From Bill Clinton, Trump, Alan Dershowitz to Harvey Weinstein, Epstein had an illustrious guest list of globally iconic individuals in his elite social circle. The jewel in his proverbial crown was Prince Andrew himself, who was not only entangled in the sex trafficking ring but also allegedly participated in it. In a BBC Newsnight special in 2019, Emily Maitlis interviews the Duke of York as he spoke for the first time about his relationship with Epstein and allegations which have been made over the years against him. During the interview he explicitly denied having a close friendship with Epstein, claiming that he only knew him through the deceased convicted sex offender’s romantic partner Ghislaine Maxwell. However, Epstein and the prince’s victim, Virginia Giuffre painted a very different picture of her encounter with the British royal. Reacting to Giuffre’s allegations, the prince told Emily Maitlis,
“It didn’t happen. I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened. I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”
As fate would have it, he was caught like a rat in a trap as a now famous photograph shows Andrew with his arms around a young Giuffre. Ghislaine Maxwell is seen smiling in the background. During her first UK interview with BBC’s Panorama, Giuffre said,
“I’m calling BS on this, because that’s what it is,” she said. “He knows what happened. I know what happened, and there’s only one of us telling the truth, and I know that’s me,”
In the wake of the recently concluded Maxwell trial, Prince Andrews tried very hard to bury these previous allegations, and stay under the radar. Over the years, the Buckingham Palace explicitly denied Giuffre’s allegations and chose to maintain silence on the subject, providing a safety net for the prince. However, his past is rapidly catching up to him as he faces a civil case in the U.S. over the resurfaced allegations that he sexually assaulted Giuffre when she was 17. Stating he abused her in 2001, Virginia Giuffre is suing him. The civil case was filed in New York in August 2021 under the state’s Child Victims Act. The Act allows survivors of child sexual abuse to pursue a case beyond the statute of limitations. However, the prince’s defense attorneys have asked to dismiss the case, since Giuffre signed a deal with the deceased convicted sex offender Epstein in 2009. Citing the deal, the prince’s attorneys believe there is no case. Despite that, a New York judge ruled the case could continue. There are no legal charges made against the prince in the UK.
Thanks to the Maxwell trial, the royal family can no longer remain silent as the palace has its back against the wall. With no escape in sight, the stage is finally set, demanding the most powerful family in the world to come to terms with reality. The prince has been stripped of his military titles and royal patronage by Queen Elizabeth. While he will not be able to use his ‘His Royal Highness’ title in any official capacity moving forward, he still remains the Duke of York — a title which was bestowed upon him in 1986. He will also retain his title as the Earl of Inverness in Scotland and Baron of Killyleagh in Northern Ireland.
Who is Virginia Giuffre?
Born as Virginia Roberts in 1983, in the state of California, Ms Giuffre’s family relocated to Florida where she was first sexually abused at the age of seven by a family friend. Recalling that incident, she claims her “childhood was quickly taken away”. Subsequently, often in and out of foster care till the age of 14, she lived on the streets where she experienced nothing “except for hunger and pain and [more] abuse”. As a series of events shaped her vulnerability during her formative years her encounter with Ghislaine Maxwell was nothing short of a predator meeting its ideal prey. While trying to rebuild her life, Ms Giuffre met Ghislaine in 2000 at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, where she offered to interview her for a traineeship as a massage therapist. Back then, the 20 year old was a locker room attendant. “I ran over to my dad who works on the tennis courts at Mar-a-Lago, and he knows I’m trying to fix my life up at that point, which is why he got me the job there. I said: ‘You’re not going to believe it dad’,” she recalled.
In 2019, a memoir written by Ms Giuffre was unsealed and became one of the exhibits in the lawsuit against Ghislaine Maxwell. The memoir revealed new accusations against Epstein and his powerful circle of friends which included former senator and Disney chairman George Mitchell, Rick Hilton and the prince among others. She claimed that she was “passed around like a platter of fruit” among Epstein’s influential associates all the while being taken around the world on private jets. Similar to other victim accounts, Ms Giuffre was instructed by Maxwell on how to massage Epstein. She also said, “They seemed like nice people so I trusted them, and I told them I’d had a really hard time in my life up until then – I’d been a runaway, I’d been sexually abused, physically abused… That was the worst thing I could have told them because now they knew how vulnerable I was”. She claims that the prince sexually assaulted her on three occasions when she was under the age of 18.
At the tender age of 17, in 2001 she met Andrew when Epstein brought her to London. After going to a nightclub, she said that Maxwell told her that she “had to do for Andrew what I do for Jeffrey”. As the evening progressed Giuffre said she had sex with the prince in Maxwell’s house in Belgravia. In the second instance, she claims that the prince abused her in the New York mansion owned by Epstein. The third time he abused her was on Epstein’s private island, Little St James, in the US Virgin Islands. The court documents reveal that by explicit or implicit threats and the fear of repercussions she was forced into sex. Vary of the powerful, wealthy and influential trio, she feared for her safety if she did not comply with their demands. Finally, she also claims that the prince was well aware of her age and that she was a sex-trafficking victim.
For the prince, this is the beginning of the end.
Deep Dive is a weekly column written by Ashini Jagtiani exploring subjects that have revolutionised the socio-cultural fabric of society.