The past few years, it is almost an understatement to say, have been acutely embarrassing for Prince Andrew, the man ninth in line for the British throne and reportedly the queen’s favorite boy. Deservedly embarrassing, maybe, but a real barn burner of a tabloid nightmare regardless. The Duke of York’s long and apparently close friendship with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein came under fresh scrutiny ahead of the financier’s 2019 arrest. The Department of Justice accused Epstein of architecting a sprawling sex-trafficking ring, coercing countless young women and underage girls into intercourse with him and a cadre of his high-profile acquaintances.
After Epstein killed himself in jail, investigators did not drop their case but focused instead on his enablers. As the Feds escalated their search for the disappeared Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite convicted of sex trafficking in December, the spotlight on Andrew grew hotter: She introduced him to Epstein, and when Virginia Roberts Giuffre sued Maxwell in 2015, she also said she’d been forced into sex with the prince on three separate occasions as a teen.
The palace has always insisted that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue,” but then there is also that saying, what is it, no smoke without fire? Yeah, there’s an alarming amount of smoke billowing from Andrew land. There are photos of Epstein and Maxwell lounging outside a cabin at the queen’s Balmoral estate; photos of Maxwell and Kevin Spacey (another Epstein associate, similarly accused of sexual misconduct with minors) in the Buckingham Palace throne room, laughing on the queen’s special chairs; photos of Andrew and Epstein sunbathing with topless women on a yacht. There are flight logs from Epstein’s private jets (including the “Lolita Express”) that list the duke as a passenger. There are witnesses who recall seeing Andrew at Epstein’s various homes and at “naked pool parties.” And now, there is another lawsuit, this time aimed firmly at the prince.
In August 2021, Giuffre filed a civil claim against Andrew, accusing him of raping her when she was 17. Though his attorneys have worked to get the case dismissed, a New York judge has now decided that the suit could proceed. Which means, among other things, that you may have some questions. How did we get here? How does one sue a royal? How fat are Prince Andrew’s fingers, really? How much does Prince Andrew sweat? What is a Pizza Express?
Sigh. Let’s get to it.
First of all: Is it even possible to take a prince to court?
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan thinks so. He ruled on January 12 that a 2009 settlement deal Giuffre struck with Epstein — which included a clause shielding “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant” from legal action — did not protect Andrew. Kaplan concluded that, as a third party in the larger Epstein scheme (a person “to whom the girls were trafficked,” to quote Giuffre’s lawyer, rather than a person who helped do the trafficking), the prince was not protected by an agreement between the financier and his accuser. Kaplan has already set a schedule for the proceedings, with a tentative trial start date in September. The dates, however, are all subject to change, and there are a number of things that could happen in the meantime: Andrew can appeal Kaplan’s ruling, and it’s also possible that he and Giuffre could settle. (His legal bills are mounting; he is reportedly planning to sell his Swiss chalet to pay them.) If they move ahead, though, expect both Giuffre and Andrew to undergo intense depositions — per The Guardian, if Andrew fails to show up in court, those interviews would be his stand-in — and also expect witnesses. Giuffre’s attorney says he plans to call “eight to 12,” as does Andrew’s, which … Epstein had scores of powerful friends, and who testifies for royalty, do we think?
What does Virginia Roberts Giuffre allege?
Giuffre has long been one of the most outspoken survivors to accuse Epstein and his cohort of sexual abuse. Previously, she has said that Maxwell recruited her into Epstein’s trafficking ring at Mar-a-Lago, where Giuffre worked as a teen. “The first time in London, I was so young. Ghislaine woke me up in the morning and said, ‘You’re gonna meet a prince today,’” Giuffre told Dateline in 2019. “I didn’t know at that point that I was going to be trafficked to that prince.” Maxwell’s prince (allegedly) turned out to be Andrew: Giuffre said he gave her alcohol in the VIP section of London’s Club Tramp, and that he was a “hideous” and very sweaty dancer. According to Giuffre, the duke was “pouring with perspiration” while he attempted to groove with her: “I just remember like, Ugh, I need a shower. This is disgusting.” But during the car ride back to Maxwell’s house, Maxwell allegedly told her “to do for him what you do for Epstein.”
In this lawsuit, Giuffre maintains that Epstein and Maxwell forced her into sex with Andrew when she was 17 years old and the prince was 40. These are, again, not new claims, but they do amount to “assault and battery,” per her filing, which also calls out locations. On one occasion in Epstein’s (haunted) New York City manor, she says she and “another victim” had to “sit on Prince Andrew’s lap as Prince Andrew touched her,” and that the royal later made her “engage in sex acts against her will.” Another instance of abuse allegedly occurred on Epstein’s jet, and another at Maxwell’s London home, where Giuffre says the duke raped her. “During each of the aforementioned incidents,” the lawsuit states, “Plaintiff was compelled by express or implied threats by Epstein, Maxwell, and/or Prince Andrew to engage in sexual acts with Prince Andrew, and feared death or physical injury to herself or another and other repercussions for disobeying Epstein, Maxwell, and Prince Andrew due to their powerful connections, wealth, and authority.”
In response to the suit, which seeks damages “for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Andrew’s reps said in their own filing: “Giuffre has initiated this baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him.”
Epstein, Maxwell, Prince Andrew — please explain how all of these people know one another.
Via Maxwell is the short explanation: Maxwell and Epstein dated in the 1990s and remained close friends (slash accomplices) after their relationship, whatever it was, ended. A British socialite, Maxwell introduced Epstein to Prince Andrew, and from there, a friendship blossomed. A limited list of documented hangs: There was a jaunt to Epstein’s so-called “pedo island” in 1999 (and possibly others, too); there was a “Dance of the Decades” at Windsor Castle in 2000, which the queen also attended; that same year, there was a weekend at the royal Sandringham Estate to celebrate Maxwell’s birthday and shoot some pheasants; there was the masked ball to celebrate Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday in 2006, after the first allegations of molestation surfaced against Epstein; there was, at some point, Epstein’s £15,000 loan to Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, which she subsequently apologized for having accepted. And then there was the alleged breakup of 2010: a four-day trip to New York City Andrew says he made to end things in person, more than a year after Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution.
According to one contemporary account of this visit, the breakup itinerary included a lavish party at Epstein’s mansion (which Woody Allen and Charlie Rose also attended, and which Andrew said definitely wasn’t a celebration of Epstein’s release from prison); strolls in Central Park; and possibly also foot massages given by “two well-dressed Russian women,” per the literary agent John Brockman, who apparently went to the house while Andrew was there. It all sounds very leisurely and cozy even for a long last good-bye, and Andrew has offered it up as an example of how he is always doing the right and honorable thing.
Isn’t there a photo of him hanging out with Giuffre and Maxwell?
Oh, yes! Here is the photo you are thinking of: Andrew with his arm wrapped around a teenage Giuffre’s waist, while Maxwell grins in the background. It appears to have been taken at Maxwell’s London home, ca. 2001, which is when Giuffre alleges the abuse took place.
Andrew has long attempted to distance himself from this particular image, understanding that it really does not look good. First, he said he had no memory of it being taken. Then, a source supposedly close to Andrew insisted to the tabloids that the photo must have been edited, because Andrew’s real-life fingers are “quite chubby,” whereas these photo-fingers are reasonably slender; just look at them. (Very quickly, the Daily Mail put what I can only assume were all its best guys on the case; their investigation did not find “any obvious discrepancies” in digital girth, and neither do I.)
Yet somehow, even the finger thing was eclipsed by the towering fiasco that was Andrew’s November 2019 BBC interview, during which he once again claimed to have “no recollection” of ever meeting Giuffre. He also asserted that he could not be “certain” that was really his hand on her waist, even if “nobody can prove that photo has been doctored.” And all of that looked floundering enough, but ultimately made up only one small corner of the trash-fire-scorched ground we must cover here.
Prince Andrew’s BBC interview: a sizzle reel
The interview itself lasted about an hour, and while the source material is rich, we can just do the highlights. Some of the more astounding things the prince said:
• Of his 2010 breakup trip: That phoning Epstein to say that the whole child-sex-ring thing precluded the possibility of continued friendship would’ve been the “chicken’s way of doing it,” whereas staying at his house for a few days was “convenient” as well as the “honorable and right thing to do.” Indeed, Andrew supposed that his “judgment was probably colored by” his “tendency to be too honorable,” even as regards a person so “unbecoming” as Epstein. No show of politesse goes unpunished, I guess.
• Of the night he supposedly forced sex on Giuffre at Maxwell’s house: That, actually, he was with his daughters after taking Princess Beatrice to a Pizza Express (a U.K. pizza chain) in Woking, Surrey, for some kid’s birthday party, on the evening in question. He remembers this “weirdly distinctly,” he said, because “going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do.” And, well, one cannot simultaneously be at a Pizza Express in Woking and also sweating profusely at Tramp; it’s either/or. Presumably, children’s birthdays don’t go on for longer than the clubs stay open, but listen, none of us were there.
• Of his glands: That he became medically incapable of sweating during the Falklands War, and has only begun to regain his sweating ability in the “recent past,” and so could not have sweated all over Giuffre on the dance floor, as alleged.
I will let him explain this one in his own words: “There’s a slight problem with the sweating, because I have a peculiar medical condition which — that I don’t sweat, or, I didn’t sweat at the time.” Here is a video clip of the statement, if it helps to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Can a body sort of shock itself into an extended sweatless state, as Andrew described? Even just hypothetically, is that plausible?
Um! I think, in the way that Andrew explained the situation — the “overdose of adrenaline” he experienced amid gunfire in the Falklands left him incapable of perspiration for whole decades — his temporary sweatlessness is not very plausible. It is true that some people don’t sweat, a condition called anhidrosis; SweatHelp.org says that it can “be caused by one or more of dozens of factors,” affecting isolated areas of the body or the whole thing. Eliminating medications, dehydration, heatstroke, clogged ducts, burns, and nerve damage from the equation, the most likely cause appears to be genetics or autoimmune disease. In those cases, anhidrosis probably isn’t going to settle in for a few years and then fade away eventually. Plus, adrenaline surges are typically associated with spikes in overall sweatiness — though maybe you’ll want to consider these exceptions, c/o The Atlantic:
People who become accustomed to working in high-pressure situations, such as on a battlefield, may develop a tolerance to the effects of adrenaline surges. A general sense of imperturbability could hypothetically translate into other high-pressure situations. After a deeply traumatic event, everything else can feel low-stakes. Or, at an extreme end, this is the phenomenon described in people known as sociopaths: A tendency to not worry or panic becomes an outright inability to do so.
Anyway, one more thing about anhidrosis is that some people don’t know they have it — though seeing as Andrew is the one who plopped this concept on the table, ignorance of diagnosis wouldn’t seem to be the case here, even if we are generously suspending our disbelief.
Did he know, then, that the sweat stuff would come back to bite him?
I’m betting he didn’t, but this is the kind of detail that really sticks in the brain. That may be why Giuffre’s attorneys have seized on the claim, requesting in a December court filing that Andrew produce some proof of “his alleged medical inability to sweat.” Unfortunately, though, the prince’s legal team says it’s so far unable to find any documentation of his purported condition, nor any witnesses who can attest to his presence at the Pizza Express in Woking, even though he was supposedly there for a party. In a word: hmph.
Can Princess Beatrice corroborate the Pizza Express alibi?
It seems not: According to a 2020 “investigation” by the Daily Mail (a tabloid, please keep in mind), Princess Beatrice has “absolutely no recollection” of the Pizza Express birthday in Woking, while the family who hosted it allegedly doesn’t remember whether or not the prince showed up. A diary the Mail looked at reportedly suggests Andrew dropped off Beatrice, but unfortunately, the security officer who might have been able to shed more light on all of this has died.
Have there been royal consequences for any of the scandals?
Though the palace usually refrains from commenting on news reports surrounding family members, the Andrew strategy has historically been denial: “It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with [Giuffre],” read a statement responding to the 2015 defamation suit. “The allegations made are false and without any foundation.”
Still, he’s received slaps on the wrist along the way: In 2011, for example, Andrew stepped down from his role as royal trade envoy in the aftermath of his Epstein visit. Then, a week after his dreadful BBC accounting, Andrew announced his purportedly voluntary resignation from his official duties. The prince framed the move as his decision, which he made independently before asking his mother for permission; certain palace sources, however, said Mummy sacked him specifically because of the interview. “The bottle of whiskey and the pearl-handled revolver were laid out for him,” one told the Daily Beast. “And they were laid out for him by his mother.” Adding insult to the injury of being fired by one’s own mom, she also downgraded the big birthday bash he had planned to a “small family dinner,” at which the party planning committee (Andrew’s ex and continued roommate, Ferguson) reportedly had a hell of a time filling seats.
Most recently, though, the queen revoked Andrew’s military titles — in suspension since 2019 — and royal patronages, in line with a written request from 150 veterans who resent their continued association with this man. He will no longer use “His Royal Highness” for official purposes, and per the palace statement, “is defending this case as a private citizen.”
Literally where is Prince Andrew in all of this?
For years, at this point, FBI investigators have tried to coax Andrew into cooperation, repeatedly urging him — via the media and also his lawyers — to come outside; they just want to talk to him. At the time of the Interview, he suggested that he would comply with “appropriate” law enforcement — and then repeatedly declined to do so. That is, at least, what U.S. investigators claimed; Andrew’s camp maintained he would be “more than happy to talk [but] hasn’t been approached by them yet.” The two parties remained locked in this little duet even as the walls closed in around Maxwell; her arrest reportedly left the duke too anxious to vacation abroad. After Giuffre filed her lawsuit in August, Andrew made the “500-mile dash” (to borrow from the Sun) from the Royal Lodge in Windsor to Balmoral, because he was “going stir-crazy” dodging couriers at home, or so the sources said. While it feels safe to assume his mother’s presence in Balmoral offered some protection from the people trying to serve him, it’s possible he finally accepted the papers before he departed: The docs were reportedly left with security at Windsor Castle’s main gate on August 27, and the prince officially acknowledged the lawsuit just under a month later. Whatever happened back there, the short answer is Prince Andrew has been lying low.
What is Meghan Markle’s involvement?
So glad you asked; everyone is wondering. Although Meghan Markle had not met Prince Harry at the time his uncle began carousing with Epstein — she was herself a teenager living in California, visiting Buckingham Palace but probably not imagining that her future grandma-in-law might live there — and although she and her husband have renounced their official royaldom, the Duchess of Sussex may still be drawn into this mess. In December, Giuffre’s attorney, David Boies, told the Daily Beast that, as a former member of the firm, Markle “was a close associate of Prince Andrew and hence is in a position to perhaps have seen what he did, and perhaps if not to have seen what he did, to have heard people talk about it.” There is, I think, a straightforward difference between being closely associated with someone and being obligated to sometimes exist in the same spaces, but in Boies’s estimation, Markle “is somebody who we can count on to tell the truth.” Her presence in court would, at the very least, probably make the Daily Mail’s head explode.
When is all of this supposed to go to trial again?
September, maybe, though considering the series of events that carried us to this point, I will simply say this: Brace for twists ahead.