Big news this week from Buckingham Palace: Prince Andrew has been stripped of his military titles and patronages. The long-anticipated move — my first thought upon seeing the statement was “FINALLY” — comes nearly seven years after sexual abuse allegations by Virginia Giuffre first surfaced and just a day after a U.S. federal judge ruled that the civil suit against Andrew could proceed.
The Duke of York has always vehemently denied these allegations; earlier this month, his legal team sought to have the case against him dismissed. But the palace is drawing a line. Andrew will “defend this case as a private citizen,” the statement released this week said.
I’ve gotten so many questions about Andrew’s problematic past, the charges he faces, and the Queen’s defense of her second son. Now felt like the right time to answer those. Buckle up, friends. This is a long, complicated one.
As always, I would love to hear what you think. Please hit “Join the discussion” at the bottom of this email to leave a comment on my Bulletin page.
* * *
Prince Andrew, also known as the Duke of York, is the second son and third child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. When he was born, Andrew Albert Christian Edward was second in line to the throne after his older brother, Charles. Today, he is ninth. His birth made history as the first child born to a reigning monarch in more than a century.
The Queen gave birth to her four children at two very different times in her life. Prince Charles and Princess Anne were born while Elizabeth was a young princess; a decade later, after she ascended to the throne, came Princes Andrew and Edward.
Andrew and his brother were seen as something of a “do over” for Her Majesty as a mother. She had focused much of her life on being Queen, relegating her parental responsibilities with Charles and Anne to staff during the early years of her reign. Andrew arrived when Elizabeth was established in her role, which meant she could shower him with attention.
Andrew’s name has been synonymous with scandal for decades now, both for questionable financial arrangements and his interest in women. The latter earned him the nickname “Randy Andy” by the tabloids. One girlfriend, in particular, is often cited: Koo Stark, an American-born, London-dwelling actress who was in two “erotic” films as a teenager, according to the Associated Press.
The pair were introduced by mutual friends in the early 1980s and laid low until a trip to Princess Margaret’s villa on the island of Mustique. News leaked and the press pounced, descending on the island. Stark “was reported smuggled out of their island hideaway in tears,” the Associated Press wrote. The scrutiny was a hard pivot for the duke, who had just been hailed as a hero upon returning from his service in the Falklands War.
In 2015, when claims of sexual abuse were first leveled at Andrew, Stark defended him by penning a piece in the Daily Mail. “I believe him to be a good man and I believe I can help rebut, with authority, the allegations against him,” she wrote.
Andrew married Sarah Ferguson in 1986, having known each other since childhood but reconnecting at Royal Ascot the previous year. The Yorks wedded after (and divorced before) Charles and Diana; the two couples were often pitted against one another in the press. The Chicago Tribune previewed Andrew and Fergie’s nuptials in brutal fashion:
Andrew and Fergie gave the tabloids plenty to talk about before separating in 1992 and divorcing in 1996. The criticism was, quite often and unfortunately, directed at Fergie. “Prince Andrew and his flighty Fergie are divorcing, long after the British public itself fell out of love with the flamboyant duchess,” read an Associated Press story. The report went on to describe the “the years of high-profile antics that preceded [the divorce] — most notably the former Sarah Ferguson’s topless cavorting with another man, caught by a photographer in the act of sucking the duchess’ royal toes.”
Andrew and Fergie have remained close, parenting their daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie together. So tight is their bond in recent years that there have been rumors they could get re-married.
Andrew had known Maxwell since her UK university days. In a 2019 television interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis, Andrew said he was introduced to Epstein through Maxwell in 1999. The timetable contradicts what Andrew’s private secretary told The Times in 2011, that Andrew and Epstein met in the “early 1990s.”
In his remarks to the BBC, Andrew framed his relationship with Epstein around his royal role of “special representative for international trade and investment.” It was the position he was given as he transitioned out of his naval duties; the introduction to Epstein came as Andrew was making ties with the “international business community,” the duke told Maitlis.
The trio became more than business associates. Andrew invited Maxwell to his 40th birthday party in 2000 and she brought Epstein along as her date, the prince said. The duke also hosted the pair at Sandringham that December for what he called a “straightforward shooting weekend.” Since the BBC interview, a photograph of Epstein and Maxwell at the Queen’s Balmoral Estate, thought to be taken in 1999, was released as part of legal proceedings.
No. In 2006, the year after the first round of sexual abuse allegations against Epstein were made public, Andrew invited Epstein to Windsor to celebrate Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday. “Certainly I wasn’t aware when the invitation was issued what was going on in the United States,” Andrew told the BBC. “And I wasn’t aware until the media picked up on it because [Epstein] never said anything about it.”
Andrew then traveled to New York in 2010 to stay with Epstein following his release from jail. Epstein had served 13 months of an 18-month sentence, pleading guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor. The duke said the trip was intended to break off their friendship, although he stayed at Epstein’s luxe Upper East Side mansion for several days.
At the time, Fergie was in the headlines for the nearlyon in debt she had racked up, according to the Telegraph. It was a sum that the Queen was “deeply concerned” about, including $125,000 she owed her former assistant. “Prince Andrew went to Jeffrey Epstein for help in paying that debt,” a source told Vanity Fair. (Although the royal family is worth billions, Vanity Fair reports Andrew lives off of $323,000, which he receives tax-free from the Queen each year, as well as $26,000 from the Royal Navy).
That’s when Andrew and Epstein were photographed walking together in Central Park. “Without that photo they would have the chance to deny any knowledge of knowing each other,” said Jae Donnelly, the photographer. “And that photo, for them, sadly exists.” (air story meticulously pieces together the events that led to that picture.) The image ran the following February in the now-defunct tabloid News of the World with the headline: “Prince Andy & The Paedo.”
Later that year, Andrew stepped down from his role as Britain’s “special representative.”
Virginia Roberts Giuffre is now a 38-year-old mother of three living in Australia. She is the founder of Victims Refuse Silence, a non-profit organization that aims to “change the landscape of the war on sexual abuse and human trafficking.”
Giuffre was born in California but moved to Florida as a child. In 2000 she met Maxwell while working at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club as a spa assistant. Maxwell invited Giuffre to be a personal masseuse for Epstein, at which point she says the pair started grooming her.
Giuffre alleges Andrew sexually abused her three times at three locations in 2001: London, New York, and a private island in the Virgin Islands. According to Giuffre, her first encounter with Andrew was on a trip to London when she was 17. Giuffre told the BBC that Maxwell instructed her to “do for Andrew what I do for Jeffrey.” It was on that trip, Giuffre says, that the infamous photo was taken of Andrew with his arm around her and Maxwell smiling in the background. She said Epstein then paid her $15,000.
Giuffre’s name and allegations of abuse by Andrew were first made public in 2015 as part of a lawsuit brought against Epstein and Maxwell. A judge at that time deemed Guiffre’s claims “immaterial and impertinent” to that suit.
Andrew has repeatedly and vehemently denied the claims.
In his 2019 BBC interview, which was seen as a disastrous PR move, Andrew went so far as to say he had never met Giuffre. “On that particular day that we now understand is the date which is the 10th of March, I was at home, I was with the children and I’d taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose sort of four or five in the afternoon,” he said.
Andrew’s comments were slammed as arrogant, and his tone criticized for lack of remorse. “You were watching a man who spent his life being held accountable for nothing attempt to skirt an important issue with the power of his bovine privilege alone, and failing hard,” uart Heritage in the Guardian.
Shortly after the interview aired, Andrew retired from his public duties but retained his military titles and patronages.
In August of last year, Giuffre filed a lawsuit against Andrew in federal court under the New York Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations of survivors of child sex abuse in criminal and civil cases.
The suit prompted the London’s Metropolitan police chief to open a review into the allegations, saying “No one is above the law.” However, two months later the Met dropped its investigation but said it would continue to “liaise with other law enforcement agencies who lead the investigation into matters related to Jeffrey Epstein.”
This month, Andrew’s legal team attempted to have Giuffre’s suit dismissed. Among their arguments was a 2009 agreement she made with Epstein, in which Giuffre received $500,000 and released her claims against “potential defendants.” District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said the settlement was too vague to include Andrew and that the suit could proceed.
“I’m pleased with Judge Kaplan’s ruling yesterday that allows my case against Prince Andrew to go forward. I’m glad I will have the chance to continue to expose the truth,” Giuffre tweeted. “My goal has always been to show that the rich and powerful are not above the law & must be held accountable.”
Andrew has three options: settle out of court, but that’s only possible if Giuffre is willing to accept a financial sum; contest the case, which could mean Andrew would be deposed under oath with a trial later this fall; or default, which would be to ignore the case but he could still be ruled against.
It seems unlikely that the case will go to trial. These kinds of cases in the U.S. almost always result in settlements. And I would have to believe the royal family would want to avoid, at all costs, the messy disclosures a public trial would entail.
However, Giuffre’s attorneys have suggested she is unlikely to accept a “purely financial settlement” from Andrew. “I think it’s very important to Virginia Giuffre that this matter be resolved in a way that vindicates her and vindicates the other victims,” her attorney David Boies said.
The Telegraph reported last fall that the Queen agreed in early 2020 to pay for her son’s defense. “The Queen's financial intervention was considered a necessity. The Duke's personal finances are shrouded in mystery but experts point out that despite an affluent lifestyle, he has no discernible income,” the Telegraph story stated. The Queen is reportedly using funds from her private Duchy of Lancaster estate, which had an income last year of more than £23 million.
This month, p piece in the Telegraph said the Queen “would be asked to help fund any potential settlement the Duke of York pays his accuser.”
However, it seems Andrew is looking for funds of his own. The duke recently sought to sell a Swiss chalet he bought with Fergie in 2014 for a reported £18 million. The sale was called into question because Andrew still owed £6.6 million on the property. That debt was reported this week to be paid off, clearing the way for the sale.
This week, the duke was stripped of a dozen military titles and the patronages. The move was “widely discussed” among the Queen and senior royals, including Princes Charles and William. The heirs are thought to have grown increasingly frustrated with Andrew.
Before the announcement, a letter signed by 152 veterans called on the Queen to strip Andrew of his military ranks and titles. Published by the anti-monarchy group Republic, it read, “Officers of the British armed forces must adhere to the very highest standards of probity, honesty and honourable conduct. These are standards which Prince Andrew has fallen well short of.”
Andrew will also no longer be styled as HRH, which — surprisingly — opens another door for him. “With no official duties to perform, he will no longer receive public funds but will be free as a private citizen to take paid work in the private sector or source money through other private means to fund his very expensive legal effort,” according to CNN. “That would have been seen as a conflict of interest while he was an HRH.”
* * *
But mostly: I hope Virginia Giuffre gets the outcome (or closure, if that is possible?) she is looking for and I commend her for taking on a powerful figure within a centuries-old institution.
As for the royal family, what a deep and profound shame it is that Andrew has put his mother in this position — and how disappointing her actions have been. I applaud these latest steps by Her Majesty, which essentially relegate Andrew to a private, secluded life. She has prioritized the Firm over her family, and mitigated the damage to her Platinum Jubilee later this year, the historic celebration marking 70 years on the throne. But the Queen’s delay in making this call, and her continued willingness to fund his defense, indicate a support for her son that is problematic at best.
What’s more, this scandal has a lot of runway left. The court case will proceed throughout the rest of the year, perhaps longer. No matter the outcome, the damage to the brand of the royal family is done. “The Duke of York’s reputation is so badly tarnished that if the case went to trial and he won, his rehabilitation would be minimal,” Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine, Guardian.
I expect the allegations will be part of the news coverage of family gatherings for the foreseeable future, too. Either Andrew won’t appear with his family and the reason for his absence will be noted. Or he will be there and his presence will cast a shadow on the events. CNN is reporting that Andrew will be at some jubilee events, albeit in a diminished capacity: “He will be there for group photos but without the prime position assumed by an HRH.”
As much as it pains me to say it — and it does — I think Andrew’s actions and the Queen’s protection of him will forever be a stain on her legacy.
* * *