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I don’t know who’s doing Prince Andrew’s PR these days, maybe someone seconded from Downing Street because it’s really that bad, but you have to wonder whether him “insisting” on a jury trial for his alleged sex crimes is entirely advisable. The Duke of York playing in New York in the ultimate off-off-off Broadway show. Bound to go well, eh?
It must be partly tactical, given that Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who is making the allegations, has already asked for a jury rather than a judge to decide her civil case against the prince, a request that might well be granted to her. Partly, it may be intended to pressurise his accuser into settling out of court. But partly too, it might be yet another emanation of that unfortunate arrogance that has landed the Duke of York in this very predicament.
It must be dawning on those around him that the prince may be labouring under the assumption that, after the runaway success of the BBC Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis, he can, once again, through a combination of charm, sheer force of personality and the justice of his case, persuade a random group of New Yorkers to believe him and not her.
By all accounts, he judged in advance that his Newsnight interview would clear everything up once and for all. After Maitlis had made off with her scoop, I suspect the old boy thought his mam and elder brother would be well pleased when they saw the results of his handiwork. A lovely surprise, and vindication. Fair to say it didn’t quite work out that way.
The New Yorkers might have some trouble understanding his drawling aristocratic vowels, for a start, and, you’d imagine, are not necessarily going to be awed by the presence of British royalty. “Deference” is not the word that instantly comes to mind when you think of the inhabitants of the Big Apple (and rightly so). The prince probably makes less than an average hedge fund manager on Wall Street, let alone a really successful financial operator; one like, say, the late Jeffrey Epstein.
The magical aura that casts such a spell over the British public might not work via video link or even in person in a New York courtroom. He’d be wise not to turn up in one of his baroque military uniforms. Nor, one might think, is New York in the age of #MeToo the best place to be if you’re on the wrong end of this type of allegation. Put it this way: no one’s talking about putting up a statue of Epstein.
Even when they can understand what Andrew’s saying, they’re going to find some of it difficult to comprehend it. There are cultural barriers. In New York, for example, they might have a different idea of what a “straightforward shooting weekend” entails, compared to what the Queen’s son has in mind.
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That Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein were his guests at Sandringham, an uncommon honour, might suggest a degree of closeness in his friendships with them that is now inconvenient. The jurors might also wonder why he chose to stay in Epstein’s “convenient” huge mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, just off Fifth Avenue, when there are plenty of nice hotels to choose from, given that Epstein had already been convicted.
They are not a gullible lot, over there, and they’ll find it just as hard as his British audience did to believe that he had lost the ability to sweat, at least for a time (and he’ll be glad the Americans have air conditioning).
If Virginia Roberts Giuffre insists on the trial, refuses an out-of-court settlement (ie money), and demands to put her case to a jury, then Andrew will be the first member of the royal family to be embroiled in this kind of case in centuries. He is, after all, a son of the Queen, and brother and uncle of the next two kings, and his previous attempts to escape the shadows of Epstein and Maxwell have hardly been unalloyed successes.
It will feel like victim-blaming. It will be embarrassing. Maybe Ghislaine will be called to give evidence, as well as staff members working at the Pizza Express in Woking on 10 March 2001. Maybe dermatologists specialising in the workings of the sweat glands. Maybe the duke’s daughters. Maybe the Queen. It will be quite the shooting party.