Royal Corner

What Is Happening With Prince Andrew?

Prince Andrew briefly returned to the spotlight in the run up to his father's funeral last month, but the calls for his co-operation with the FBI over Jeffrey Epstein aren't going away, so what is happening with Prince Andrew?

MAY 13th, 2021

© Getty Images


t’s fair to say that the Royal Family has faced many a scandal in its long history, from medieval murder, brotherly betrayal, and explosive interviews; the monarchy is well known for sheilding itself from lobbied bombs. In recent years, the interview by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with Oprah Winfrey led to dramatic (and wildly overzealous) exclamations that the ‘Firm’ was facing a constitutional crisis that could see the one thousand year old institution crumble. The reality is very different - it won’t.

But away from the Californian former royals, there is a gradually unfolding scandal which has proved deeply problematic for the Royal Family and it begins with two words - Prince Andrew.

Prince Andrew attended the funeral of his father Prince Philip last month. - © Getty Images

For those who have perhaps been living under a rock, which I suspect many within Buckingham Palace would happily wish they had been when it comes to the Duke of York, the problems surrounding Prince Andrew stems from his relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. This friendship came stained with the sordid and disturbing spiral of allegations which have been aimed directly at the Duke. Sexual abuse of a minor, conspiracy to hide information from investigators, and the abuse of role and rank within the monarchy for personal and financial gain are just a taster of what is facing Prince Andrew.

As the allegations grew louder, it became increasingly clear that Andrew could no longer remain quiet. The age old royal mantra of “never complain, never explain” wasn’t working and it was time for the Duke of York to talk. He did, in an interview with Emilie Maitlis for the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

To say it was a car crash would be an unjustly understatement. It was a car crash, train wreck, plane crash, and nuclear bomb, all wrapped into one poisonous and unbelievable monstrosity of arrogance, stupidity and blatant falsehoods with a lashing of non-sweating, pizza eating idiocy to finish it all off. As the interview concluded, it wasn’t difficult to see that the Duke of York’s life as a working, public member of the Royal Family was finished for good.

Yet after the interview, the news and rumblings surrounding Prince Andrew strangely went quiet. There were limited updates on the investigation, including that the FBI - who are currently conducting an inquiry into Epstein’s partner-in-crime, Ghislaine Maxwell - were glad to hear that the Duke was “willing” to help. According to those investigating, that help has yet to be provided by the Prince. Lawyers for Andrew claim otherwise, stating that he has offered to give a witness statement three times. Either way, there remains no public help from the Duke of York, who has done little to cover himself in glory over the last eighteen months.

The Duke of York sat with Emilie Maitlis for an embarassing and shocking interview in 2019. - © CBS/Harpo

With pressure continually mounting, the recent death of Prince Philip brought a grieving Andrew back into the public realm (much to the horror of the Royal Family’s PR team) as he addressed the media for the first time since being forced back from royal life. Naturally, and understandably, the reaction was not one of support. Whilst some agreed he had a right to publicly comment on his father’s death, there were inevitable questions over why he still hadn’t spoken to the FBI. And although this was a valid point, it also raised the further question over why the authorities investigating hadn’t officially demanded the Duke of York provide a witness statement, instead of simply betting on the royal’s moral willingness to do so. To date, that still hasn’t occurred, even though the FBI would be able to formally request the Duke of York to assist in their investigations.

To add some detail, there are currently two investigations taking place over the foul crimes of Jeffrey Epstein - one criminal, the other civil. The FBI are leading the criminal investigation and under a legal pathway known as “Mutual Legal Assistance” (MLA), prosecutors would be able to formally request Prince Andrew give evidence, known as a deposition in the UK. A similar process exists in any civil investigation.

This type of deposition, or subpoena, would only be applicable in the UK. If the US was to formally request the Duke of York’s help there would be no legal obligation for Prince Andrew to go to America and submit to the subpoena.

In the result of any triggering of a request for MLA in Britain, it could mean that Prince Andrew would be sworn in and asked questions in a hearing before a judge in private. Although, he could exercise his right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer, though considering the lengths in which he has actively claimed his innocence, any refusal would be seen as a declaration of guilt specifically in the court of public opinion. So, a formal request can be made by the FBI, but there can be no legal compulsion to force Prince Andrew to provide a witness statement.

Prince Andrew photographed beside convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epistein. - © Getty Images

"While there is no way to compel Prince Andrew to give evidence in the UK or the US in either the civil or criminal case,” says Daniel Sternberg, a barrister specialising in extradition law at Temple Garden Chambers in London, “his failure to do so does not sit well with his previous public statements that he would help any appropriate law enforcement agency with its inquiries."

And here lies the biggest obstacle facing Prince Andrew - he may be able to evade the Court of Law, but the Court of Public Opinion isn’t so easy to sidestep. For most of the public, their verdict on the allegations is already cemented - guilty. The only option left for the Duke of York to both profess his innocence and the public to believe him, is to be forthcoming with what he knows surrounding the crimes of Epstein and Maxwell. So far, the FBI and the prosecutors in the civil case have opted for a morally conscious approach; requesting the Duke help, instead of demanding he does. It is a method which has yet to bear any fruit in building any further momentum around the allegations against Prince Andrew, or furthering their investigations into Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. So naturally, the information around Prince Andrew has since stalled.

Yet, it hasn’t stopped the public from demanding more details, and in particular from the media. In what has been a constant, and in many ways unfair, critique of the reporting of the Epstein/Andrew allegations; some believe that there has been too much attention given to other members of the Royal Family and their transgressions instead of Andrew’s. Take Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for instance. Whenever a critical article emerges of the Sussexes, there is an almost predictable onslaught of tweets online asking the simple question: “What about Prince Andrew?” “I wish there would be this level of coverage of Prince Andrew that we see for Harry and Meghan.”

In part, it isn’t hard to agree with the basic point. To place the mistakes of Harry and Meghan against the alleged criminal behaviours of Harry’s Uncle isn’t fair, but when limited information is emerging about Andrew’s accused transgressions, compared to the constant influx of briefing from House Sussex, of course the media will focus on where the news source is most active. It doesn’t make the alleged behaviours of Prince Andrew any less repulsive or the seriousness of his former “friend’s” crimes minimised, but we must not forget that it was the same media which brought the friendship between these two men to light.

The information we know today is thanks to the dogged and investigative work of the British media, in particular the UK tabloids, who broke the news of Andrew’s link to Epstein. And although some conspiracy theorists may believe that the media is protecting Prince Andrew by holding back details on the ongoing investigations, the reality isn’t half as dramatic. That reality is underlined by a simple fact - until Prince Andrew speaks to the FBI, no one will know the extent of what the Duke of York saw or knew about the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein. It is a frustrating fact, and the longer he refuses to help authorities, the clearer his chances of proving his strongly protested innocence fades.

So taking all of this into account, what happens next? Or perhaps the better question is; what could happen next?

Prince Philip photographed alongside Virginia Roberts (Guiffre) and Ghislaine Maxwell. - © Virginia Guiffre

Andrew could be called to provide a deposition and subpoena like mentioned above. If this were to happen it would be some way off in the future. He could also eventually agree informally to provide a witness statement, a position his lawyers are said to be seriously considering now. This outcome potentially rests on what the FBI knows and the information and evidence they have collected over the last few years, but it is significant that neither US authorities or prosecutors for Epstein’s victims have yet to issue MLA requests. Could this be to try and continue to coax Andrew to co-operate informally? Or is their evidence not strong enough to compel the Duke of York to comply?

The chances of Andrew being arrested are remote, no matter how often certain factions of the public demand it. And there could also be the possibility of diplomatic immunity in certain states too. But we’re nowhere near that debate yet.

Whatever happens, and no matter how often some may protest the lack of public coverage of the Andrew/Epstein story in the media, the damage to the Duke of York is both cataclysmic and permanent. With the growing support for a slimmed down monarchy, first suggested by Prince Charles, and now with the backing of Prince William, Andrew’s days as a working royal of any significance is over. Whether he is ever found guilty or not of any allegations put against him, or eventually proves his innocence, is no longer a deciding factor in his royal future. He is a walking controversy - a chaotic, morally corrupt individual that taints the royal brand, not elevates it. He is a problematic prince without prestige, and for the majority of the british public, is no longer worthy of the honour of being royal.

Whatever is happening with Prince Andrew, it isn’t good and it will remain that way until the FBI finally have their questions answered, once and for all.

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