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Prince Andrew shadow scandal hangs over Buckingham Palace

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Prince Andrew shadow scandal hangs over Buckingham Palace

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On Thursday, British tabloids published a grainy photograph of Prince Andrew in the back of a Range Rover en route to see his mother, Queen Elizabeth.

It was a rare image of a royal who has largely disappeared from public view. Hours after the photo emerged, Buckingham Palace announced that the 61-year-old prince had been stripped of his patronages and titles, including that of High Royal Highness, as the British monarchy seeks to protect itself reputational damage caused by an ongoing court case alleging the prince sexually abused a 17-year-old girl. Prince Andrew has denied all the allegations.

For the Royal Family, however, Prince Andrew – who faces a possible civil trial later this year over the allegations – is not going away.

“It didn’t nip it in the bud,” said David McClure, author of Queen’s True Worth. “But it’s a sensible decision and maybe it’s a slightly overdue decision.”

Firing a member of the royal family is not the same as firing an errant employee. Despite stepping back from royal duties, the Queen’s second son is still a prince, the Duke of York and the ninth to the throne.

Acts of Parliament are needed to remove these last royal remnants, said Bob Morris, a research associate in the Constitution Unit at University College London. The Queen will also likely have to offer her son financial support, Mr McClure said, much like she did when her eldest son Prince Charles divorced his first wife Diana.

The process is proving an extreme test of an age-old conundrum for the monarchy: how to distance itself from foreign members.

Prince Andrew is not the only one to be stripped of the HRH title, which is granted at the Queen’s discretion. Prince Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson lost her HRH title, as did Princess Diana when she divorced Prince Charles. Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, agreed not to use their HRH titles when they acrimoniously left the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth, with Prince Andrew on Thursday, is trying to show she understands the public’s dismay at her second son’s alleged behavior, a person close to the family has said.


Photo:

Stephen Lock/Zuma Press

Outgoing royals have always exposed the palace to the risk of exploiting their royal connections for profit and tarnishing the image of the monarchy. Prince Andrew, however, has taken this threat to another level, say royal watchers.

By stripping Prince Andrew of his title, the Queen hopes to achieve two things, according to a person close to the family.

First, it shows that she understands the public dismay at Prince Andrew’s alleged behavior. He also seeks to protect the royal institution. Prince Andrew is no longer an official member of the Royal Family, so any criticism would focus on him as a private citizen rather than a member of Britain’s taxpayer-backed monarchy.

The prospect looms of a trial stemming from the prince’s old friendship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who was recently convicted of sex trafficking minors. One of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, filed a lawsuit against Prince Andrew last year, alleging she was forced to have sex with the British royal family when she was a teenager .

Prince Andrew has already spent more than two years in a sort of internal exile, barred from any public involvement following a clumsy attempt to clear his name with a 2019 TV interview. A YouGov poll shows that 12 % of Britons currently have a positive opinion of him.

However, salacious revelations in a New York court risk undermining a fundamental and carefully curated tenet of the House of Windsor: that they are a force for good in society.

As a result, the prince is expected to settle the matter out of court with Ms Giuffre, said Nick Goldstone, head of dispute resolution at law firm Ince Gordon Dadds LLP in London. “The least worst outcome is to end this process as soon as possible, even if it means apologizing,” he said. He estimates it would cost the Royal Family less than £10m, or $13.7m, to do so.

A trial in New York is scheduled for the fall. If the litigation continues, Prince Andrew must hand over the requested information to Ms Giuffre’s lawyers as part of the discovery phase of the litigation.

He also faces the possibility of an hour-long video deposition, where his attorneys can grill him on issues related to the trial allegations. Prince Andrew could refuse to answer certain questions under the Fifth Amendment, which protects an individual’s right to self-incrimination.

That deposition could reveal details of private conversations with other royals or new evidence that federal prosecutors could use to seek the prince’s extradition, Goldstone said.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry spoke to Oprah Winfrey about their breakup with Buckingham Palace. Markle said she had had suicidal thoughts and the couple explained why they signed deals with Netflix and Spotify after stepping down as royals. (Published 09/03/2021) Photo: Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty Images

In a worst-case scenario, it could also see Prince Andrew’s two daughters Eugenie and Beatrice being questioned as they are part of the prince’s alibi, Mr Goldstone said. The prince said in a BBC interview that he was with his daughters at home on the day Ms Giuffre alleged she was sexually abused in London.

On Thursday, lawyers for Prince Andrew and Ms Giuffre filed a proposed settlement in court making certain documents exchanged confidential, including medical records and the names of sex abuse accusers. A judge has yet to approve the deal.

For years, Prince Andrew has waited for a royal pardon, officials say. In 2019, the palace announced that the prince would step back for the foreseeable future, leaving the door ajar for his return.

Public pressure is mounting, however. This week, more than 100 British military veterans wrote to the Queen demanding that Prince Andrew be removed from his military duties.

Buckingham Palace also wanted to close a chapter on the case before the Queen celebrates her 70th birthday on the throne next month. Even if he clears his name in court, the fact that he was close to Epstein and Ms Maxwell will continue to weigh on him, Mr McClure said.

And so the palace “went a long way to give it the boost,” he said.

Write to Max Colchester at max.colchester@wsj.com and James Fanelli at james.fanelli@wsj.com

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Prince Andrew shadow scandal hangs over Buckingham Palace

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