Prince Andrew has lived a life of wealth and privilege that few people could ever imagine, but now, his world is in tatters. The Duke of York’s stunning fall from grace is all but complete as of Monday, when Virginia Roberts Giuffre filed a lawsuit against him, accusing Prince Andrew of sexual assault and battery. Giuffre, a victim of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking, alleges that the duke knowingly had sex with her when she was 17 years old.
Attorney David Boies told the Mail on Sunday that Giuffre’s lawsuit “would be based on her being lent out to Prince Andrew for sex by Jeffrey Epstein and [her] being under 18.” He added: “To use a common phrase here in the United States, ‘Time’s up.'” Giuffre’s lawsuit against the prince thrusts all the sordid details of his involvement with Epstein back into the news and in all probability, puts an end to any hope Andrew had of returning to public life now or in the future.
Several weeks before the lawsuit was filed, Catherine Mayer, author of Charles: Heart of a King said (via Express) that there was always something “tragicomic to Prince Andrew’s trajectory,” ever since his divorce from Sarah, the Duchess of York. Mayer observed that Andrew “very quickly went from being a sort of bachelor prince to being somebody who has no use, no purpose, spends money too obviously, takes too many flights, gets his bad nickname, gets married, gets divorced.”
Though he was once Queen Elizabeth’s favorite son who could do no wrong, Andrew devolved from being “the golden prince” to becoming “the embarrassing uncle in a series of very inevitable steps. And that was before he became as embarrassing as he is now,” Mayer said.
Read on to find out how Prince Andrew became one of the royal family’s greatest liabilities.
Writing in The Telegraph in June 2020, Nigel Cawthorne, author of 2021’s Prince Andrew: Epstein, Maxwell and the Palace, said Andrew led a “charmed life,” but his downfall has been “a long time coming.”
As a child, wrote Cawthorne, he was known for his temper tantrums. Even his notoriously stern father, Prince Philip, called Andrew “The Boss.” Vanity Fair revealed that the Queen once wrote to her cousin after Andrew was born, describing her baby son as “adorable” and destined to be “terribly spoilt.” While at Gordonstoun (the same boarding school his father and his brother, Prince Charles, attended), Andrew’s classmates thought he was “boastful” and “big-headed,” famed royal biographer Andrew Morton wrote in his 1983 book Andrew: The Playboy Prince.
In 1982, Andrew returned from the Falklands War a hero after serving with distinction as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot. The cabinet had believed a desk job would be best for the prince during the war, but he wanted to serve and the Queen intervened to make sure her son got what he wanted, according to The Daily Express.
In 2020, in the wake of the Epstein scandal, Andrew was banned from attending the commemorative Remembrance Sunday service overseen by the Queen. A source told the Daily Mail, “Unless matters change dramatically, no one believes we will ever see the Duke of York in the royal line-up on Remembrance Sunday again.”
The Duke of York first met Epstein in 1999 through Ghislaine Maxwell, who Andrew had known for many years. That year marked the first time Andrew flew on Epstein’s private jet and when their relationship first surfaced in the media in both the U.K. and U.S. (Here are Epstein and Prince Andrew pictured at Mar-a-Lago in 2000.)
In 2000, Epstein and Maxwell were invited by Andrew to a gala hosted by the Queen. They were also invited to Sandringham for a shooting party in 2000, and in 2006, Epstein was invited to a Victorian ball at windsor Castle in honor of Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday.
Prince Andrew did not receive a salary in his role as the U.K.’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, but his paid travel expenses were £4 million ($5.5 million) over the course of his decade-long tenure and his security costs ran up another £10 million tab (nearly $14 million), according to The Daily Mail.
As complaints over Andrew’s excessive spending escalated, Epstein stepped in and lent the Duke of York his private jet. Epstein’s palatial homes and his private island were also made available to the prince, according to The Guardian, allowing him to live like a king for free.
As early as 2011, Andrew’s friendship with Epstein had become a problem. At the time, the BBC reported it was the prince’s friendship with Epstein that “sealed the fate of a senior royal whose judgement has been called into question more than once.”
The BBC’s royal correspondent Peter Hunt said it was “inevitable” that Prince Andrew would step down from his position as Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, which reports to the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The embarrassing episode was made worse when Sarah Ferguson admitted in 2012 to accepting £15,000 (nearly $21,000) from Epstein when she was drowning in debt.
Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy in New York in July 2019 and died by suicide a month later, leading Andrew’s relationship with him to come into question once more. Then, in Nov. 2019, Andrew sat down for an interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis on Newsnight in Buckingham Palace without the Queen or Prince Charles’ prior knowledge. He was reportedly encouraged by his private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, to do the interview in order to clear his name, but the interview did the opposite.
During the broadcast, which aired on Nov. 16, 2019, Andrew told Maitlis he could not have had sex with Guiffre because he was at a Pizza Express in Woking with his daughter, Princess Beatrice, on the date in question: March 10, 2001.
The duke also offered a bizarre rebuttal to Giuffre’s claim about his sweating in a Sept. 2019 interview with NBC’s Dateline. During that conversation, Guiffre recalled that the duke was “sweating profusely” when they danced together in 2001, prior to an alleged intimate encounter.
On Newsnight, Andrew said he had a medical condition that prevented him from perspiring. “I have a peculiar medical condition, which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time and that was… was it… yes, I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenalin in the Falklands War when I was shot at and I simply… it was almost impossible for me to sweat,” he said. “And it’s only because I have done a number of things in the recent past that I am starting to be able to do that again.”
The prince also expressed little contrition over his relationship with Epstein or sympathy for his alleged victims. Instead, he defended his friendship with Epstein, saying it was “convenient” to remain connected to him because he made useful contacts through their relationship.
Immediately after Andrew’s interview with the BBC aired, his patronages and sponsorships for his business initiatives begin to disappear. Sky News reported founding partner KPMG would not be renewing their sponsorship from Andrew’s Pitch@Palace mentoring initiative on Nov. 18, and soon, more charities began to question and ultimately sever their relationships with the prince.
On Nov. 20, The Daily Mail reported that the Queen had summoned Andrew to Buckingham Palace to discuss the increasingly damaging fall-out from the interview. “The Queen and the senior royals were very much looking at how the furor was impacting on the general election and on the institution of the monarchy at a deeper level,” the outlet reported.
Later that evening, Andrew issued a statement that he was stepping back from his official royal duties, but was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency… if required.”
U.S. prosecutors have stated that the Duke of York was not cooperating with their requests for an interview, while Andrew’s lawyers have disputed those claims.
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In Dec. 2019, Guiffre’s offered her own version of events in an hourlong special on BBC’s Panorama. She described being trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell when she was 17 years old as a “really scary time” in her life. She said she felt “horrified and ashamed” after being forced to have sex with the prince, and dismissed his denials as “ridiculous excuses.”
“He knows what happened, I know what happened. And there’s only one of us telling the truth,” she said.
Buckingham Palace released a statement after the Panorama interview aired that read: “It is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”
Andrew had stayed out of the public eye since stepping down as a working royal in the aftermath of his disastrous BBC interview, but when Prince Philip died in April, the Duke of York emerged from the shadows, making his first public remarks in over two years. He stunned royal watchers when he strode over to the press line after a private church service in windsor that he attended with other family members. In speaking to the gathered media, Andrew said that his father’s death had left a “huge void in [the Queen’s] life.”
He also thanked the public for their support, but raised eyebrows when he called his father “the grandfather of the nation,” a comment reminiscent of Tony Blair’s much quoted remarks after the death of Princess Diana, when the former prime minister called her “The People’s Princess.”
It was reported that the duke believed this would be his first step toward reentering public life, but behind Palace walls, he faced strong family opposition. Charles and Prince William, who both played a major role in encouraging the Queen to strip Andrew of his official duties and patronages in 2019, remained strongly opposed to him regaining any role as a senior working royal, sources revealed to Best Life.
Even his mother saw there was no way back. An insider told Best Life at the time, “The Queen loves Andrew very much, but she is still very much focused on the future of the monarchy and will always put what is best for the Crown first.” It was clear to everyone but Andrew that he would not be returning to any semblance of a public royal role anytime soon, if ever.
Andrew and Sarah Ferguson married in 1986; had two children—Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie—in 1988 and 1990, respectively; separated in 1992; and officially divorced in 1996. Today, the couple continues to live together at the Royal Lodge in windsor. In a recent interview, the Duchess of York, who’s currently on a book tour for her first historical fiction novel, said that she and the prince are the “happiest divorced couple in the world.”
“Andrew and I call it divorced to each other, not from each other. Compromise. Communicate. Say what you feel,” she told the Financial Times in early August. “What’s the point in having an argument, honestly?”
Fergie, whose numerous scandals involving other men during her marriage to Andrew resulted in her banishment from all royal family events (which has been mostly upheld to this day), also told the Financial Times that she “one hundred percent” believes Andrew wasn’t involved in anything inappropriate during his friendship with Epstein. Her comments came on Aug. 6, just days before the new lawsuit against the prince was made public on Aug. 9.
“It’s been very challenging for him,” said the duchess. “I want him to come through this. I want him to win.” She added: “I know everything about him. I think he is an extraordinary person. He was so good to me when I went through absolute, abject h***. He unquestionably stood by me. It’s not a tit-for-tat. It’s just, I know who he is.”
Earlier this week, it was announced that Giuffre (seen here in her Dateline interview) had filed a lawsuit against Andrew, after he failed to respond to her lawyers’ offers to settle out of court. BBC News reported that the documents filed in the suit allege Andrew had sex with Giuffre without her consent and that he was aware of her age and knew “that she was a sex-trafficking victim.”
According to the Times, this lawsuit against the Duke of York could lead to him being questioned under oath, as well as having to turn over evidence including letters and emails if he contests the case. If he refuses to appear, he could be subject to a judgment and damages.
Tatler reported that Giuffre had until this upcoming Saturday, Aug. 14, to file the lawsuit, under the New York Child Victims Act. At the time the alleged incidents took place, Giuffre was above the legal age of consent in Britain (which is 16 years old), but she was a minor child under New York law. The Times reported Giuffre’s lawyers claimed that they wrote to the Duke of York last month notifying him of the August deadline, but was “so far without success to meet with Prince Andrew or his counsel… to discuss whether a negotiated resolution might be appropriate.”
On Aug. 9, Giuffre issued a statement that read, in part: “I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me. The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but to reclaim one’s life by speaking out and demanding justice … It is long past the time for him to be held to account.