Prince Andrew has no good options

28 September 2021

8:05 AM

28 September 2021

8:05 AM

It’s not a good look, aged 61, to be hiding behind your mother. The ninth in line to the throne joined the Queen at Balmoral, making it difficult for papers to be served in the Virginia Giuffre civil case. The Aberdeenshire estate may cover 50,000 acres, but it hasn’t provided refuge — a state of being that has eluded Andrew for the past six years.

The Queen’s favourite son (and one of her blind spots) has a damaged reputation that continues to be pummelled remorselessly. It’s a process that has produced — on his part — one flawed strategy after another, from the disastrous Newsnight interview to trying to prove that as a prince he could run and he could hide.

He couldn’t, and he has officially received the court papers relating to the sexual assault lawsuit. Andrew’s legal team will now make one last attempt to stop this case in its tracks. His American lawyer, Andrew Brettler (who has defended several Hollywood actors accused of sexual misconduct) will attempt to argue that a previously secret settlement between Virginia Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein exempts the prince from any liability. Her lawyers insist the settlement is ‘irrelevant’ to Andrew’s case.

If they’re wrong, the prince will gain the respite he craves. If they’re right, the senior royal and the British monarchy enter perilous territory, as Andrew considers how best to respond to this claim for damages.

Virginia Giuffre alleges she was brought, aged 17, to the UK to have sex with Andrew. A victim of sex trafficking and controlled by Epstein, the sex offender, she maintains she was sexually abused by the prince on two more occasions. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Andrew’s options include walking away from the process, even at this late stage, and leaving the court to decide in his absence; settling out of court; or contesting the case.

There is no good option for Prince Andrew.

If recent briefings to newspapers are correct, then his lawyers are minded to come out fighting and provide a point by point rebuttal. Such a muscular approach is fraught with risks. The Newsnight defence of a prince who doesn’t sweat, was at a Woking Pizza Express on a key day and who has no memory of ever meeting Virginia Giuffre looks incomplete when viewed through the lens of a court of law.

Virginia Giuffre’s lawyers will want much more detail and that’s where the devil will be. For example, they will want flight logs to establish princely movements and they will strive to paint a picture of a convicted sex offender and a son of the Queen who were close. Several of Andrew’s Newsnight utterances will come back to haunt him, not least his description of Epstein’s actions as ‘unbecoming’.

And senior Windsors will be on bended knee, each night, praying that contesting the case doesn’t include putting Andrew on the stand — to give evidence in person.

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