Last week, which brought the first preliminary hearing in Virginia Giuffre’s sexual abuse lawsuit against Prince Andrew, did not go well for the royal. The screws are tightening and—judging by recent updates from the media across the pond—it sounds increasingly messy and anxious behind the scenes of his defense.
On September 18, after a week of absolutely grueling headlines for Andrew and the increasing possibility that he faces a brutal, expensive, and highly public legal process, the Telegraph reported that “Royal courtiers fear the Duke of York is being failed by the strategy pursued by his London-based legal team”—pause to fully appreciate an absolutely crucial addition to the sentence—“amid growing concern that his ‘wall of silence’ is increasingly damaging the monarchy.” While Andrew has firmly and repeatedly denied Giuffre’s accusation that she was forced to have sex with the prince three times when she was 17, since his absolutely catastrophic Newsnight interview, he and his team have largely opted for a policy of silence. But the Telegraph quoted a “palace source” expressing concern about the wear-and-tear this is putting on the Firm and whether the current strategy is actually working:
“There is growing disquiet over the advice being given to the Duke by his London legal team in the face of this potentially highly damaging lawsuit which also has wider reputational implications for the institution of the monarchy.
“The legal team’s wall of silence and policy of evasion only adds to the impression [that] the Duke has something to hide and there is widespread concern that things have been allowed to get to this point.”
The next day, September 19, the Mirror reported that Andrew was in “crisis talks” with his “inner circle” about the possibility of dismissing his legal team, apparently meaning his UK-based team led by criminal defense attorney Gary Bloxsome of the firm Blackfords (as opposed to the LA-based attorney who appeared on Andrew’s behalf in the New York court where the royal is being sued by Virginia Guiffre, Andrew Brettler). Apparently, Andrew is increasingly concerned that the strategy of refusing to engage is proving profoundly damaging for his reputation. Though it’s worth noting that the policy was adopted in the wake of his Newsnight interview, which wasn’t exactly great for his reputation, either. A source “close to him” told the Mirror:
“The plan, if you can call it a plan, has been shambolic from the start.
“Now it’s all come to a head. He is extremely worried and the crisis talks are so he can get off the back foot. He knows he’s in a full-on crisis.
“The damage to his reputation is there for all to see but now he’s feeling the pressure from his family, though none of them have become directly involved.
“The whole thing’s a disaster.”
“Insiders say” that Charles and William have “privately expressed disquiet” over the whole matter, too.
And then, this morning—September 20—a report in the Daily Mail suggested that the “insiders” weren’t happy about how his UK legal team and US lawyer were working together, not to mention the fact that Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies has been mopping the floor with them in the court of public opinion:
Royal insiders have claimed there may have been a ‘lack of communication and cohesion’ between Andrew’s UK legal team and newly appointed US lawyer about how to move forwards.
And there is apparently deep concern at the way the duke’s well-paid advisers on both sides of the Atlantic have been ‘outwitted and out-played’ at every turn in recent days by David Boies, the street-smart attorney employed by his accuser Virginia Roberts, now Giuffre.
It all adds up to a picture of a big, old, frantic mess. Meanwhile, anti-monarchy group Republic has made Prince Andrew the poster boy for a new nationwide billboard campaign against the institution, with many featuring his picture and declaring: “Wanted: a democratic alternative to the monarchy,” and “No one is above the law.”