Public scepticism of Prince Andrew and his involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex scandal has been growing for the best part of a decade now. However, since Epstein’s mysterious death in prison two years ago, pressures on Prince Andrew to explain his involvement have skyrocketed. Everyone everywhere is longing to understand the extent of the sex trafficking ring, who the powers at play were, and ultimately seek justice for the many victims. Over the years, as more pictures have emerged, documentaries have been made, and impact statements have been given, Prince Andrew’s silence continues to be deafening. On the occasion he has spoken out, his unceasing denial, despite all evidence, has been painful.
Nothing highlights this better than Emily Maitlis’ iconic interview with the Prince for BBC Newsnight, where she presses him with questions on allegations made against him for 50 minutes straight. While many people, including the Prince, thought this would be a great opportunity to clear his name, the interview turned out to have the opposite effect. Andrew was accused of ‘utterly lacking in compassion’, and many viewers raised eyebrows as he uncomfortably squirmed and deflected in his chair.
Virginia Guiffre, who accuses Prince Andrew of sexually assaulting her three times when she was 17, made up a large proportion of the questions. Despite available photo evidence, the Prince chose to deny ever meeting Virginia Guiffre in Epstein’s London mansion, using digital trickery (or photoshop skills) as his defence. Guiffre had given a vivid description of her encounter with the prince, including observations that he was sweating a lot in the nightclub they were in before heading back to Epstein’s flat. However, Prince Andrew, also known as the ‘party prince’, was quick to flatten these accusations with statements such as the fact he doesn’t sweat, and he doesn’t party. Of course, all of these came under many mockeries by the public afterwards.
The car crash interview had a host of other contentious moments. In the end, it was revealed in a YouGov survey that just 6 per cent of Britons believe Prince Andrew’s account of events following the interview. Many referred to Mailtis’ interview as putting Prince Andrew on trial, of which he was overwhelmingly found guilty. Following the interview, victim evidence continued to stack up, and public calls for a legal trial got louder. However, so did Prince Andrew’s ability to dodge prosecution, much to the frustration of onlookers.
Most recently, it has been reported that the prince has taken significant measures to draw up a ‘settlement in principle’ with Virginia Guiffre to draw a line under the scandal and silence the press. Here, the Prince is understood to have paid Guiffre £12 million, with £10 million going to Guiffre and £2 million to charity for sex trafficking. However, it has caused significant uproar and public outrage, particularly as people ask the essential question of who is footing the bill.
In 2019, Prince Andrew was forced to step back from royal duties following a US court’s refusal to dismiss a civil lawsuit pertaining to a case of sexual assault against him but The Telegraph has suggested that the settlement money may have come from one of the private estates belonging to the Queen – suggesting the use of taxpayers’ money.
As Mark Stephens, a media specialist at law firm Howard Kennedy explained, “Andrew is going to have to confirm that the public hasn’t paid this because that threatens to have wider implications for the royal family”. In a year of Downing Street lockdown parties, there is public frustration over criminal accountability for people in positions of power already. Why should Andrew be spared the public humiliation of a trial just because he is royal?
As we await a transparent report of where the money came from, many have argued that, at the very least, Andrew should retreat entirely from public life and live out his retirement in disgrace. The British Media have declared the Prince ‘finished,’ and I think it’s fair to say we are all done hearing of the controversy unless we see the Prince on stand in trial.
Indeed, the controversy of this settlement has been significant in illustrating the frustration that many Brits have with current power systems. It has also served again to undermine the sustainability of the Royal family.