As Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit moves ahead in New York courts, with the first preliminary hearing taking place, Prince Andrew is marshaling his defenses, both legally and to his much-battered public reputation. Those defenses are looking awfully like papier-mache rather than stone—especially considering that the Windsors are already stretched plenty thin.
Andrew has vehemently denied Giuffre’s allegations. But until shortly before the first preliminary hearing in the case, conducted largely via telephone on September 13, it wasn’t clear whether Andrew would even send anybody to court on his behalf, ABC News noted. Which risked the judge issuing a default judgment on behalf of Giuffre, but would have avoided the drawn-out, extremely public legal proceedings that will now presumably ensue. And Andrew’s first line of defense appears to be, essentially, that he hasn’t been properly legally informed of the lawsuit. The Daily Mail reported that much of the call was taken up with arguing over whether Andrew had been properly served with papers regarding the lawsuit, precisely the type of petty dicking around that doesn’t play very well in the court of public opinion. (A court that matters very much to Andrew, and in which he has fared very poorly in the past.)
Giuffre’s lawyers said that Andrew has been served with the necessary papers; Andrew’s lawyers said that the High Court in the United Kingdom needed to weigh in on whether he was properly served, CNN says. The Hague convention is involved, somehow. (Everything about the case is complicated by the fact that it’s not simply a pandemic, but that Giuffre is suing a British royal in a New York civil court, under the state’s 2019 Child Victims Act.) This comes on the heels of Andrew’s seeming to lie low for weeks, thereby avoiding the prospect of being publicly served and therefore adding another embarrassing photo to the growing collection of constantly circulated damning images of Andrew. It would be a farcical satire of a privileged buffoon’s attempt to evade consequences if it weren’t for the subject matter.
Ultimately, the High Court of the United Kingdom did weigh in two days later, on September 15, accepting Giuffre’s request to serve Andrew with notice of the suit, which means his ability to dodge the suit on a technicality has just run out.
The other argument is also unlikely to sway anybody’s opinion of the Duke of York. Andrew’s new lawyer—Andrew Brettler, who has also represented Armie Hammer, Danny Masterson, and Brian Singer, among others—claimed that in fact, the royal is protected by a “settlement agreement that [Giuffre] entered into in a prior action,” the Miami Herald reported. “We are asking for a document that we believe absolves our client from any and all liability,” he added. Brettler was talking about part of a 2009 settlement between Giuffre and Epstein, which is currently under seal as part of a different legal case and which Andrew’s legal team is now suggesting could absolve Andrew from any liability. Giuffre’s team says it doesn’t apply and was never intended to apply to Andrew.
Meanwhile, Vanity Fair suggests that Andrew possibly has big personal plans in his life: remarry his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson. Ferguson has lately been on a global publicity tour for her romance novel, Her Heart for a Compass, in which she talked a great deal about how hard this has been for her and described Andrew as a “thoroughly good, very gentle man.” A “well-placed source” told Vanity Fair: “They still love and care for each other a great deal and have been living together during the pandemic. It has rekindled something and I can see a second wedding happening if it all goes Andrew’s way.” What’s more, he apparently still thinks he can eventually return to public life. A source close to Andrew apparently told the Mirror:
“It is clear he (Andrew) has a clear and burning desire to return to work as soon as possible.
“That may look entirely impossible but if anything he’s become emboldened in recent weeks and remains utterly convinced he will not only be exonerated but will certainly forge a way back to public life.
“Certainly he has given the incredibly bullish impression that this will all blow over within a short while, rather than become a protracted issue.”
Despite Andrew’s optimism, that’s increasingly difficult to imagine, even for a prince who still gets to spend extensive time at Balmoral. The next hearing in the civil case is scheduled for October 13; also barrelling down the tracks toward Andrew’s reputation is Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal trial, which is scheduled to start in November. The feds would still love to get some cooperation from Andrew on that one.
Meanwhile, adding to the reputational problems of the royal family is the fact that Charles is currently facing his own scandal. His longtime aide, Michael Fawcett, resigned as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation after being implicated in a “cash for honours” scandal, with allegations that he arranged a CBE for a Saudi businessman in exchange for large donations to Charles’s charity. It’s not Fawcett’s first scandal, either, or even his first resignation under a cloud of scandal: In 1998, he resigned from the Prince’s employ after he was accused of bullying, before Charles brought him back; 2001, a Black woman who once worked as personal secretary to Prince Charles alleged that Fawcett racially abused her; in 2003, he was accused of selling off official gifts to Charles and taking his own cut. Charles just kept bringing him back, and now there are concerns about what it means for the Prince of Wales’s already battered reputation. “This could potentially be very damaging for the Prince of Wales. There are most definitely concerns about how serious this could get,” an insider told Harper’s Bazaar. And that’s on top of the new rounds of criticism for his behavior in his marriage to Diana sure to come with the November release of Spencer, already garnering Oscar talk.
In short, at the moment, the Windsors are having enough trouble protecting the future of the heir to the throne—it’s hard to imagine the Firm bending over backward on behalf of Andrew, even if he is, as has long been rumored, his mother’s favorite.