In March 2011, various newspapers reported on Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the infamous financier who was already well-known at that time for being a convicted sex offender. Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, had already disclosed that Epstein had helped to pay off some of her debts in a deal arranged by Andrew. This all came after the Duke and Epstein were photographed walking together in Central Park in December 2010. At the time, Andrew was a Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, a title he lost the following year. In 2015, Virginia Roberts Giuffre made allegations of sexual impropriety against the Duke in court papers related to a civil action in Florida arising from her connection to the Epstein case. She claimed that Andrew was one of many prominent men who had sex with her while she was a teenager and alleged that Epstein paid her around £10,000 to have sex with the Duke. A photograph of the young Roberts with the Duke, his arm around her waist, was made public. Buckingham Palace released a statement saying that Roberts’s allegations were ‘categorically untrue.’
None of this was hidden by or from the press. Plenty of journalists and columnists wrote about the PR embarrassment and ethical nightmare of a British Prince being friends with a known pedophile who had served an all too brief jail sentence for soliciting under-age girls for the purposes of prostitution. Epstein’s own reputation was one of the most shameful open secrets in America: The man’s private jet, which Andrew flew on, was known as the Lolita Express, and his private island was nicknamed Paedophile Island.
Following Epstein’s death (and the myriad intrigues surrounding it), the harsh spotlight has fallen back upon Prince Andrew. As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle face ever-more scrutinizing press and criticism regarding their own desire for privacy, many royal watchers cannot help but wonder how Andrew has escaped the same level of attention. Granted, he hasn’t avoided it. Channel 4’s Dispatches program did an investigation into the friendship with the eye-catching title of The Prince and the Paedophile. However, given the Duke’s status as the alleged favorite son of the Queen, her implicit support of him through public outings together, and the royal press trying to lump in his scandal with Meghan’s life as ‘proof’ of a tough year for the royals, it’s hard not to get a tad conspiratorial about the PR machinations at play here. Whatever the case, the scrutiny clearly became too much for the Windsors to employ their preferred strategy of ‘never complain, never explain.’ A stiff upper lip and stoic silence would not work here, so Prince Andrew agreed to sit down for a one-on-one interview with Emily Maitlis of the BBC’s Newsnight.
It did not go well.
After once again ‘categorically’ denying sexual contact with a then 17-year-old girl who was essentially pimped out by Epstein, the Duke claimed he had ‘no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever’ of meeting Roberts. Regarding the image of them together, he said he had carried out investigations to prove if the photograph was faked, but the results were inconclusive. He also said he was unaware of the arrest warrant against Epstein when he invited him to his daughter Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday party at Windsor Castle, and that he does not regret his friendship with Epstein because of ‘the opportunities I was given to learn’ from him about business. He did confess that he did not cease contact with Epstein until 2010, two years after he was convicted of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, for which he received 18 months in prison. He described Epstein’s pedophilia and status as a registered sex offender as him having ‘quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming.’
I would suggest to you all that you watch the full interview in question to get a sense of just how slimy and discomfiting the experience is, but it’s honestly kind of difficult to sit through. It is obvious in every answer he gives that this is a man who has sat down for hours of preparation with a legal team to ensure he says exactly what he is told to but the end result is almost robotic. At times, the Duke seems aggravated that he even as to go through with this, as if it is all beneath him. There was nothing in the way of an apology or true remorse for his known friendship with a sex offender. In some points, he is so clearly lying that you wonder if he even knows what the truth is anymore. The deer-in-the-headlights expression he wears throughout a lot of the interview is in sharp contrast to his practiced words and unavoidable arrogance. Imagine the gall required, when asked if you regretted your friendship with a pedophile, to say no because the business advice he offered was so good. It was also confirmed that the Duke’s spin doctor quit his job two weeks ago after advising Andrew not to go ahead with the Newsnight interview.
This is a man who has never truly had to face accountability in his life because he was fortunate enough to be born into royalty. The astounding lack of empathy or understanding of other people’s pain shone through in every squirm-inducing moment of the interview, as did his apparent stupidity. In one moment, he claims that he has a medical condition that means he cannot sweat, a phrase he lets slip from his mouth as a sheen of sweat lines his forehead. These are the actions of a man who knows he will probably never be punished, admonished, or even be inconvenienced by his heinous misdeeds. The bubble of privilege has never been popped for Prince Andrew, although it did come precariously close to exposing him to the real world during that interview. What happens next? In the perfect world, he’ll be interviewed by the FBI and any sort of royal special treatment or immunity will be stripped away. In the right and just world, justice would have its moment, but we sadly know how often that never happens. Epstein never faced justice and his mother wasn’t the Queen. Why should Elizabeth II’s favorite child?
Depressingly, I’m sure the sycophantic royal reporters will still try to find a way to link this to Meghan.
Death to the monarchy.
Header Image Source: YouTube // BBC Newsnight