STEPHEN GLOVER: Legal tricks won’t wash any more. Prince Andrew is jeopardising the monarchy
Can Prince Andrew save himself? Or are his reputation and good name about to be dragged further into the gutter, damaging not only him but the monarchy as well?
No one can yet answer these questions definitively because no one other than Prince Andrew and a handful of people know whether he is wholly innocent of allegations made by Virginia Giuffre (formerly Roberts) that he sexually abused her in London and New York and on a Caribbean island in 2001 when she was 17.
If he is blameless, as he vehemently insists that he is, it is obviously in his interests and those of the Royal Family for him to strain every sinew to convince the world of his innocence. This he has so far not done.
The spotlight is shining much more powerfully on Prince Andrew writes STEPHEN GLOVER
Until this week the prince had just about got away with a combination of stone-walling, evasion and obfuscation, though at enormous cost to his credibility. The conviction of his friend Ghislaine Maxwell as a child sex trafficker demands an entirely new approach on his part. Things have suddenly got an awful lot worse for him.
The spotlight is shining much more powerfully on Andrew partly because we now know that the woman whom he invited to Balmoral, Windsor Castle and Sandringham is both depraved and wicked.
So that famous photograph of a smiling Prince Andrew with his arm wrapped around the bare midriff of Virginia Giuffre, as Ghislaine Maxwell beams in the background inside her house, inevitably takes on a deeper significance.
What exactly happened that night? What on earth was the 41-year-old prince doing with his arm around a 17-year-old girl who was part of a sex trafficking ring of underage girls nurtured by Maxwell for her friend, the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein?
The infamous photo of Virginia Roberts, Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell was taken at Maxwell’s home in Belgravia
Prince Andrew pictured during his interview with BBC’s Newsnight in 2019
Virginia Roberts’ statement on Maxwell verdict
My soul yearned for justice for years and today the jury gave me just that. I will remember this day always.
Having lived with the horrors of Maxwell’s abuse, my heart goes out to the many other girls and young women who suffered at her hands and whose lives she destroyed.
I hope that today is not the end but rather another step in justice being served. Maxwell did not act alone. Others must be held accountable. I have faith that they will be.
The spotlight also homes in on Andrew because the allegations of Maxwell’s and Epstein’s victims have now been believed and upheld by a jury, though Virginia Giuffre herself was not called as a witness during the trial.
Can the prince seriously believe that his previous policy of bobbing and weaving – he told BBC’s Newsnight in a disastrous interview in 2019 that he couldn’t even remember meeting Giuffre – is remotely sustainable following Maxwell’s conviction?
Just look at the way he and his lawyers have conducted themselves over recent months. Andrew was accused of trying to ‘dodge, duck, run and hide’ in his mother’s palaces to avoid legal papers being served on him after Virginia Giuffre filed a lawsuit against him. He should have accepted them like a man.
His aggressive US attorney, Andrew Brettler, attempted to argue simultaneously that Giuffre’s claims were ‘baseless and potentially unlawful’ whilst also saying that the court papers had not been properly served. Judge Lewis Kaplan reasonably responded: ‘Let’s cut out all the technicalities and get to the substance.’
In October, the prince’s lawyers changed tack by branding Giuffre as a ‘money-hungry sex kitten’ who had ‘initiated this baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday’.
Their latest swerve was to suggest earlier this week that Virginia Giuffre was pretending to be a US citizen but lives in Australia, and therefore the American court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case. The judge will consider the arguments on Tuesday.
Whether in relation to Giuffre’s lawsuit, or to other charges that may lie along the road in the wake of Maxwell’s conviction, Prince Andrew is going to have to stand and defend himself. If he declines to do so, the world will increasingly conclude that he is guilty – with possibly calamitous consequences for the monarchy.
The prince has hitherto conducted himself as though the accusations against him are entirely his business. He apparently believes that if he wishes to give an interview and shoot himself in the foot, or duck court papers, or unleash attack-dog lawyers who use abusive language, it is only a matter for him.
Prince Andrew strongly denies Ms Giuffre’s (pictured at court in New York on August 27, 2019) allegations that he slept with her after she claimed to have been trafficked to him
Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell sits as the guilty verdict in her sex abuse trial is read in a courtroom sketch in New York City on Wednesday
It’s not, of course. Andrew’s reputation is on the line, and he has so far managed to guard it in a spectacularly clod-hopping way. But there is something infinitely more important at stake – the position of Her Majesty the Queen as she approaches the 70th anniversary of the start of her reign.
If the entitled and haughty prince continues to give the impression that he believes there is one set of laws governing the behaviour of people like him, and another for the rest of us, the monarchy is certain to suffer lasting damage.
That is why he must not go on running the show in such an incompetent and haphazard fashion. He should give a proper account of himself, and attempt to explain his close relationship with the child trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, and with the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein who killed himself in a jail cell.
An innocent man should have nothing to fear from the law. The prince has every right to insist on a fair hearing, but once that right has been granted, evading very serious charges becomes shaming, contemptible and destructive.
He is a foolish man who kept bad company, and is accused of doing bad things. Few people give a fig for him, but millions of us cherish the monarchy. Prince Andrew must not be allowed to bring it to ruin.