THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
You could hear Buckingham Palace groan on Monday. Finally, after the two-decade long saga of the royal family's entanglement with underage-sex pervert Jeffrey Epstein, a law suit had landed directly at its front gate. At 2pm the lawyers of Cairns-based Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre (née Roberts) sued Prince Andrew in New York, days before the time-limit reprieve of the New York State's Child Victims Act 2018. Landing a punch on the reputation of the prince she claimed in her court papers that Andrew forced her "to engage in sex acts against her will". Not only that, her court papers refer to her as a "child" as she was under the age of eighteen at the time.
In the long history of the monarchy this sets a black precedent. How could Buckingham Palace, an institution with over a millennium of PR experience have let it come this far? Only Bertie, the future Edward VII and Andrew's great-great-great grandfather, had ever come close to being cited legally in a sex case. The scandal was narrowly avoided when, instead of being called as the co-respondent in a divorce, he was merely asked to give evidence as a witness when a disgusted husband sued his wife, who was Bertie's lover, for dissolution of their marriage.
Over two decades, Buckingham Palace has got everything wrong they could have done wrong. The alarm bells should have first gone off when Andrew, together with Ghislaine Maxwell, flew from Luton to Edinburgh on Epstein's private jet. Weeks earlier, the billionaire had been arrested on charges of underage-sex activities in June 2006. Nothing happened. Worse, still. Epstein was allowed to visit Windsor Castle, the Queen's home, as Andrew's guest for Princess Beatrice's 18th birthday bash on 19 July that year. Ghislaine and Harvey Weinstein were his other invitees. It was followed by a four-day Christmas visit to Epstein's New York mansion, shortly after Epstein's prison-term ended in 2010, to watch a private release of the blockbuster film The King's Speech.
Andrew has always strenuously denied any wrong-doing, not least in his 2019 BBC interview on the matter, another clumsy shot in the foot so daft that it almost seemed intentional. Courtiers should always have known that royalty and criminals do not mix. Now, with a second victim poised to sue the Prince under the statute before the 13 August deadline, the pigeons have come home to roost. The optics are now even worse. The palace itself is in the dock, too.
This is hardly the end of the legal headache the Prince is causing for the palace. Rather it is likely to be the beginning of a long and extended chapter. The Prince is already an official part of the broad-based FBI investigation into Epstein. Both then-President Trump and his Attorney General Barr endorsed a request to the United Kingdom for legal assistance in interviewing the prince. This piece of heavy legal equipment is usually reserved for witnesses in terrorist and drug-smuggling cases. To apply it to a royal is a first in the USA since the War of Independence. The pressure on Boris Johnson's government to yield is mounting in the UK. Should the prince refuse to cooperate he will never be able to enter the USA again without risking arrest as a material witness.
Little known, but deeply worrying to the palace given the ever-increasing outcry in Britain about the Prince, is the fact that Scotland Yard has an investigation against the prince into what happened in March 2001. In 2015, Virginia Giuffre lodged a formal complaint of being sex-trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell to London for the sexual gratification of Andrew. Maxwell still owned the property and police were going to forensically exam it. Giuffre recalled, however, in 2021 ‘next thing I hear, just like the FBI, they were not allowed to pursue the investigation'. That is likely to change as the law suits progress through the courts and Buckingham Palace may have to give up its records and video tapes relating to the date of Giuffre's London visit.
Even now, the Palace seems not to have learned its lesson. Prince Andrew is still a senior royal with his HRH title intact. One way of dialling down the heat would have been for the prince to retire completely from all royal duties and to hand back his HRH title. The palace should have done so already in 2011 when the Prince lost his unpaid position as Britain's Trade Envoy. Instead, the Palace gave him a frontline position alongside his brother, the heir to the throne, Prince Charles.
The Habsburgs never forgot and never learned. The Windsors seem not far off.