I’m going to forego the Biweekly Royal Roundup and get right to the heart of the biggest royal story right now: Prince Andrew’s legal and PR troubles.
Earlier this month, Virginia Guiffre, formerly Virgina Roberts, sued Prince Andrew in the New York judicial system. The lawsuit relates to the multiple instances of sexual assault and abuse that Prince Andrew allegedly committed against Guiffre when she was under the age of 18 in the early 2000s. The sexual assaults and abuse of Guiffre by Prince Andrew were allegedly facilitated and coordinated by convicted sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein accused sexual assaulter Ghislaine Maxwell. Prince Andrew is a longtime friend of Maxwell, who is currently facing numerous criminal charges and awaiting trial in a New York jail cell. Here is a picture on one of the nights when Guiffre was allegedly sexually assaulted by Prince Andrew in Ghislaine Maxwell’s London apartment:
It is strategic that Guiffre filed a civil rather than criminal complaint against Prince Andrew. Basically it means that Prince Andrew cannot be found criminally guilty of the charges laid out against him, but he can be found liable and have to pay millions of dollars to Guiffre if her legal team emerges victorious. Per the legal filing, damages are being requested by Guiffre because “Prince Andrew committed sexual assault and battery upon Plaintiff when she was 17 years old.” As such, the suit alleges, “Prince Andrew is responsible for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress pursuant to New York common law.”
Additionally, although this is not a criminal legal matter in New York, any depositions taken of related parties, including Prince Andrew, could be used in future criminal proceedings elsewhere (like the United Kingdom). As a prince of the United Kingdom who is all but ensured diplomatic immunity in criminal matters, here is basically no chance that Prince Andrew could be arrested in the UK on criminal charges. There is also basically no chance that he would ever be extradited to the US to face criminal charges, as it would be too much of a detriment to US-UK diplomatic relations, so a civil lawsuit is the best option for Guiffre to 1) ensure that Prince Andrew is dealt with in some form of legal fashion and in at least one jurisdiction; 2) provide the best opportunity for Prince Andrew to maybe be deposed and speak on the record about the specific instances of Guiffre’s alleged assault; and 3) possibly be awarded a substantial sum of money if either Prince Andrew is found liable, OR if Prince Andrew is found liable by default by refusing to give any testimony under oath. Guiffre could walk away with millions, possibly tens of millions of dollars if this lawsuit is decided in her favour.
Finally, maybe the best reason for Guiffre to file a civil suit right now is 4) that it will continue to shatter any semblance of a normal royal/public life that Andrew will be able to have in the future. Every single story about Prince Andrew and this alleged abuse/his associations with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell is another nail the coffin of any possible future image rehabilitation. It is likely that Andrew will never be present on the balcony of Buckingham Palace again (barring a specific personal request from Queen Elizabeth, who adores Andrew). It is extremely likely that once Prince Charles becomes King, Andrew and Sarah’s rental agreement for Royal Lodge, for which they pay almost nothing in rent, will be ripped up and they will be forced to find a new home. It is all but guaranteed that when Charles becomes king, Andrew’s HRH will be removed, either formally or informally. And this will all happen even if Andrew is acquited in a criminal court or continues to refuse to speak. The simple fact is that Andrew is radioactive and every day that he doesn’t speak to law enforcement, and every day that his mother continues to protect him, the British Royal Family gets weaker. Watch Andrew’s interview with Emily Maitlis about the Epstein scandal and tell me that this man should receive a penny of taxpayer money. Tell me that his words and actions uphold any of the values of the BRF. You can’t. He has dug his own grave and now must lie in it.
- Guiffre’s lawyers’ decision to file the civil suit on the first official day of the Queen’s annual holiday at Balmoral was an absolute masterstroke. It ensured that the Andrew suit was front page news in US and UK newspapers because 1) it’s the dog days of summer and 2) it’s the quietest time of the year for royal news as the family is on holiday. Truly a genius PR move.
- Queen Elizabeth’s decision to protect Andrew and to have him visit Balmoral just after the lawsuit news broke is the best argument I’ve heard for a retirement/delegation of duties of monarch to Charles. Her Majesty has spent her entire life protecting the institution over her family, and at 95 she’s choosing to put her favourite son over safeguarding the institution. If that’s not an argument for needing to step down, I don’t know what is.
- I’m sure that Harry and Meghan’s and Will and Kate’s reactions to this can’t have been more different. Harry and Meghan want to see Prince Andrew burn (fair, imo) but they’re also happy to see those flames spread to the institution they left. Whereas on the other side of the Atlantic, Will and Kate likely never want to see or hear from Andrew ever again; however, it’s a tough spot for Will and Charles and their partners to be in, not agreeing with the decision-making of their current boss and knowing that they will eventually have to clean up this mess long after the Queen is gone. Season 15 of The Crown is going to be riveting! Speaking of, since this news came out, I have been thinking of the following quote constantly. “The crown must win. Must always win.” Is Queen Elizabeth ensuring that the crown will win when she protects Prince Andrew?
- Harry and Meghan are going to be on a huge PR push starting in a week or two (they’ve actually already begun, with Harry’s charity polo match for Sentebale this past week). Will they send out their friendly reporters to tell the public how much they hate Prince Andrew and how his actions contributed to their leaving the BRF? It could be an easy PR win for them if they do. (The obvious counterargument to that would be that they always intended to stay half-in the BRF and benefit financially and socially from it for the rest of their lives. But whoever they send out to say that they left because of Andrew won’t mention that.)
- I genuinely don’t know how to feel for Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. Of course, you don’t get to choose your parents. You aren’t responsible for your parents’ actions. But at a certain point, they began publicly supporting both their mother and father, I would argue to the detriment of their own brands. Princess Beatrice was said to be instrumental to Andrew’s Newsnight interview and sat in on filming. I absolutely have sympathy for both of them, especially now that they are both parents (Eugenie has baby August, Beatrice has a step-son and a baby on the way). But at what point do they need to completely cut off public mention of their parents for the sake of their own public personas?
- All of the media outlets that gushingly covered Sarah Ferguson’s book launch last month (looking at you, Town and Country) should take a hard look in the mirror.
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