

Here is the full text of the statement regarding the out of court settlement reached between the Duke of York and Virginia Giuffre. The statement was included in a letter submitted to US judge Lewis A Kaplan:

‘Virginia Giuffre and Prince Andrew have reached an out of court settlement. The parties will file a stipulated dismissal upon Ms Giuffre’s receipt of the settlement (the sum of which is not being disclosed). Prince Andrew intends to make a substantial donation to Ms Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights.

‘Prince Andrew has never intended to malign Ms. Giuffre’s character, and he accepts that she has suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks. It is known that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked countless young girls over many years.

‘Prince Andrew regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others. He pledges to demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein by supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims.’ 

There was fresh fury today amid claims the Queen contributed towards the estimated £12million deal agreed with his accuser.

The monarch is expected to foot part of the bill for her son’s settlement in a bid to draw a line under it before her much-anticipated Platinum Jubilee celebrations this summer.

But there is anger at how the Queen has effectively been forced to bail out the ‘disgraced’ Duke of York, 61, whose modest pension from his time in the Royal Navy is now his only visible income – amid calls for the public to be told who is financing the deal.

Sources also pointed out while there will now be a ‘period of silence’ during the Jubilee celebrations when both parties will have to stick to the terms of yesterday’s carefully-worded statement, Mrs Giuffre would then not be stopped from writing a lucrative book telling her story which could hit the shelves in time for Christmas.

Prince Charles was said to have been supported by the Queen in making it clear to Andrew that he had no choice but to settle with Mrs Giuffre, with one source telling MailOnline that Charles had ‘had enough of the situation’ and ‘would have said to Andrew that he needed to get this sorted out as soon as possible’.

A senior Royal Household member told the Standard that Charles and the Queen ‘could not countenance another disastrous appearance by the Duke of York, in light of his BBC interview’, adding: ‘Decisive action was needed. There was little choice. He had to see sense.’

While Andrew is thought to be holed up at his Royal Lodge home in Windsor today, on the other side of the world a box of beers and a bouquet of flowers were being delivered to Mrs Giuffre and her husband Robert’s home in Perth, Australia.

And her father Sky Roberts told the Sun: ‘I knew he would settle out of court. That was a complete bluff. I think Virginia will be happy.’

Prince Andrew is pictured driving in Windsor on November 6 last year

Prince Andrew is pictured driving in Windsor on November 6 last year

Beers are delivered to Virginia and Robert Giuffre's home in Perth, Australia, today after the settlement was reached

Beers are delivered to Virginia and Robert Giuffre’s home in Perth, Australia, today after the settlement was reached

A man delivers flowers to the home of Virginia and Robert Giuffre A man delivers flowers to the home of Virginia and Robert Giuffre

A man delivers flowers to the home of Virginia and Robert Giuffre in Perth, Australia, today after the deal was announced

Virginia Giuffre, who used to be known as Virginia Roberts, is pictured in Perth, Australia, last week on February 8

Virginia Giuffre, who used to be known as Virginia Roberts, is pictured in Perth, Australia, last week on February 8

Andrew should disappear for good: Duke’s ex-Navy commander joins calls for ‘rogue element’ to never return as working royal 

Prince Andrew has been bombarded with demands to quietly retire in private and ‘stay out of the public eye’ after his reputation took an ‘irreparable’ battering from Virginia Giuffre’s rape claims.

The Duke of York was urged to surrender any notions of a royal return and ‘move on’ by friends and former colleagues because he has ‘forever been tainted’ by the dramatic scandal that plunged the monarchy into crisis. 

The 61-year-old needs to ‘draw a line under this episode’ and ‘surround himself with better friends’ after making ‘some bad choices’ such as his friendship with paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein, they warned.

Navy top brass were among those calling on Andrew to keep out of the limelight in the wake of the bombshell allegations and settlement with his accuser – and now ‘enjoy essentially what is a very good privileged lifestyle’.

On Newsnight his former Naval Commander Rear Admiral Dr Chris Parry pressed him to ‘remember some of the things that we remember him for, for his earlier days’ before he left military service and the damaging claims against him emerged.

Meanwhile royal experts said there will be no ‘return to the fold’ for the embattled Duke – who was stripped of all his military roles and patronages earlier this year – and he should ‘disappear for a year’.

The commentators said they were sure Prince Charles will ram home the importance of ‘keeping a very low profile’ until the furore over the New York court saga dies down.

But Labour MP for York Central Rachael Maskell does not want to let him off that easy as she renewed her calls for him to be stripped of his dukedom named after the city.

She repeated a call made last month, saying the Prince should give up the association out of respect for the people who live there.

Leading lawyers suggested the court of public opinion will have already drawn its own conclusions about the damaging accusations made against him and remember them for ‘many, many years to come’.

Meanwhile, despite the settlement, it is feared the scandal could still overshadow poignant Platinum Jubilee celebrations for the UK in the coming months.

Also today, the Metropolitan Police said they have no plans to reopen their own probe into Andrew despite calls for officers to re-examine evidence after the deal.

Royal author Angela Levin told Sky News today: ‘I think that the Queen would have given him a big telling off and said ‘I can’t have this hanging over me for the rest of the year – I don’t want you to spoil my Platinum Jubilee. I’m the only royal who’s lasted 70 years on the throne, and you’ve got to sort it out’.’

She added: ‘I admire the Queen hugely as everybody does, and I don’t want it to spoil anything for her, but I still think this is hanging over the country and the Royal Family and is going to go right through to the end of the year and maybe into next year, and there’s no real way of cutting it off. Obviously that (a ban on Mrs Giuffre saying anything) was something that they could have put in the agreement and they haven’t, and so it implies that there’s a lot she (Mrs Giuffre) wants to say that Andrew will not want to hear.’

The settlement, which was agreed between lawyers in a sensational development yesterday, comes just weeks after Andrew vowed to contest the rape claims by Mrs Giuffre, formerly known as Virginia Roberts, at a public trial.

Mrs Giuffre had alleged she was forced to have sex with the Duke three times when she was 17 under the orders of the late paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Only last month, she was given the go-ahead to sue Andrew for unspecified damages in a New York civil court.

But despite vowing to fight the claims and repeatedly protesting his innocence, the Prince yesterday agreed to pay a huge sum to settle the case before it ever reaches a jury.

It has been suggested the Queen has used her private income to help Andrew with his legal bills, and the Telegraph reported she would contribute to the settlement using income from her private Duchy of Lancaster estate.

However, Buckingham Palace would not comment on the claim – and courtiers have tried to distance the monarch from the US court case.

The Telegraph reported the total amount the victim and her charity will receive will actually exceed £12million, with the funds coming from the Duchy of Lancaster estate, which recently increased by £1.5million to more than £23million.

Andrew has been dogged by questions over the source of his wealth for years, and he is believed to have relied on handouts from the Queen, personal investments and bequests from family members such as the Queen Mother.

Graham Smith, from anti-monarchy campaign group Republic, insisted that taxpayers ‘deserve to know where the money is coming from for a settlement, which we must assume is in the millions, if not tens of millions’.

Palace has NO plans to strip Andrew of his Duke of York title

Buckingham Palace has no plans to strip Andrew of his Duke of York title despite growing calls from local politicians after he reached a settlement with his sex assault accuser, Virginia Giuffre.

Today a palace source told MailOnline the situation regarding his remaining titles ‘remained unchanged’.

They also include that of Vice Admiral in the Royal Navy and the role of Counsellor of State Today, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said any decisions on his military honorific ‘rests obviously with the Palace’.

Earlier today, Cllr Darryl Smalley, Liberal Democrat executive member of City of York Council, joined Labour MP Rachael Maskell in demanding Andrew abandon his local links.

Mr Wallace was asked today if the Duke of York should be allowed to represent the military.

He told Sky News: ‘Well I don’t think he represents any of them at the moment,

‘I think the Palace took a decision that those titles were to be removed from him, so I think he is effectively acting now as a private citizen in so far as both addressing the challenges and the allegations.

‘There’s been a, obviously, a payment and I think that is where he currently remains, that the decision on titles rests obviously with the Palace in the future, but I think it’s been pretty clear that this settlement is a recognition that he wants to bring this to a close and also recognise as his statement says the suffering and the challenges that the victims have been through as a result of their allegations and their stand against the exploitation by [Jeffrey] Epstein.’

One source of Andrew’s income may be the sale of Sunninghill Park, the 12-bedroom country house near Windsor which was a wedding gift from the Queen.

The vast property went unsold for five years before it was suddenly bought in 2007 for £15 million – £3million over the asking price – by Timur Kulibayev, son-in-law of Andrew’s friend Nursultan Nazarbayev, the former autocratic ruler of Kazakhstan.

Andrew now lives in Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, the former home of the Queen Mother, on a preferential but undisclosed 100-year lease from the Crown Estate.

He and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson share the sprawling grade II-listed house but could move out to minimise costs, although it would not bring them any extra income.

The Yorks bought an £18million ski chalet in the Swiss resort of Verbier in 2014 but put it on the market following a legal dispute with its former owner.

French socialite Isabelle de Rouvre took legal action after a final £5 million instalment on Chalet Helora was not paid, but said the debt was settled last year, clearing the way for it to be sold.

It was put on the market for around £18million, but it was not clear how much of the £13million mortgage remains.

The Metropolitan Police dropped its investigation into Andrew last October, saying they would take ‘no further action’ – but the latest development raises questions over whether he could still be quizzed, while FBI officials in the US also still want to talk to him as a witness to Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell’s crimes.

Among those renewing calls for the case to be reopened is Nigel Cawthorne, Andrew’s biographer, who told Newsweek: ‘There should be a police investigation into Prince Andrew. There are a couple of outstanding matters.

‘One is that the US Department of Justice has asked the British Government for their co-operation in interviewing Prince Andrew. The other is whether the new commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will investigate this matter.’

He added: ‘There’s no mention of how much money is involved or where he’s going to get it from. He’s not a wealthy man. As taxpayers we have the right to know. We want to know, is it coming out of my pocket?’

And former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt tweeted: ‘With the Giuffre case settled, Prince Andrew can now focus on talking to the FBI about his friend Epstein – 818 days after he first promised to do so.’

MailOnline asked the Metropolitan Police whether they would now reopen the investigation following yesterday’s settlement, but a spokesman said today: ‘There is no change to our previous position.’ 

A joint statement issued yesterday by Virginia Giuffre's lawyer, David Boies, and Prince Andrew's lawyer, Andrew Brettler

A joint statement issued yesterday by Virginia Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, and Prince Andrew’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler

A letter addressed to US judge Lewis A Kaplan, who has been overseeing the case, from David Boies, Virginia Giuffre's lawyer

A letter addressed to US judge Lewis A Kaplan, who has been overseeing the case, from David Boies, Virginia Giuffre’s lawyer

Met Police WON’T reopen Prince Andrew sex abuse probe despite calls for officers to re-examine evidence 

The Met Police today said it has no plans to reopen the Prince Andrew sex abuse probe despite calls for officers to re-examine evidence following the Duke’s deal with Virginia Giuffre.

Britain’s biggest force dropped its investigation into Andrew last October, saying they would take ‘no further action’ – but the latest development raised questions over whether he would still be quizzed.

The Met ruled this out today, with a spokesman telling MailOnline: ‘There is no change to our previous position.’

FBI officials in the US still want to talk to Andrew as a witness to Epstein and his accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell’s crimes.

Among those renewing calls for the UK case to be reopened today was Nigel Cawthorne, Andrew’s biographer.

He told Newsweek: ‘There should be a police investigation into Prince Andrew. There are a couple of outstanding matters.

‘One is that the US Department of Justice has asked the British Government for their co-operation in interviewing Prince Andrew.

‘The other is whether the new commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will investigate this matter.’

He added: ‘There’s no mention of how much money is involved or where he’s going to get it from. He’s not a wealthy man. As taxpayers we have the right to know. We want to know, is it coming out of my pocket?’  

Royal expert Omid Scobie, who is the closest reporter to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, said: ‘In the end, Andrew took accountability for nothing.

‘Instead, he did what only the privileged elite get to do: bought his way out. In the process, he took advantage of his elderly mother’s love (and cheque book) during a year her children should only be lifting her up. A disgrace.’ 

Another royal commentator, Adam Helliker, told the Sun that people will probably take offence to the Queen bailing out her son’s settlement costs, adding: ‘No one has that kind of money but his mother.

‘Andrew is not close enough to the Prince of Wales for him to fund that kind of money. He doesn’t have any income.’

And media lawyer Mark Stephens told BBC News: ‘One of the key things that I think will have to be clarified by Prince Andrew’s camp is the fact that he’s paid this from his own resources.’

He added: ‘Essentially he’s managed to effectively immunise the wider Royal Family and more particularly his daughters against this court hearing.

‘But he himself has metaphorically been consigned to an unheated tower at Balmoral never to wave from a royal balcony ever again.’

Mr Stephens said: ‘If you look at his net worth, he’s had to sell a house in order to fund this, and so I think that (£12million) does look at about the right number.’

Meanwhile Mrs Giuffre will be banned from speaking publicly about her claims against Andrew until after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations under the terms of her settlement with the Duke.

Sources told the Times there would be a ‘period of silence’ when both parties would have to stick to the terms of a carefully worded statement.

Beyond the Jubilee celebrations however, Mrs Giuffre is expected to be allowed to public a book telling her story at the end of the year if she wishes to do so.

‘Ordinarily, you would have a complete non-disclosure [agreement] on both sides,’ lawyer Mitchell Epner told the Times.

He added: ‘Since it’s a settlement in the context of, on its face, an apology from Prince Andrew,’ [he believes Mrs Giuffre] ‘has agreed not to say anything [but] she will be in a position to write a book, probably for this Christmas season’.

Although the agreement contained no formal admission of liability from Andrew, or an apology, it said he now accepted Mrs Giuffre was a ‘victim of abuse’ and that he regretted his association with Epstein, the disgraced financier who trafficked countless young girls.

It also said the Prince accepted Mrs Giuffre, now 38, had been subjected to ‘unfair public attacks’ and that he had never intended to ‘malign her character’.

This is despite a string of recent aggressive accusations made by his legal team that included referencing a story which branded Mrs Giuffre a ‘money-hungry sex kitten’.

It is understood Andrew will now hand a large sum of cash to Mrs Giuffre and he has also agreed to make a ‘substantial donation’ to her charity in support of victims’ rights. 

Mrs Giuffre – who brought the lawsuit under her married name Virginia Giuffre – launched her legal action against Andrew in August, seeking unspecified damages for battery, including rape, and the infliction of emotional distress.

The Daily Mail revealed negotiations on a settlement have secretly been taking place since last month when a US judge refused to throw Miss Roberts’ case out.

But her legal team were said to be surprised at the suddenness of Andrew’s capitulation, with things taking a dramatic turn in recent days.

The prince, who was stripped of his remaining patronages earlier this year, has faced pressure from senior royals to resolve the lawsuit ahead of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee later this year.

And while last night Buckingham Palace was said to be breathing a sigh of relief that the case will not go to trial, senior royal sources indicated there was now no way back to public life for the Duke.

One said: ‘Regardless of the outcome, he has ruled himself out of any public role by virtue of his appalling lack of judgment and poor choice of friends and associates.’

Did Ghislaine’s email about this picture sink Prince Andrew’s case? 

Before he settled out of court last night, Prince Andrew was set to be dealt a major blow in his US sex case thanks to Ghislaine Maxwell.

A leaked email from the prince’s friend and now convicted sex trafficker appeared to confirm the authenticity of an infamous picture of the duke standing with his arm around his accuser, Virginia Roberts.

The photograph, said to be taken in Maxwell’s London townhouse in 2001, had been questioned by Andrew and just this week his legal team had demanded Miss Roberts turn over the original.

The duke’s legal team had claimed it might be a fake, but an email obtained by the Daily Mail shows that even Maxwell, who appears in the background of the photo, believes it to be real.

In the message, sent in 2015, Maxwell says: ‘It looks real. I think it is.’

On a dramatic day of developments yesterday, it was claimed that Miss Roberts had lost the original copy of the image.

But that was disputed by her legal team, who said the hard copy was with the FBI and that Miss Roberts misplaced a CD containing a copy of the image.

The photo was set to be a key piece of evidence in her claims for battery and infliction of emotional distress against Andrew, 61, which he had denied.

The duke’s lawyers had lined up an image expert to cast doubt on the veracity of the photo.

If Miss Roberts had not produced the original, Andrew’s team could have argued copies could not be admitted as evidence as they could not be properly tested.

Not being able to rely on the photograph as proof they met would have put a sizeable dint in his accuser’s case.

But in an email exchange seen by the Mail, the picture was discussed by Maxwell and Epstein’s former lawyer, Alan Dershowitz.

On January 10, 2015, Mr Dershowitz wrote: ‘Dear G. Do you know whether the photo of Andrew and virginia is real? You are in the background.’

Eleven minutes later, Maxwell replied: ‘It looks real. I think it is.’

The timing of the exchange is significant because days earlier Miss Roberts claimed for the first time in court papers that she had been forced to have sex with both Andrew and Mr Dershowitz. 

The allegation was struck out by a judge who branded it ‘impertinent’. But it caused panic for Andrew and in emails previously reported by the BBC, he contacted Maxwell at 5.50am on January 3, 2015.

The duke wrote: ‘Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts.’

Maxwell replied: ‘Have some info. Call me when you have a moment.’

Mr Dershowitz has vehemently denied having sex with Miss Roberts.

Last year she dropped a battery allegation she filed against him after he claimed a civil settlement she signed with Epstein in 2009 gave him immunity.

Miss Roberts is currently suing Mr Dershowitz for defamation, a case he is fighting.

His lawyers did not respond to requests asking for comment. 

One other woman, Johanna Sjoberg, was revealed in 2019 to have accused Andrew of sexual misconduct when court papers in a 2015 defamation case involving Mrs Giuffre were unsealed.

She alleged he grabbed her breast in 2001 at the New York home of Epstein – something Buckingham Palace said at the time was ‘categorically untrue’. There has been no indication that she may take legal action against Andrew.

Meanwhile Labour MP Rachael Maskell, who represents York Central, said the Duke of York must withdraw his title to show ‘respect’ for people living in York in light of the settlement, adding that he had caused ‘deep hurt and embarrassment’ to residents of the city.

She said: ‘It is to be welcomed that he has now pledged to support the fight against the evils of sex trafficking and its victims.

‘To demonstrate his seriousness in this endeavour, and his respect for those affected by abuse and the people of our city, I would ask that his first act of contrition is to confirm his support for the withdrawal of his ducal title.’

There will also be fresh light thrown on the issue of the Queen’s Counsellors of State – members of the Royal Family who stand in for her if she is unable to meet her duties as sovereign because she is unwell.

By law, they include the sovereign’s spouse and the next four people in the line of succession who are over the age of 21 – which at the moment means Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Andrew and Prince Harry.

If the Queen falls ill and Charles and William are both out of the country or also ill, these duties would be passed to Andrew or Harry, which would be deeply embarrassing given that both are no longer involved in active royal life. 

The newly-announced agreement contained no restatement of Andrew’s previous denials of having had sex with Mrs Giuffre and the settlement means the prince will not have the chance to disprove her claims in court.

It comes just over a month after another of Epstein’s victims exclusively told the Mail that Mrs Giuffre had admitted to her that she had slept with the prince in London in 2001.

Last night, Mrs Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies said: ‘It’s a really great day. Virginia was thrilled when we told her the terms.

This has all come about over the past couple of days, it’s been quite quick. I am not sure what changed from his side. I thought that this should have been settled when we brought the lawsuit.

‘That’s basically the end of the case. She will get paid the money in 30 days’ time. I cannot comment on the amount or the terms, but it’s a good day.’

Mr Boies had agreed to take on the case pro bono but it is unclear if he will still seek to recoup some of his legal costs from the duke.

A source who is familiar with the case said: ‘Andrew moved so far, so fast from his position of deny, deny, deny. There were a lot of things looming for him.

‘Things were starting to come out and Andrew knew what the case was against him.

‘It’s a princely amount, a very, very substantial amount of money split into two buckets: the settlement itself and the donation.’

Rachel Fiset, a senior partner at law firm Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman who specialises in defending white collar crime cases, suggested the total figure could be even higher than many others predict.

‘A settlement that would cover Andrew’s legal fees to take this case to trial alone, would be well into the millions,’ she said. 

‘When you couple the price of litigation on both sides with the risk of embarrassing facts coming out for Andrew and a potential jury loss relating to the sexual assault of a minor by a Prince, the settlement amount is likely very high. My best guess puts the settlement amount somewhere between 20 and 30 million dollars.’ 

Meanwhile, a royal source said the Prince was guilty of ‘inexcusably bad judgment’ in both his association with Epstein and the way the allegations against him – which first surfaced more than seven years ago – were handled.

Just hours after Prince Andrew left the Royals mired in scandal with a murky £12million settlement with a victim of one of his paedophile friends, the new probe into Prince Charles’s charity was announced. 

Mr Fawcett (pictured) allegedly helped fix a CBE and British citizenship for billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, who donated more than £1.5 million to royal charities

Mr Fawcett (pictured) allegedly helped fix a CBE and British citizenship for billionaire Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, who donated more than £1.5 million to royal charities

Mr Fawcett and Prince Charles have been allies for years and go back decades together in the Royal Family and its traditions

Mr Fawcett and Prince Charles have been allies for years and go back decades together in the Royal Family and its traditions

Duke’s ex-Navy commander joins calls for ‘rogue element’ to never return to life as working royal 

Prince Andrew has been bombarded with demands to quietly retire in private and ‘stay out of the public eye’ after his reputation took an ‘irreparable’ battering from Virginia Giuffre’s rape claims.

The Duke of York was urged to surrender any notions of a royal return and ‘move on’ by friends and former colleagues because he has ‘forever been tainted’ by the dramatic scandal that plunged the monarchy into crisis.

The 61-year-old needs to ‘draw a line under this episode’ and ‘surround himself with better friends’ after making ‘some bad choices’ such as his friendship with paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein, they warned.

Navy top brass were among those calling on Andrew to keep out of the limelight in the wake of the bombshell allegations and settlement with his accuser – and now ‘enjoy essentially what is a very good privileged lifestyle’.

On Newsnight his former Naval Commander Rear Admiral Dr Chris Parry pressed him to ‘remember some of the things that we remember him for, for his earlier days’ before he left military service and the damaging claims against him emerged.

Meanwhile royal experts said there will be no ‘return to the fold’ for the embattled Duke – who was stripped of all his military roles and patronages earlier this year – and he should ‘disappear for a year’.

The commentators said they were sure Prince Charles will ram home the importance of ‘keeping a very low profile’ until the furore over the New York court saga dies down.

The Met’s ‘cash for honours’ investigation – looking how a Saudi billionaire donor got a knighthood and UK citizenship – is sure to heap further embarrassment onto the Firm.

Charles, who had urged Andrew to settle with Virginia Giuffre for the sake of the family, is certain to be involved in the probe, which is also looking into his former aide Michael Fawcett.

Clarence House has already said he would assist, but the worry will be exactly what details Fawcett, for years a trusted ally, could disclose under pressure. They have denied Charles knew anything about the allegations being investigated.

A source told MailOnline the police had not contacted the prince or his household in making their assessment to start an investigation. 

Fawcett stepped down in October amid claims he promised to help secure a CBE and British citizenship for Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz – a donor to the Prince’s Foundation. 

It was alleged that he paid thousands of pounds to ‘fixers’ with links to the prince who said they could secure him an honour in return for donations.

The criminal investigation piles more pressure onto the Queen on what should have been one of the proudest years of her reign.

Now after a Met special advisory team has assessed documents the force has launched an investigation into the Fawcett allegations of offences under the Honours Act.

It said it had acted after receiving letters in September – one believed to be from former Lib Dem MP Norman Baker – urging them to look into the claims. 

Another from anti-monarchy pressure group Republic also reported both the future king and Mr Fawcett on suspicion of breaching the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925. 

Clarence House today stressed Charles had ‘no knowledge’ on allegations of offers of honours ‘on the basis of donation to his charities’.

The Prince’s spokespeople have previously said he would ‘of course’ be willing to assist any enquiry from the authorities. 

A Met statement said: ‘The decision follows an assessment of a September 2021 letter. This related to media reporting alleging offers of help were made to secure honours and citizenship for a Saudi national.

‘The Special Enquiry Team has conducted the assessment process which has included contacting those believed to hold relevant information.

‘Officers liaised with The Prince’s Foundation about the findings of an independent investigation into fundraising practices. The Foundation provided a number of relevant documents.

‘These documents were reviewed alongside existing information. The assessment determined an investigation will commence. There have been no arrests or interviews under caution.’

A probe last year concluded that Mr Fawcett did co-ordinate with ‘fixers’ over honours nominations for Mahfouz, who has donated more than £1.5 million to royal charities.

The Prince of Wales, 73, has insisted he had ‘no knowledge’ of the alleged deal, but he could still prove to be a vital witness, as he held private meetings with Dr Mahfouz at the British embassy in Saudi Arabia, in London and Scotland. 

Michael Fawcett, for years a trusted ally of Prince Charles (pictured together in 2019) and former chief executive, resigned as chief executive of the Prince's Foundation earlier this month

Michael Fawcett, for years a trusted ally of Prince Charles (pictured together in 2019) and former chief executive, resigned as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation earlier this month

A probe concluded that Mr Fawcett (pictured) did co-ordinate with 'fixers' over honours nominations for Mahfouz, who has donated more than £1.5 million to royal charities

A probe concluded that Mr Fawcett (pictured) did co-ordinate with ‘fixers’ over honours nominations for Mahfouz, who has donated more than £1.5 million to royal charities 

The letters from Republic and a former MP Norman Baker reported Charles and Fawcett on suspicion of Honours Act breach

The letters from Republic and a former MP Norman Baker reported Charles and Fawcett on suspicion of Honours Act breach

The key dates and paper trail linking Michael Fawcett to Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz

April 2013 –  

Documents have shown a private exchange in which paid fixers for Dr Mahfouz state it is time to ‘discover the protocol’ for being awarded an MBE. They add that the Saudi billionaire also seeks British citizenship.

May –  

The fixers introduce Dr Mahfouz to Ashe Windham, a former member of Charles’ household and then chairman of the trustees at one of his Scottish residences, who tentatively asks for a donation.

July –  

Dr Mahfouz donates £20,000 to the Castle of Mey. Mr Windham is then praised by Dr Mahfouz’s fixers for ‘brilliantly organising’ a private trip to the residence in October.

Having initially said he would be unable to organise a meeting between the Saudi and Prince Charles, Mr Windham changes tack following a lunch with Mr Fawcett and one of the fixers.

A subsequent letter from Mr Windham to Dr Mahfouz says Prince Charles ‘would like to find an opportunity to thank you in person’ if he goes ahead with ‘further support’.

January 2014 – 

A fixer asks another ‘what is happening and when?’ in reference to the OBE.

One of the fixers then writes to say the application process will begin imminently, before they receive confirmation of a meeting between Dr Mahfouz and Charles scheduled at Clarence House for March.

March 27 –   

The meeting goes ahead as planned, with a letter showing one of Dr Mahfouz’s fixers saying their friendship will ‘lead to further very special personal and individual honours’.

Dr Mahfouz also agrees to donate £1m to Dumfries House two weeks later, with Charles pledging to rename restored gardens at the residence as the Mahfouz Gardens.

April 25 –  

A letter written by Mr Fawcett to a fixer states Prince Charles backs Dr Mahfouz’s application for citizenship ‘100 per cent’.  Charles’ ally also writes to say the prince will thank him personally for his ‘generous gifts’. 

June –  

Mahfouz donates £700,000 to Dumfries House. 

Preparations then begin for a secret meeting at Clarence House between Mr Fawcett and Dr Mahfouz’s fixers. 

July –  

Mr Fawcett says he will ‘contact the British ambassador’ and note the important points that need to be made supporting the application for an OBE. 

A fixer also writes ahead of the meeting that the OBE is ‘the first item on the agenda’.

September 5 –  

The meeting takes place, with minutes showing Mr Fawcett agreeing to supervise the application, rather than being the main nominator’.

13 –  

A fixer says Dame Lynne Bradley is ‘delighted to assist in any way’, though Charles’ aides want to see a draft before the letter of recommendation is sent to ensure it is ‘tickety-boo’. 

24 –  

The letter is finalised and Dame Lynne is instructed to address it to the British ambassador in Riyadh. Mr Fawcett receives the letter the next week with a supporting statement from Mr Windham.

October 20 –  

Dr Mahfouz stays overnight at Dumfries House, before Mr Fawcett writes to thank him for his ‘very lovely gift’ that was ‘totally unnecessary’.

February 2015 –  

A fixer writes to Mr Windham that Charles has agreed to see Dr Mahfouz at the British embassy during a tour to the Middle East the next week. 

9 – 

Richard Wildash, the deputy head of mission in Riyadh, writes to Mr Windham providing advice on where to direct the application – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall.

10 –  

The pair meet. 

March 9 –  

Dame Lynne resubmits Dr Mahfouz’s nomination to the FCO. 

November 23, 2016 – 

Dr Mahfouz is finally awarded the CBE in a private investiture at Clarence House.  

Clarence House has previously said Charles would ‘of course’ be willing to assist Scotland Yard detectives if asked to do so.

Dr Mahfouz received his CBE during a private ceremony at Clarence House in 2016. 

A probe into fundraising practices was ordered by the Prince’s Foundation and carried out independently by auditing firm Ernst & Young.

Its conclusion found that Mr Fawcett co-ordinated with ‘fixers’ over honours nominations for a Saudi billionaire donor to the foundation.

Mr Fawcett was also involved in directing money from the donor’s foundation to another charity of which Charles was patron, it was revealed. 

Last year Dame Sue Bruce, chair of the Prince’s Foundation, described the recent crises surrounding the future king’s charitable organisation as a ‘difficult chapter’, but said ‘lessons will be learned’ to ensure the charity acts with the ‘utmost integrity and probity’. 

A letter also emerged, written by Mr Fawcett to Dr Mahfouz in 2017, in which he said the Prince’s Foundation would be ‘happy and willing’ to use its influence to help him.

The bombshell note, written on August 18, 2017, to Busief Lamlum, an aide to Dr Bin Mahfouz, says: ‘In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency… I am happy to confirm to you, in confidence, that we are willing and happy to support and contribute to the application for Citizenship.

‘I can further confirm that we are willing to make [an] application to increase His Excellency’s honour from Honorary CBE to that of KBE in accordance with Her Majesty’s Honours Committee.’

The sheikh received the honorary CBE, for services to charity, from Prince Charles in a private Buckingham Palace ceremony in 2016.

In the damning letter to Mr Lamlum obtained by the MoS Mr Fawcett makes no effort to disguise that support for the knighthood and citizenship application depends on Dr Bin Mahfouz’s financial support.

Writing on headed notepaper in his then capacity as chief executive of the Dumfries House Trust, he said: ‘Both of these applications will be made in response to the most recent and anticipated support [of] The Trust, and in connection with his ongoing commitment generally within the United Kingdom.

‘I hope that this confirmation is sufficient in allowing us to go forward.’

Mr Fawcett was Charles’s most indispensable aide over the decades, with the prince once saying: ‘I can manage without just about anyone, except for Michael.’

The former royal valet quit twice before, including in 2003 when, as Charles’s personal assistant, he was accused and cleared by an inquiry of selling royal gifts, but was revealed to have accepted valuable gifts from outsiders. 

Ex-Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has previously written to the Metropolitan Police asking them to launch a criminal investigation into the cash for honours claims. 

Dame Cressida Dick said the Metropolitan Police had made ‘initial inquiries’ after receiving a letter regarding Michael Fawcett, who resigned as the Prince’s Foundation’s chief executive after a string of allegations. 

Asked for an update during an LBC radio phone-in on Friday, Dame Cressida said: ‘We have received a letter, as you say, we have been making some initial inquiries.

‘We have not launched an investigation.

‘If people out there have further material for us we will of course look at that, if there’s further evidence.

‘But at this stage, having considered the letter, made some initial inquiries and examined relevant legislation, some of which is in 1925 and some of which is the new bribery act, we have not launched an investigation.’ 

Clarence House today referred to a previous statement on the matter.

It read: ‘The Prince of Wales had no knowledge of the alleged offer of honours or British citizenship on the basis of donation to his charities.’

A spokesperson for The Prince’s Foundation said: ‘It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.’ 

In December Fawcett left roles at four more businesses associated with the future King.

Accounts registered with Companies House show that Mr Fawcett, who resigned as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation in November, has stepped down from businesses linked to Dumfries House, the Palladian mansion in Ayrshire bought by Charles in 2007.

As well as quitting Dumfries House Trust Trading Limited and Dumfries House Home Farm Ltd, he has left Dumfries Farming & Land, which bought land at Knockroon to help fund the £20 million purchase of nearby Dumfries House as a gift to the nation. 

Mr Fawcett has also stepped back from his role as ‘events manager’ at A G Carrick, the retail arm of Highgrove, which is named after the pseudonym which Charles uses on his watercolour paintings. 

The Duke of York was stripped of his honorary military roles by his mother last month. But his royal replacements in eight British regiments – including the prestigious post of Colonel of the Grenadier Guards – have yet to be announced.

Questions are also being raised over his service rank of Vice Admiral, but Buckingham Palace confirmed the situation has not changed and that the duke retains the rank.

As a former royal member of the armed forces who served in the Royal Navy, he was by convention promoted in line with his still-serving peers and made Vice Admiral by the Navy on his 55th birthday in 2015.

Other publicly unresolved issues surrounding the monarchy and the armed forces include the Duke of Sussex’s former military titles.

Harry’s previous roles – Captain General of the Royal Marines, Honorary Air Force Commandant of the Royal Air Force Base Honington and Honorary Commodore-in-Chief of the Royal Naval Commands’ Small Ships and Diving – have yet to be officially announced as having been passed on to other members of the family.

The Defence Services Secretary is on a three-year rotation.

The last time a new holder took on the appointment in 2019, the Queen held an audience with the incoming secretary, Rear Admiral Macleod, and the outgoing Air Vice-Marshal Garry Tunnicliffe.

But six days later, Andrew, in his role as Vice Admiral, received both of the military men at Buckingham Palace, in an official engagement recorded in the Court Circular in April 2019.

There will be no such audience in the wake of the Queen’s meeting. The duke, who no longer uses his HRH style, does not carry out public duties, having been cast adrift from the monarchy as a result of the lawsuit.  

It comes after Camilla, 74, on Monday tested positive for Covid days after Charles. Clarence House confirmed she had caught the virus for the first time – four days after the Prince of Wales tested positive for the second time. 

The pair had carried out a series of official visits last week, with the duchess going to a sexual assault referral centre and community kitchen in London. She also attended a British Museum event with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Concerns for the Queen first arose after it emerged she had been in direct contact with Charles two days before he tested positive on Thursday of last week.

Aides at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House declined this week to give a ‘running commentary’ on the health of the Queen and the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

They did not reveal whether Charles and Camilla were isolating together on Valentine’s Day.

The Duchess of Cornwall is triple-vaccinated and initially tested negative when her husband – also triple-vaccinated – received a positive result on a routine lateral flow test prior to a statue unveiling in Winchester to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. He is not understood to have been showing any symptoms. 

After receiving the news, Camilla said she had ‘luckily’ returned a negative test and continued with a series of public engagements while Charles was forced to self-isolate.

Speaking during a visit to Thames Valley Partnership in Buckinghamshire later that day, the duchess said of her testing regime: ‘I’ve taken it so many times.’

But there remained fears over the health of the Queen after she was visited by Charles at Windsor last Tuesday when he carried out an investiture on her behalf. It was the first time he had seen her since Christmas Day. 

A source last week said the Queen was not displaying any symptoms following Charles’ positive result but added that their meeting was ‘recently enough to be relevant.’ 

Charles and Camilla spent the evening together on Wednesday at a British Asian Trust event where they were photographed mask-free alongside Mr Sunak and Miss Patel. Charles, 73, tested positive the following morning.

The Duchess of Cornwall continued with her programme of engagements towards the end of last week, sporting a mask when she visited community kitchen the Nourish Hub, in west London, on Thursday afternoon.

There, she spoke for the first time in public since the announcement that she will become Queen Consort when Charles accedes to the throne. Asked how she felt about it, Camilla said she was ‘honoured and very touched.’

Camilla also wore a mask for some of her visit to Paddington Haven, a sexual assault referral centre in west London, the same day.

According to government guidelines, when Charles tested positive, Camilla was not required to self-isolate because she was fully-vaccinated.

Organisations visited by Camilla and those in attendance were informed of her positive result and the charities have been contacting any people who were in close contact.

The Queen’s last official engagement before yesterday was with the Prime Minister on Wednesday evening of last week. No further engagements had been planned over the weekend.

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