Can Prince Andrew ever restore his reputation?

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew
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In years gone by, the Duke of York’s birthday would be cause for major Royal family celebration.

When he turned 40 in 2000, a joint party was held at Windsor Castle to mark the milestone along with the late Queen Mother’s 100th, Princess Margaret’s 70th, Princess Anne’s 50th, and Prince William’s 18th.

The lavish bash in the ornate 19th-century State Apartments began with a sumptuous sit-down dinner for around 80 friends and royalty from Spain, Belgium and Norway as well as King Constantine of Greece.

The dinner guests were later joined by about 700 others for drinks including Sarah, Duchess of York – the first time since the 1997 funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, that the Duke’s ex-wife had been included on the royal guest list.

Yet the evening’s entertainment has since become rather more notable for the inclusion of two other people on the illustrious list of attendees: Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

As he prepares to turn 63 on Feb 19, Andrew is likely to look back on that spectacular turn-of-the-century soiree with more than a hint of regret.

For in choosing to invite a couple who would go on to become two of the most high-profile sex traffickers of the 21st century, the late Queen’s second son set in train a series of events that ended in his own downfall.

Just a year after the Duke blew out the candles on his 40th birthday cake, one of their victims, Virginia Giuffre, claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke on Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands, at his New York mansion and at Ms Maxwell’s Belgravia mews house when she was 17. While in London, she claims Andrew licked her toes in the bath and then had sex with her in a bedroom. He has always vehemently denied the allegations.

It is understood the Duke reached a £9.7 million out-of-court settlement with Ms Giuffre, now 39 and a mother of three, last February. But almost exactly a year later, the stench around the sordid saga still lingers.

‘In the court of public opinion, his name remains sullied’

Despite Andrew having never been convicted of any crime, his reputation remains in tatters over his association with the now-deceased billionaire paedophile financier and his jailbird partner in crime.

Yet the emergence of a bizarre photograph, purporting to “clear” the Duke of “bath sex” with Ms Giuffre, has not only projected the controversial case back onto the front pages but raised the spectre of the grandfather of two attempting some sort of comeback following his mother’s death in September.

Depicting two of Ms Maxwell’s acquaintances sitting in the tub, fully clothed, posing as Andrew and Ms Giuffre in makeshift masks, the picture was supplied by her brother Ian Maxwell to show “conclusively that the bath is too small for any sort of sex frolicking”.

Combined with Ms Maxwell giving an interview from her Florida prison cell in January, in which she claimed that another photograph, showing her royal friend with his arm around Ms Giuffre in her London home in 2001, is a fake, the latest image has fuelled suggestions that the Duke is planning to try to overturn the out-of-court settlement.

Yet is there really any hope of Andrew getting his money back? And even if he did, would it be enough to herald a return to public life? Team York certainly likes to think so.

Confirming that they are pursuing a number of legal options, a friend told The Daily Telegraph: “When the Duke settled with Ms Giuffre, what’s absolutely critical to know is that he did so to protect his late mother’s Platinum Jubilee and to protect Her Majesty. When officials at Buckingham Palace proposed this approach, he readily agreed for that reason – and that reason alone.

“He settled without admitting any guilt and has always resolutely insisted that he has been falsely accused. He’s been utterly consistent about that for more than a decade.

“But when he settled, it didn’t clear his name. So there is a legal resolution, but this was always a three-stage process: legal resolution, followed by clearing his name, followed by whatever it is he wants to do next.

“You can’t expect the Duke to live permanently in this no man’s land with a legal resolution of a civil case, no investigation by any legal authority, let alone any charges. He’s not been found guilty of anything in a court of law, yet in the court of public opinion, his name remains sullied because people think there is no smoke without fire.

“This isn’t about victim shaming, but there are a number of crucial things that Ms Giuffre – who remains his sole accuser – has said which simply don’t stack up. It’s only a half-written story.

“The Duke and his team believe he’s done nothing wrong but the rest of the world doesn’t believe it and that’s what needs to be addressed next.”

‘We only ever hear one side of the story’

Andrew’s close-knit UK legal team currently comprises his solicitor Gary Bloxsome, nicknamed “Good News Gary” for his positive outlook, and his barrister Clare Montgomery, who shot to fame in 1999 when she battled to save Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from extradition after he was accused of multiple allegations of human rights abuses. They are being assisted in the US by Hollywood lawyer Andrew Brettler and his “rottweiler” partner Blair Berk, whose celebrity clients have included Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Channing Tatum. The Duke is also thought to be receiving PR advice from Mark Gallagher, ITV’s former director of corporate affairs, as well as receiving “regular psychological support” from a mental health professional.

One key avenue of inquiry is Ms Giuffre’s recently settled defamation case against Alan Dershowitz, Epstein’s former lawyer. Last November, she dropped her lawsuit and the allegation that the Harvard Law School professor was among the men Epstein forced her to have sex with.

Ms Giuffre’s 2019 lawsuit accused Mr Dershowitz of defaming her when he denied her claim. Mr Dershowitz had countersued Ms Giuffre. In a document filed in federal court in Manhattan, both parties said they would agree not to sue again and waived their rights to appeal.

In a subsequent statement, Ms Giuffre said that she long believed she had been trafficked by Epstein to Mr Dershowitz, but that she was very young at the time and had been in a stressful and traumatic environment.

“I now recognise I may have made a mistake in identifying Mr Dershowitz,” she admitted.

Mr Dershowitz, 84, who represented Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial and was part of OJ Simpson’s defence team in his 1995 murder trial, was Mr Epstein’s lawyer when he was accused of underage sex in Florida in 2008. He helped to secure a lenient deal that saw him serve just 13 months in a county jail with a six-day-a-week work release. Mr Epstein was subsequently arrested in July 2019 and charged with federal sex trafficking charges related to his abuse of underage girls at properties in Florida, the Caribbean, New York and New Mexico, over several decades. He was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan just over a month later, while awaiting trial.

Speaking to The Telegraph this week, Mr Dershowitz said he would raise no objection to the court papers in his case against Ms Giuffre being “unsealed” saying they were “in the public interest”.

Having already publicly urged Andrew to try to overturn the settlement, saying he believed it was a “mistake” not to take the case to trial, he said: “Any journalist can go into the court and make a request for the unsealing of all documents now that the case is over. I’ve got nothing to hide and have never had any opposition to unsealing the documents – they’re in the public interest. So I waive any right to privacy.”

The Duke’s team could use the case to show that Ms Giuffre may have formed “false memories” due to the suffering she endured both in childhood and at the hands of Epstein. As the friend added: “Ms Giuffre has admitted after the settling with Alan Dershowitz that because of the trauma of her early life, the accuracy of her recollections are at best patchy. There is absolutely no criticism of her – what she went through is nothing short of heartbreaking. But it’s a fact that she herself has admitted – that the trauma of that time may have badly affected her memory.”

The same maxim appears to apply to the “bath sex” photograph. As Ms Giuffre’s lawyer Lisa Bloom pointed out, the mocked-up, face-masked picture “proves nothing ... Virginia said that she and Andrew were in the bath. The photo shows that two full-sized humans can fit in the bath.” Yet it does suggest that Ms Giuffre’s recollection of that bathroom was wide of the mark.

As Mr Maxwell put it in an interview last month: “What it does prove is the reverse of what Ms Giuffre said in her unpublished memoir, which is a court document and was released by the US court, in which she says that the bathroom had a beige marble floor and there was a Victorian tub in the centre of the room.

“There is no Victorian bath, there is no bath in the centre of any room. And for her to say that there is [is] just wrong. Her memory is wrong, or it never happened.

“[The photograph] is designed to say, ‘Wait a minute. This lady has been believed, almost without any compunction by everybody.’

“I think that the other side of the story needs to be looked at by the media properly; the allegations need to be investigated thoroughly. We only ever hear one side of the story.”

There is also hope that any unsealing of court papers in the Dershowitz case may clear up an ongoing confusion over Ms Giuffre’s place of residence.

Mr Brettler initially tried to halt the US civil case against the Duke by claiming that the federal court in New York did not have jurisdiction over the matter because Ms Giuffre is domiciled in Australia, not Colorado as she alleged.

Arguing the case should be halted until the “issue of subject matter jurisdiction is adjudicated”, he wrote to the court in December 2021: “In her complaint Ms Giuffre alleges she is a citizen of the state of Colorado; the evidence demonstrates that she is actually domiciled in Australia, where she has lived for all but two of the past 19 years.

“It is undisputed that at the time she filed this action Ms Giuffre had an Australian driver’s licence and was living in a $A1.9 million [about £1.1 million] home in Perth, Western Australia, where she and her husband have been raising their three children.

“In reality, Ms Giuffre’s ties to Colorado are very limited. She has not lived there since at least 2019 – approximately two years before she filed this lawsuit against Prince Andrew – and potentially, according to her own deposition testimony, not since October 2015.”

Ms Brettler said Ms Giuffre only recently registered to vote in Colorado using her mother and stepfather’s mailing address there.

Yet the court rejected this argument, along with Mr Brettler’s plea for the case to be thrown out because Ms Giuffre had a “tortured interpretation” of the law she was relying on. He said some of the alleged offences were said to have happened outside New York state and beyond the jurisdiction of the New York Child Victims Act (CVA) that she was using.

The CVA created a 12-month window for individuals to file civil lawsuits seeking compensation for alleged sexual abuse when they were children. The deadline was later extended by one year because of the pandemic.

‘He’s not hiding himself away, that’s for sure’

The issue of jurisdiction would appear to be a more reliable area of investigation than the Duke’s claim that the 2001 photograph of him with his arm around a then 17-year-old Ms Giuffre may have been tampered with. During his car-crash Newsnight interview in November 2019, he said: “Nobody can prove whether or not that photograph has been doctored but I don’t recollect that photograph ever being taken.”

He added: “From the investigations we’ve done, you can’t prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not because it is a photograph of a photograph.”

Lady Victoria Hervey, his former girlfriend, last month suggested an “Irish body double” may have been used.

During her recent prison interview, Ms Maxwell admitted that the surroundings in the image, in which she appears in the background, looked “familiar”, but also said that “we can’t really establish the photograph and all that”, adding: “I don’t know if that’s true, if that’s a real picture or not.”

The snap, thought to have been taken by Epstein on a disposable Kodak camera on March 10 2001, has dogged Andrew since it was first published by Mail on Sunday 12 years ago.

The authenticity of this photograph of Prince Andrew, Virginia Giuffre, and Ghislaine Maxwell was called into question - HANDOUT/US District Court - Southern Dis/AFP via Getty Image
The authenticity of this photograph of Prince Andrew, Virginia Giuffre, and Ghislaine Maxwell was called into question - HANDOUT/US District Court - Southern Dis/AFP via Getty Image

Last week, the newspaper sought to prove the picture hadn’t been faked by interviewing professional photographer Michael Thomas, who took 39 copies of the image, both front and back, for the original interview.

The photographs of the original image show it was developed at a one-hour photo lab and would have been virtually impossible to doctor. The words “000 #15 13March01 Walgreens One Hour Photo” are clearly visible on the back of the original.

“I was holding the original photo in my hand. It was a normal 6x4 inch print that you would have got from any developer at the time,” said Mr Thomas.

“It looked like it was 10 years old. It wasn’t crisp because it had been developed in 2001. She had held on to it for 10 years by the time I saw it.

“For Ghislaine Maxwell to come out and say it was fake is ridiculous. I held the photo. It was a normal photograph. It was a physical print. It exists. I saw it and that’s what I photographed and that’s what you see now.”

The Duke’s team has long demanded that Ms Giuffre produce the original, but she claims to have given it to the FBI. Mail on Sunday claims to have witnessed her handing over a number of photographs to two agents at the US Consulate in Sydney – but it is unclear whether she got the original back or what its whereabouts are now.

We are likely to hear more of her side of the story once a gagging clause lifts, although it is unknown whether she will be able to speak directly about the Andrew claim following the settlement.

Andrew did not admit any guilt when settling the civil claim a year ago and allies insist he agreed to pay his accuser under pressure from Sir Edward Young, his late mother’s private secretary, Sir Clive Alderton, the King’s longstanding private secretary, and Sir Michael Stevens, the Keeper of the Privy Purse or monarch’s accountant.

Yet the death of the late Queen, which saw her “favourite” son return to the royal fray for the state funeral, appears to have revived his quest to clear his name – despite the Buckingham Palace powers that be reportedly regarding it as “wishful thinking”.

The late Queen not only believed her son’s protestations of innocence, but according to recent reports, also thought he could return to public life if he devoted himself to charity work. Believing he might be able to pursue a “Profumo-style” path to redemption, a source said his family agreed that following the route of the disgraced minister John Profumo, who devoted himself to charity work after being forced to step down from government in the 1960s over his affair with Christine Keeler, was his only hope of rehabilitation. That perhaps explains why – despite talk of tensions with his brother, the King – Andrew was invited to spend Christmas at Sandringham with the family.

Since then, the Duke had been lying low at Royal Lodge, the Windsor home he shares with his ex-wife.

But according to one onlooker, he has recently become “much more visible”, regularly walking the late Queen’s dogs, which he inherited, at Frogmore and riding in Windsor Great Park. “He’s not hiding himself away, that’s for sure,” added the onlooker.

It appears that far from admitting defeat, the grand old Duke of York is preparing to march his men to the top of the hill again.