Prince Andrew Prince Andrew. Photo: Paul Kagame / Flickr / cropped from original / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked below article

The disgraced Duke of York is just one symptom of a rotten institution which needs to be abolished, argues Sean Ledwith

Prince Andrew’s lawyers have stitched up a grubby out-of-court settlement this week which they hope will put a lid on the accusations of child rape against their now notorious royal client. The legal team representing Virginia Giuffree filed a case last year claiming the Prince had sexually assaulted the then 17-year-old on three occasions in 2000-01.

The alleged assaults all took place at locations owned by the disgraced financier and sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and were facilitated by his co-conspirator in a predatory paedophile ring, Ghislaine Maxwell. She was found guilty of child sex trafficking last December by a US court and is now awaiting sentencing. Epstein died in mysterious circumstances in a New York prison in 2019. Prince Andrew’s association with these two malignant characters included allowing both to stay on the royal Balmoral estate in 1999.

£10 million question

Three years ago, the Duke was interviewed by Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis in what must rank as one of the most ill-conceived PR stunts of all time. With his ludicrous tales of dining at Pizza Express in Woking and his non-sweating condition, Andrew’s attempts to deny any connection with Giuffre only served to deepen the hole he was already in. Commenting on the recent deal, Maitlis now poses the question the whole country is asking:

‘why is a prince who told me he had “no recollection of ever meeting this lady” now paying her what we understand to be upwards of £10 million?’

This week’s settlement means Andrew will not have the day in court which, only a few weeks ago, he was apparently keen to have in order to clear his name. In the statement from his legal team, the Prince continues to plead his innocence but acknowledges that Giuffre was the victim of his friend’s horrific manipulation:

‘Prince Andrew has never intended to malign Ms. Giuffre’s character, and he accepts that she has suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks. It is known that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked countless young girls over many years.

Crass and cynical

In an unbelievably crass and cynical ploy to salvage some semblance of decency, Andrew also ‘pledges to demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein by supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims.’ Jayne Butler from the Rape Crisis organisation speaks for many when she expressed her revulsion at the notion of taking money from a man who is now inextricably linked to the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young girls:

‘Offers to support victims and survivors of abuse do feel cynical when Prince Andrew’s legal team demonstrated so much disrespect for Ms Giuffre and a complete disregard for how their victim-blaming actions would affect other victims and survivors.

Can’t pay, won’t pay

Estimates of the undisclosed legal cost for the disgraced Prince of the legal settlemt reach up to £14 million. Bearing in mind the whole edifice of monarchical privilege is essentially funded by the UK taxpayer, the question is immediately and inevitably posed about who exactly foots the bill for this sordid saga.

The deal has clearly been arranged by the Queen and her senior advisors at Buckingham Palace to prevent this year’s Platinum Jubilee being overshadowed. The prospect of her second son being at the eye of a US-based media storm which would have dominated television screens at a time we are supposed to be bowing and scraping must have been too much for the monarch to stomach.

As the British population confronts a cost of living crisis set to plunge millions into even greater financial hardship, the contrast exposed by this episode between the grim reality for the majority and the gilded corruption of the elite could not be starker.

Storm clouds

This attempt by the House of Windsor to cover up the depraved activities of Prince Andrew is unlikely to clear the storm clouds converging on the monarchy. Also this week came allegations that a charity linked to Prince Charles has been involved in a cash for honours deal with a Saudi citizen.

Just before Christmas, the island of Barbados decided to sever its connection to the monarchy. Other Commonwealth states are lining up to do the same.

Last year, of course, there was the accusations of racism aimed at the royals by Megan Markle and the outcry at the BBC’s sycophantic response to the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. Even the residents of Downing Street appeared to have lost respect for the institution, considering the stories of a party there the night before the Duke’s funeral!

Another crack in wall

Royal lackeys such as the BBC’s Nicholas Witchell are desperately trying to detach the Queen herself from these multiplying crises surrounding the monarchy, hoping no-one raises awkward questions such as why did she fail to intervene years ago to stop Andrew’s association with Epstein and Maxwell? Royalists are painfully aware the moment Elizabeth ceases to reign over us, the legitimacy of the whole institution will no longer be off-limits in the mainstream media.

Along with controversies surrounding the Met Police, Downing Street parties and corporate enrichment during the pandemic, the Prince Andrew saga is one more sign that the cohesion of the British establishment is cracking. Hopefully, in the near future we will see the rest of the royals join the Duke on the scrapheap of history.

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Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters