Why the Prince Andrew case is monumental in the fight against sexual abuse, whatever the outcome

Things are not looking good for Prince Andrew. Since as far back as March 2011, the Duke of York’s friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, notorious financier and – even then – a convicted sex offender, has produced what the BBC referred to at the time as “a steady stream of criticism”. 

And it hasn’t really been any better since: in 2014, the Prince was accused of participating in sexual activities with a minor, later identified as Virginia Giuffre, allegedly trafficked for sex by Epstein. A year later, Buckingham Palace stated that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue”, later repeating the denial. Later on, in 2019, Prince Andrew agreed to a now-notorious interview with Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, in which he said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein – and made the Woking branch of Pizza Express infamous forevermore. 

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t seen that photograph of Andrew, with his hand on Giuffre’s waist and with Epstein’s associate, the former socialite and recently convicted Ghislaine Maxwell, standing just behind. The recent ITV documentary, meanwhile – Ghislaine, Prince Andrew & The Paedophile – has provided fodder for even more damning headlines. 

For Andrew, there is nowhere to hide. The Duke of York is fighting a civil lawsuit filed by Giuffre, which claims Epstein paid her to have sex with the Prince. Andrew has attempted to have the lawsuit thrown out, arguing that Giuffre’s claims are vague, and that she has waived her right to sue him by signing a confidential settlement in 2009 with Epstein.

But last week, Manhattan federal judge Lewis Kaplan not only dismissed Prince Andrew, he also underlined that many of his arguments had been of ‘no assistance’ – in other words, worthless. The result? The Royal Family is distancing itself, and fast. Andrew has been – some say, finally – stripped of his military honours, royal patronages and the use of his HRH title, and will face the upcoming case as, in the words of the Palace, a ‘private citizen’. 

So what does it really mean to take a Prince to court? “This case is an important reminder that when women believe that they have been sexually victimised by powerful men and find the courage to abandon their fear, that it is possible for them to seek justice,” says Gloria Allred, the US lawyer world-renowned for taking on high-profile cases involving the protection of women’s rights.

Allred has represented women who have accused Bill Cosby (whose conviction was later vacated), Donald Trump (who denied the claims) and Jeffrey Epstein himself. Last year, she hired an American-style school bus to be stationed outside Buckingham Palace to encourage Prince Andrew to respond to the FBI about the sexual misconduct allegations surrounding him. 

“Virginia is only one of many women who have realised that they have the opportunity to assert their rights in a court of law against men who may be richer, more famous and more powerful than the women who accuse them,” Allred told GLAMOUR. Her words echo Giuffre’s own sentiment: writing on Twitter after the case ruling last week, Giuffre said that her “goal has always been to show that the rich and powerful are not above the law and must be held accountable.” Giuffre appears determined to see Andrew in court; her lawyer, David Boies, has said she would be unlikely to accept a “purely financial settlement”. Prince Andrew continues to deny the allegations made against him, with his legal team arguing Giuffre “may suffer from false memories”.