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The not so Grand Duke of York

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, must be grateful that the partying proclivities of Boris Johnson have taken the heat off him for now. But the respite will be brief. Prince Andrew is the highest profile piece of collateral damage in the Epstein-Maxwell sex trafficking scandal, shining an increasingly unforgiving light on the Royal Family, Britain’s class system and the abuse of privilege in our society.

Embroiled in allegations of sexual assault by Virginia Giuffre (née Roberts), the Duke is at the centre of a civil lawsuit in the US. Having a man accused of sexual assault sheltered comfortably within the walls of Royal residences makes the British monarchy look seedy and decadent. 

Although Andrew has not been convicted of any criminal offences, some additional titles he now holds include ‘friend of deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’ and ‘close acquaintance of convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell’. That he was, at one time, friends with them is clear. That he is a stranger to our norms of accountability is more open to argument. 

The Duke’s lawyers in Ms. Giuffre’s lawsuit against him recently tried to get the case thrown out of court, due to a 2009 written agreement between Epstein and Giuffre. This detailed how Epstein exchanged $500,000 for an assurance that “second parties […] are released from all, and all manner of, action and actions of Virginia Roberts.”

Andrew and his lawyers obviously saw the agreement as a lifeboat from Epstein, tossed to Andrew from beyond the grave in a last-ditch effort to discredit Ms. Giuffre’s accusations. Unfortunately for the Prince, Judge Lewis Kaplan dismissed their argument. Prince Andrew’s willingness to use that kind of agreement as a means of evading further scrutiny was not a good look.

In response to this, Andrew has been stripped of honorary titles and HRH status. Although this is a blow for Andrew, he remains in luxury, and he is still ninth in line to the throne. It feels as if the stripping of his titles is a stepping stone to larger consequences (pending the outcome of Ms. Giuffre’s lawsuit) and the Prince will undoubtedly be sweating (if able) as he awaits what this year brings.

Prince Andrew is already living in a gilded cage, but if the lawsuit proceeds, he will either face a torrent of embarrassing allegations, or a damaging financial settlement with Ms Giuffre to halt the proceedings. Whatever the verdict, it feels increasingly untenable and insulting to the British taxpayers to allow him to keep his position.

Giuffre alleges that the Prince sexually assaulted her on three occasions, as a part of her ordeal at the heart of Epstein and Maxwell’s sex trafficking ring of underage girls. Andrew vehemently denies the allegations, claiming that his only guilt lies in his friendship and associations with Epstein. He has not helped himself with the manner of his defence. He admitted he “let the side down, simple as that” in his 2019 interview. Unfortunately, this is not good enough.

When accused of sexual assault against a minor, it is surely inconceivable – even for a Prince – to think that “I couldn’t sweat” and “I let the side down” is going to solve all your problems. Sorry, Andrew –the privilege party is over.

Photo via Flickr