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Prince Andrew – the final straw to break the monarchy’s back?

By Niamh Flanagan

Prince Andrew’s trial reveals a pattern of privilege and mistreatment of women from the royal family.

In mid-January, news broke that Prince Andrew would in fact face civil trial over allegations that he sexually abused Virginia Giuffre when she was 17-years-old. New York judge Lewis Kaplan has rejected motions made by the Duke of York’s legal team to suggest that Giuffre had forfeited her right to sue Prince Andrew under the conditions of a settlement previously undertaken with the late Jeffrey Epstein. As things stand, the Prince will either face a very public trial next autumn or will pay a monumental settlement sum to Giuffre. Either option carries with it devastating implications for the royal family and its public image – a settlement offer virtually confirms the Prince’s guilt, and if his infamous 2019 Newsnight performance is anything to go by a public trial would see Prince Andrew decimate any remaining semblance of his dignity and moral character, and almost certainly result in criminal charges. 

Whilst I think it highly likely that Andrew will offer up an out of court settlement, I sincerely hope that Virginia Giuffre has her day in court. For too long, the elite establishment of this nation and the US have enjoyed protection from scrutiny, accountability, and justice by means of economic and class privilege. Hundreds, if not thousands of young girls, that we know of, have been subject to sexual abuse and exploitation at the hands of men of status and money, the civilised and respectable upper class. For decades, the institutional mechanisms of power have silenced voices like Giuffre’s, with consecutive attempts to speak out quashed with offers of hush money and the implied threat. 

These are the consequences when women try to take on our male dominated and inherently patriarchal establishment – the threat of humiliation, degradation, and ignominy. In a commendable act of courage, Giuffre has brought a Prince of England to account for his actions, to face public trial. Virginia Giuffre, and every other young woman abused at the hands of Prince Andrew, Epstein and their wider network of associates deserves public vindication and justice for the trauma they have been subjected to.

“These are the consequences when women try to take on our male dominated and inherently patriarchal establishment – the threat of humiliation, degradation, and ignominy.”

The Duke of York’s legal team announced that their defence strategy will be based on the assumption of mental instability and the production of “false memories” on the part of Giuffre – a despicable attempt to both victim blame and gaslight, and presumably scare her off facing trial. Notably, it is a tactic straight out of the handbook of Maxwell’s lawyers, and we saw how well that worked out for her. If we analyse the credibility of the two separate accounts, the accusation of false recollection seems attributable to only one, and it isn’t Giuffre. The Prince claims to recall attending a birthday party at Pizza Express in Woking almost 20 years ago, that no one can attest to attending, as well as making (thoroughly unsound) medical claims to a condition that prevents him from sweating, as Giuffre attested he had been “sweaty” during their encounter. Meanwhile, Giuffre has made multiple specific claims of assault at identifiable locations, with a now infamous and disturbing photograph placing them together in 2001. It speaks to the arrogance and contempt with which someone like Prince Andrew holds the British public that he would go on national television and make such an embarrassingly stupid and obviously untrue statement in his defence. The surety with which he believes he will be immune to prosecution and consequences for his perverse misdeeds is evident. 

This leads to my wider conclusion: regardless of the outcome of the trial, this whole episode has revealed once again that we live in a two-tier society. One rule for the elite and another for everyone else. Why should an alleged sexual predator have the option to settle out of court and hide in a state funded mansion from public scrutiny, when any ordinary person would likely face the full weight of the law? I speak as a committed anti-monarchist, but surely this must turn the stomach of even the most devoted royalist. The royal family is an institution gradually revealing itself to be utterly undeserving of the reverence, respect and resources bestowed upon it. It has created a reprehensible attitude of superiority and exceptionalism and has subsequently thrown its full weight behind concealing and defending the crimes born of this culture, a culture not exclusive to the royal family of course but present among the ranks of all elite born and financially powerful individuals globally. This conversation doesn’t end with the Prince’s trial – he is a symptom of a much wider cause. If we hope to solve it, we must begin with dismantling the structures of power that separate us and confronting the misogyny and classism entrenched in our society.


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