King Charles has a problem: Prince Andrew doesn’t want to withdraw from public life
The brother of the British monarch is threatening to revive his legal battle against Virginia Giuffre, who accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was a minor
Monarchies tend to solve family problems with distance or ostracism. But these options are of no use to Britain’s King Charles III when it comes to solving the main problem he inherited from Queen Elizabeth: what to do with his brother Prince Andrew?
It appeared that his late mother had addressed the issue. In 2019, after Prince Andrew’s disastrous interview with the BBC in which he unsuccessfully tried to distance himself from his friend, notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the Queen removed the Duke of York from all royal duties. Three years later, in January 2022, Buckingham Palace took further action by stripping the prince of his military titles and royal patronages. The goal was to prevent his then-pending trial for sexual abuse from casting the slightest shadow on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Meanwhile, then-Prince Charles was given more and more freedom to bring order to a royal household that he would soon have to run directly. But Queen Elizabeth reserved the right to act as a mother and allowed Prince Andrew, 62, to reappear on her arm on solemn public occasions – he accompanied her into Westminster Abbey at the funeral held a year after the death of Philip of Edinburgh. It’s also not clear to what extent the Queen helped pay the €14 million out-of-court settlement to stop Virginia Giuffre – who said she was trafficked by Epstein and his partner Ghislaine Maxwell and forced to have sex with the prince when she was 17 – from taking her case to trial.
Prince Andrew has always maintained his innocence, and the settlement does not admit to any of the allegations. But for the public, the agreement was an implicit admission of guilt and marked the end of Prince Andrew’s public life. In theory, the settlement stops Giuffre from making allegations about the Duke of York. Despite this, the 39-year-old has announced that she plans to write a memoir, which will address the prince’s alleged sexual abuse.
In response, Prince Andrew has hired two prestigious Los Angeles lawyers, Andrew Brettler and Blair Berk, and is threatening to file a lawsuit against Giuffre if she revives the sexual assault allegations in her book. While this could be interpreted as just a defense reaction, it is clear that it is part of Prince Andrew’s attempt to restore his image and return to public life. According to sources who spoke to British tabloid the Daily Mail, such a lawsuit would hold Giuffre’s accusations up to public scrutiny for the first time. This is exactly the publicity that the multi-million-dollar agreement had sought to avoid.
But Prince Andrew feels bolstered by the fact that Giuffre recently withdrew a lawsuit against US lawyer Alan Dershowitz for calling her a liar over her claims that she had been forced to have sex with him. In a statement in November, Giuffre admitted she “may have made a mistake” by accusing the lawyer, who was also friends with Epstein.
“I have never understood why he accepted the settlement. There were many, many good defenses he could have raised,” Dershowitz told The Daily Telegraph. “He should pursue every legal remedy and the media should investigate thoroughly all of the allegations because this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
In January, Epstein’s ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, 61, also maintained Prince Andrew’s innocence – as well as her own – in a telephone interview from prison, where she is serving a 20-year sentence for helping Epstein abuse young girls.
The infamous photo of Prince Andrew grabbing Giuffre by the waist was taken at Maxwell’s London apartment. But in the interview with Jeremy Kyle on TalkTV, Maxwell said she was “sure” the photo wasn’t real. “I don’t believe it’s real for a second, in fact I’m sure it’s not,” she said. “There’s never been an original and further there’s no photograph, and I’ve only ever seen a photocopy of it.”
These allegations have been denied by Michael Thomas, the Mail On Sunday photographer, who has come forward to share that he copied the original image. “For Ghislaine Maxwell to come out and say it was fake is ridiculous,” he told the Mail on Sunday, which was the first outlet to see the image. He added that the photograph also had a stamp that reads “000 #15 13Mar01 Walgreens One Hour Photo.”
“The 000 number would be the order number, presumably because it was their first order that particular day. And the #15 is the negative number – it was the 15th picture in the film roll,” explained Thomas. “When they say it’s fake, they are saying that I’m involved. They are basically accusing someone of faking it and me being party to it. It’s not fake – and it never has been.”
And in late January, Ghislaine Maxwell’s brother, Ian Maxwell, 66, released a photo that supposedly debunked Giuffre’s claims that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew in the bath of the London apartment. In her unpublished memoir, The Billionaire’s Playboy Club – which Giuffre admitted was partly fictionalized – she wrote about entering the bath: “We kissed and touched each other before submersing into the hot water… he was adoring my young body, particularly my feet, caressing my toes and licking my arches.”
For the image, Ian Maxwell recruited two friends to sit in the bathtub, fully clothed, wearing makeshift masks with the faces of Giuffre and Prince Andrew. The idea was to show that the bath was too small for the alleged sex crimes to have taken place, but was mocked by the British public and commentators.
Meanwhile, King Charles continues to erase Prince Andrew from the official image of the royal family with withering efficiency. In November, the monarch appointed his siblings, Prince Edward and Princess Anne, to act as his two new counselors of the state – a group that also includes Camilla, the Queen Consort, and the Prince and Princess of Wales. This means Prince Edward and Princess Anne will be able to stand in for King Charles when he is unwell or unable to attend to his official duties, practically eliminating the risk of Prince Andrew (or Prince Harry) of being called upon as substitute.
And in the latest blow, Prince Andrew has been informed that he will no longer have an office or residence in Buckingham Palace, as it is about to undergo a 10-year, $400 million renovation. He will, however, be allowed to have rooms at the nearby St. James’s Palace.
It remains to be seen whether Charles III will allow his ill-fated brother to attend his coronation ceremony on May 6 at Westminster Abbey. Not inviting the prince would finalize his slow process of public withdrawal, and seating him in a discrete spot would also send a clear message to the BBC cameras, and prevent the duke from casting a shadow on the moment Charles has been waiting 70 years for.
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