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Prince Andrew has not had a good six months.
But can it get worse? In Andrew’s case, the answer is: Always.
And, with the publication of a new book and the screening of a new Netflix series about his involvement with his old pal, the sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, it looks like getting worse is exactly what is about to happen.
A fresh round of criticism for Andrew looks set to emerge from allegations in the new show, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, which allege that Andrew groped a young woman (believed to be Virginia Roberts) while on Epstein’s private Caribbean island at some point in the early 2000s.
The allegations about Andrew are made by Steve Skully, a former Epstein employee who served as an IT person on Little Saint James Island at the time, who says: “It was probably around 2004, I saw Prince Andrew. He was at the pool. He was with at that time an unknown girl to me. She was young, She didn't have any top on. They were engaged in foreplay. He was grabbing her, and grinding against her.”
Andrew has always denied any accusations of inappropriate behavior.
Buckingham Palace did not respond to The Daily Beast on Andrew’s behalf, but has previously issued a statement saying: “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.”
And yet the claims keep coming; next week Andrew also has to weather the publication of a book by Nigel Cawthorne entitled Prince Andrew: The End of the Monarchy and Epstein.
Speaking ahead of the book’s publication, Cawthorne told The Daily Beast: “The Queen is not going to let her favorite son starve, but I don’t think he is going to be able to ever show his face publicly again.
“The FBI have made it clear they are still interested in him, and sooner or later they will catch up with Ghislaine Maxwell and they will give her a choice: snitch on him or spend rest of her life in jail. So Andrew had certainly better stay away from the U.S. Andrew does have an extremely arrogant streak, but it is not entirely surprising when you consider that every time you go round and have tea with your mum, she pins another medal on your chest. It would give you a rather odd view of the world.”
Cawthorne finds Andrew’s denial of culpability for or knowledge of Epstein’s activities unbelievable: “How could he not have known? He was a close friend of Ghislaine so he must have known.”
It is rather startling to realize that it was only six months ago, on Nov. 20 2019, that Andrew sat down for an hour-long, face-to-face interview with the British current affairs show, Newsnight, and ended what was left of his career as a diplomat and statesman.
To be fair, it hadn’t been looking good for Andrew ever since Epstein was found dead in a New York jail cell earlier in the year.
But the final nail in the coffin was undoubtedly the Newsnight interview, in which he described himself as “too honorable”, said having Jeffrey Epstein to stay at Sandringham was “a straightforward shooting weekend,” and implied a photograph of him with Virginia Giuffre Roberts and Epstein madame Ghislaine Maxwell was a fake.
He also failed to show an ounce of sympathy for Epstein’s victims, said he didn’t regret his friendship with him because he had met some jolly interesting people, and most bizarrely of all, used his attendance at a pizza party for his children as an alibi to explain why he couldn’t have met Giuffre as alleged.
It was a disaster. Andrew was swiftly expelled from the inner circle of royalty, stripped of his office at Buckingham Place, his state salary and his charities. Just a few weeks later, however, Andrew got lucky; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle left the royal family as well, in a blaze of publicity that wiped Andrew from the headlines.
Now, however, worrying signals for Andrew are emerging that the memory wipe may have been only temporary. Interest in and outrage at his despicable friendship are resurfacing as the planet emerges from its global lockdown.
There has also been a sense of justice at news of a more personal fall from grace and privilege. Andrew and his wife are currently being sued for failing to pay the final installment of almost $9m on a Swiss ski chalet they bought in 2014. The couple are said to be in financial difficulty as Andrew’s ex-wife (but still, bafflingly, constant companion) Sarah Ferguson finds book deals and TV contracts being cancelled.
The lawyer for the vendor, French socialite Isabelle de Rouvre, told The Times that it was highly unusual in Switzerland for purchasers to pay in installments, and added that he had asked his client why she had accepted such a deal.
“She said it was because it was Prince Andrew and she had no reason to doubt that he would pay,” he said.
Andrew’s tasty side deals are also understood to have been curtailed; whereas he was formerly very popular with shady foreign businessman (such as the Kazakh oligarch who bought his wrecked house for $4m over the asking price) now no one, it seems, much wants to do business with him.
But the big problem underpinning all this, and the one that won’t go away is, of course, the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Jeffrey Epstein’s co-conspirators.
Andrew sought to make all the right noises after Epstein’s death, even saying in his disastrous Newsnight interview, “I am willing to help any appropriate law-enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
However, predictably, he has not lived up to this pledge. Indeed, the U.S. attorney for Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, even went so far as to make a public declaration that Andrew was providing “zero co-operation” to the FBI investigation.
Cawthorne could well be right that ultimately the moment of greatest danger to Andrew will come when Maxwell cuts a deal with the feds.
The British lawyer Mark Stephens told The Daily Beast that Andrew will likely be protected by his diplomatic immunity (Stephens, through his firm Howard Kennedy, is representing the family of Harry Dunne, the British teenager killed by an American intelligence officer’s wife who is claiming diplomatic immunity, so speaks with a certain knowledge of the legal principles involved).
Even if Andrew were to visit America, Stephens thinks, he would be unlikely to be arrested for questioning because of his status as a prince.
But the reality is, Andrew’s going nowhere, even after the lockdown ends.
And it’s not just trips to the USA or the Caribbean which face being curtailed; sources say that even before the lockdown, Andrew was nowhere to be seen. He had vanished from his usual stamping grounds: country house shooting weekends, London private members’ clubs, and dinner parties.
Andrew may not be the most sensitive of men, but when there are question marks being raised about whether you can attend your own daughter’s wedding without ruining her big day, as there were for Beatrice’s (now-postponed) nuptials, even he seems to have gotten the hint.
We will almost certainly only ever see Andrew in public again, with members of his family, a handful of times at most.
There is a certain irony that, for the prince who loved to travel so much he was nicknamed “Airmiles Andy,” being confined to his own home could be a feature of life for many years to come.