Anger in UK over Prince Andrew’s reported US$16.3 million sex assault settlement

Britain’s Prince Andrew attends an event in Brugge, Belgium, in September 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE

LONDON (AFP) – Disgraced British royal Prince Andrew was urged on Wednesday to “live out his retirement in ignominy” after reportedly settling a sexual assault lawsuit for a whopping £12 million (US$16.3 million).

The lawyer for US accuser Virginia Giuffre said on Tuesday that both parties had settled out of court, sparing Andrew the public humiliation of a trial. The details were not revealed.

Giuffre, 38, has said she had sex with Andrew when she was 17 and a minor under US law, after meeting him through US financier Jeffrey Epstein. He took his own life in prison while awaiting trial for sex crimes.

Virginia Giuffre outside a New York court following the death of Jeffrey Epstein in August 2019. Photo: AP
Virginia Giuffre outside a New York court following the death of Jeffrey Epstein in August 2019. Photo: AP

The prince, 61, has not been criminally charged and has denied the allegations.

Mark Stephens, a media specialist at law firm Howard Kennedy, told Agence France-Presse that Andrew had “preserved some measure of dignity for the wider royal family” by agreeing to settle.

But, Stephens added, “he’s not going to see the light of day in public service ever again”.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Andrew was to pay £10 million to Giuffre and £2 million to a charity for victims of sex trafficking.

His team told Agence France-Presse they would not comment on the contents of the deal.

Prince Andrew settles sex abuse lawsuit with accuser Virginia Giuffre
16 Feb 2022

The deal raised questions of who is footing the bill for the perennially cash-strapped prince, who is said to be selling a Swiss ski chalet at a knockdown price to help meet his US legal bills.

The Telegraph said the settlement money would come from one of the private estates belonging to his mother Queen Elizabeth. Commentators demanded transparency on the source, in case the British taxpayer ends up on the hook.

“I just think it’s awful that it’s all been swept under the carpet, as if it never even happened,” Yasmine Olive, a 34-year-old account manager, said in London.

After other controversies over Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, she said that if the royals “keep on carrying on with the things that they’re doing, then it could be the end of them”.

Separately on Wednesday, police in London confirmed they were investigating allegations that an aide to Prince Charles, the queen’s heir, had offered UK honours to a Saudi businessman in return for donations to the prince’s charitable foundation.

The scandal hanging over Andrew has threatened to overshadow the queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year, marking her 70 years on the throne. Any jury trial could have coincided with nationwide jubilee celebrations due to take place in the summer.

But Andrew will now no longer be questioned under oath by Giuffre’s lawyers, who had been due to travel to London next month.

The court filing said Andrew “regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others”.

“He 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,” it added.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during an audience at Windsor Castle on February 16. Photo: Pool via AP
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during an audience at Windsor Castle on February 16. Photo: Pool via AP

But British media called on Andrew to withdraw entirely from public life, after he was already stripped of his honorary military ranks and the title of “His Royal Highness”.

“Andrew is finished – undone by his insufferable arrogance, entitlement and staggering naivety,” popular tabloid The Sun said in its editorial.

“He must retreat entirely from public life and live out his retirement in ignominy,” it added.

Opposition Labour MP Rachael Maskell demanded that Andrew also lose his Duke of York title to show “respect” for the people of the northern English city, which she represents.

The staunchly royalist Daily Mail said in its front-page headline that there was “no way back” for Andrew, who withdrew from royal duties in 2019 after a widely ridiculed BBC interview.

Inside, the paper slammed Andrew for a “vile smear campaign” against Giuffre.

British commentators also mocked Andrew for claiming he had never met Giuffre, querying why he had agreed in that case to settle for such an apparently large amount, and pointing to a photograph of the pair together when she was 17.

His lawyers had questioned the authenticity of the photo, which also showed socialite and Epstein friend Ghislaine Maxwell.

In December, Maxwell was convicted of recruiting and grooming young girls to be sexually abused by Epstein.