Here’s Why Prince Andrew Being Stripped Of His Honorary Military Titles Is A Big Deal
Here's what you need to know about the upcoming sexual assault trial against Prince Andrew.
Prince Andrew has been stripped of his honorary military titles and the ‘His Royal Highness’ title ahead of his upcoming civil sexual assault trial in the United States.
— Content Warning: This article discusses sexual assault. —
In a statement released on Friday morning, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the Duke of York’s military affiliations and royal patronages have been returned to The Queen.
The news comes after more than 150 British Army veterans signed an open letter to the Queen on Thursday, urging her to strip Andrew of his titles over his connection to convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Why Was Prince Andrew Stripped Of His Titles?
Prince Andrew is being sued by Virginia Roberts Giuffre — a victim of Jeffrey Epstein, who alleges Andrew had sex with her three times while she was 17 years old. Although he withdrew from his public duties back in 2019 over his connection to Jeffrey Epstein, the upcoming civil case against him has prompted him to return his royal titles.
According to her complaint, Giuffre alleges Prince Andrew battered her and intentionally caused her emotional distress.
The case is a civil suit that follows the criminal case against Epstein’s confidant Ghislaine Maxwell — who was criminally convicted of three counts of conspiracy, transporting a minor for criminal sexual activity, and sex trafficking a minor during her trial in December 2021.
Andrew had been attempting to have Giuffre’s civil case thrown out before it was able to go to court, with his lawyers appearing in court in New York on his behalf earlier this month. But in a decision made public on Wednesday, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan eventually ruled that Giuffre — now 38 — is entitled to pursue claims against Andrew.
Kaplan said Prince Andrew’s efforts to “cast doubt” on Giuffre’s claims are premature, and that he can do this at trial.
The decision means that Giuffre’s case is set to go to trial, quite likely later this year.
What Are The Allegations Against Prince Andrew?
Giuffre’s legal battle against Prince Andrew first kicked off back on August 10, 2021 when she accused him of sexually abusing her at Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion when she was 17.
Under US law, she was legally considered a minor at the time of the alleged abuse.
“I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me,” Giuffre said in a statement at the time “The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions.”
“I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but to reclaim one’s life by speaking out and demanding justice,” she said.
According to court documents from 2015, Giuffre alleged that Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her on three separate occasions, which caused her “significant emotional and psychological distress and harm”.
Giuffre alleges the first encounter took place at Ghislaine Maxwell’s house in Belgravia in 2001, the second at Epstein’s New York mansion, and the third at Epstein’s infamous private island — Little St James — in the Virgin Islands.
“Prince Andrew’s actions constitute sexual offences as defined in New York Penal Law Article 130, including but not limited to sexual misconduct as defined in Article 130.20, rape in the third degree as defined in Article 130.25, rape in the first degree as defined in Article 130.35,” she says in her lawsuit.
Giuffre also alleges that she was forced into sex by threats from Epstein, Maxwell and/or Andrew and that Andrew was aware of her age and that she was a sex-trafficking victim at the time of the alleged incidents.
“Prince Andrew forced Plaintiff, a child, to have sexual intercourse with Prince Andrew against her will,” the complaint reads. “Andrew’s wealth, power, position, and connections enabled him to abuse a frightened, vulnerable child with no one there to protect her.”
The complaint seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.
What Has Andrew Said?
Prince Andrew has denied all allegations against him since the claims first came to light. Back in 2019, he told BBC Newsnight that he has no memory of ever meeting Giuffre and that her claims of the encounter at Belgravia “didn’t happen”.
“I can absolutely, categorically tell you it never happened,” said Andrew. “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”
According to Andrew, on the date she claims to have met him, he was looking after his children and took Princess Beatrice — his daughter — to a party.
Andrew has not been able to explain the infamous photo of him with his arm around Giuffre, which clearly shows Ghislaine Maxwell in the background.
What About The Epstein Settlement?
A major part of this legal puzzle is a confidential settlement between Giuffre and Epstein, in which she agreed to not bring any future cases against other “potential defendants” in exchange for US$500,000.
While Andrew’s team has argued that he could be considered a “potential defendant”, Judge Kaplan said — legally — he can’t speculate on what the intention of this agreement actually meant, and if it was designed to benefit Prince Andrew.
Basically, the words “potential defendants” are too vague and could relate to literally anyone at all and because the settlement did not clearly and unambiguously reference Prince Andrew, this cannot be used to throw out the case.
Can This Result In A Criminal Charge Against Andrew?
Short answer? No. Andrew has not been charged criminally and the result of Giuffre’s lawsuit cannot result in any criminal charges against him as it is a civil case.
Andrew has previously declined federal prosecutors requests to interview him about Epstein’s historic sex trafficking and it is unclear if they are still interested in talking to him.
Why Does It Matter?
After years of denying any wrongdoing, Prince Andrew handing in his military titles and royal patronages means that he will fight the civil case as a private citizen.
Obviously, his ties to the royal family — and the fact that he was the Duke of York at the time of the alleged assault — will be damaging to the Crown’s image if the court rules in Giuffre’s favour. The loss of his HRH title is particularly significant considering that he was born a member of the royal family, unlike others who have lost the title like Princess Diana and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson.
“Losing the HRH style would be the most emotionally damaging because he was born a royal highness,” a source close to the family told The Guardian.
Meanwhile, royal historian Dr Ed Owens notes that this is perhaps more damaging than Harry and Meghan ditching the title because it was their choice to step down.
“We know he has been trying to cling on to the last semblance of respectability in public life and keeping himself present,” Dr Owens told The Guardian. “It now looks like that has backfired.”