Prince Andrew settles. What next?

16 February 2022

5:00 AM

16 February 2022

5:00 AM

In some ways, the news is a disappointment. Prince Andrew’s decision to settle the civil case filed against him by Virginia Giuffre has likely deprived the public of weeks of damaging revelations. After much lawyer-led bravado about how the Duke of York was going to fight the scandalous and defamatory claims against him, he has now decided not to. This can only be seen as a terminal blow to what little remains of his public reputation.

The statement released by the lawyers suggests that Giuffre will be receiving an undisclosed financial settlement and that Prince Andrew will be making ‘a substantial donation to Ms Giuffre’s charity in support of victim’s rights’. The tone of the statement contains numerous lines that are almost jaw-dropping when viewed in the context of earlier comments that the Duke of York’s lawyers have made — for example, about Giuffre’s lack of reliability as a witness. Compare with the statement, released on Tuesday afternoon:

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… Prince Andrew regrets his association with Epstein and commends the bravery of Ms Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others.

The statement concludes that the Duke ‘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.’ It does not end with the words ‘Prince Andrew otherwise intends to retire into private life’, but it may have done.

The writing has been on the wall for some considerable time, most notably when a 42-word statement from Buckingham Palace was released on 13 January announcing that Prince Andrew would be returning his royal patronages and would be fighting the case as a private citizen.

It was thought that, despite everything, the Duke of York was still keen to clear his name in court and to return to at least some version of his previous public standing; it was suggested that the Queen had made it clear that the only way he could do so would be by a full exoneration of Giuffre’s allegations. While he has not admitted any liability in the settlement, some may now see a tacit confession of wrongdoing. In the eyes of many, his humiliation and downfall are complete.

The reason for this volte-face will be keenly speculated upon — was the weight of evidence against him, especially material found in the discovery process, too great? Or did Buckingham Palace, fearing further embarrassment overshadowing the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, simply step up and order that the whole sorry farrago be brought to a conclusion?

Given that the Duke’s famously opaque finances are believed to rely on considerable subsidy from his mother, it is inconceivable that this settlement — which presumably will amount to a substantial seven-figure sum in total, if not more — was not agreed upon at the highest level.

But either way, it is likely that many more people will now suspect Prince Andrew’s guilt while the whole affair has caused enormous reputational damage to the royal family. The only question now is if this is the end of the matter or whether criminal charges may yet be brought, in which case the whole affair will drag on inexorably.

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