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And just like that it’s all over. Britain’s Prince Andrew, the Queen’s second son, has reached a deal with Virginia Giuffre to settle her civil sex abuse lawsuit against him.
Giuffre alleges she was trafficked by convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and forced to perform sex acts with his friends, including the senior royal. She also said the Duke of York had been aware she was underage in the US at the time.
Giuffre brought the case last August under the Child Victims Act, a state law enacted in New York in 2019 which temporarily extended the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases, giving survivors more time to seek justice.
Andrew, 61, repeatedly rejected the allegations against him. Just weeks ago, his lawyers had demanded a jury trial to clear their client’s name.
But now the looming courtroom showdown is off. On Tuesday, the two sides reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed figure.
In a letter to federal Judge Lewis Kaplan, the parties stated that while the full financial terms of the agreement would not be revealed, “Prince Andrew intends to make a substantial donation to Ms. Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights.”
According to the court document filed by Giuffre’s attorneys, the parties plan to file a stipulation of dismissal of the case within 30 days.
So, with news of the case’s pending conclusion, let’s unpack a few things.
Andrew has claimed to have no recollection of ever meeting Giuffre or of posing for the infamous photo showing the royal with his arm around the teenager.
His lawyers have spent months trying to undermine Giuffre, arguing her claims were motivated by money. They wrote in a blistering court filing in October that: “Giuffre has initiated this baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday at his expense.”
And while Andrew neither confirmed nor denied Giuffre’s claims in Tuesday’s court filing, he has now agreed to a likely multi-million dollar settlement with a woman who leveled grave accusations of sexual abuse against the senior royal.
UK newspapers twisted the knife on Wednesday with numerous headlines suggesting the deal amounted to anywhere between £10 and 12 million ($13-$16 million). The Daily Mail splashed with “Duke’s final ‘£10 million humiliation,” The Sun newspaper ran with “His final disgrace,” while The Daily Telegraph reported “Queen to help pay for £12m settlement.”
Questions over how Andrew will foot the bill remain. There have been suggestions that the Queen may contribute – but that could be damaging for the monarch, were it ever to be confirmed.
To date, the Queen has largely avoided becoming the target of public anger over the saga that has engulfed her son. She remains revered, and ‘the firm’ has gone to great lengths to distance itself from the civil suit.
A closer look at the phrasing of the document is also revealing. It states that “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.”
His team is now recognizing her trauma and praising her bravery at coming forward.
“Prince Andrew regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others,” the document continues.
One of the big criticisms of Prince Andrew has been over his lack of empathy for Epstein’s victims. Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, had provided a view of the case from her perspective in January when he told the BBC it was important to his client that the matter “be resolved in a way that vindicates her and vindicates the other victims.” Sigrid McCawley, another attorney for Giuffre, said Tuesday that she was “very pleased with the resolution” of the lawsuit.
Then there’s the question of why this has happened now. The settlement comes at a crucial juncture in the case, as it moved into the discovery stage, during which both sides could demand disclosure of documents and the parties involved would have had to sit for depositions.
Andrew was less than a month away from having to give a statement under oath to Giuffre’s lawyers, who were reportedly planning to fly to London to question him in person. If ever there was a moment to strike a deal, this was it.
CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson says it was “a significant development and off ramp” for the duke as with litigation “you always will have revelations that occur.”
“In depositions, for example, where you raise your hand and you swear to tell the truth … in the event that he perjures himself, he opens himself up to some other issues and then obviously it stays in the news,” he continues.
“Not to mention a legal perspective, where after depositions, after discovery, and you go to court and you could lose, and that’s when all types of details may come out that you may not want.”
Jackson thinks the duke was left without any option other than to settle, since letting the case drag on “would do him no good nor anyone else related to him any good.”
“I think this was the best option to explore and ultimately to take,” he adds.
However, the end of the lawsuit doesn’t mean we’ll see the ninth-in-line to the British throne returning to public duties anytime soon. For the former naval officer, that ship has well and truly sailed.
His handling of the crisis since Giuffre’s allegations first emerged years ago has left his reputation in tatters.
The court of public opinion designated him persona non grata after that car-crash interview with the BBC in 2019, during which he was coy about his years-long friendship with Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. He said he was at a pizza parlor on the night it is alleged that he had sex with Giuffre. He also said he was medically incapable of sweating, countering allegations from Giuffre that he had perspired profusely before they had sex in 2001, when she was 17.
A settlement leaves many of the issues raised in that interview unresolved.
And it’s important to note that the recently convicted Maxwell is now facing life in prison for sex trafficking.
Legal experts say prosecutors could consider continuing their work investigating the crimes of the British socialite and Epstein to determine whether others should be charged – especially if she decides to cooperate.
These days the prince spends much of his time on the Windsor estate and is often surrounded by photographers when he attempts to leave his home.
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson told CNN the palace would not be commenting on the latest developments in the case on Tuesday, once again saying it was a matter for the Duke and his legal team.
But the settlement will likely be welcomed within the palace since it means the court case will no longer cast a shadow over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations this summer.
The family has gone to great lengths to distance itself from the scandal surrounding Andrew, with the Queen stripping him of his HRH status as well as his royal patronages and affiliations last month, to make it clear his exile from the royal frontline was permanent.
It’s worth noting that Andrew still has a constitutional role. He remains a Counsellor of State – and along with Charles, William and Harry – could be called on to pick up some of the Queen’s duties if she were temporarily incapacitated due to illness or if she was traveling.
Andrew’s relinquishment of his public-facing royal role doesn’t change his counsellor status – it would take an act of parliament to revoke that.
How the prince will move on from this remains to be seen.
The carefully-crafted settlement letter states that: “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.”
That suggests he might become some sort of campaigner for sex abuse survivors – but reputation management experts have previously expressed doubt over Andrew’s ability to repair his image. And it is unclear just how welcome any offer of help from him would be to charities or support groups.
While the prospect of an embarrassing public trial is off the table, by settling he has failed to clear his name, and the damage to his reputation has been done.