If one was to look up the dictionary definition of “brass neck,” it should come with a picture of the Grand Old Duke of York, grinning inanely and posing in his regimental finery. Obstinacy has been a steady feature of his life, but one only brought into full public view since his entanglement with Jeffrey Epstein. Prince Andrew seems incapable of listening to anyone who is neither extremely wealthy nor a member of the British royal family — and judging by his recent antics, both of those sectors of society are given short shrift, too.
His latest display of “willfulness” (if we’re being kind) or “idiocy” (if we’re not) has concerned his lawyers’ decision to attack Virginia Roberts Giuffre, whose lawsuit against him has been denigrated as “baseless,” with her motivation being ascribed to nothing more than “[achieving] a payday at [Andrew’s] expense and at the expense of those closest to him.” (That’s a reference to the Queen, who has reportedly been bankrolling her son’s defense, and would presumably be responsible for any financial settlement that a court found that he was liable for.)
The document, filed in a Manhattan court last Friday, stated in high-minded terms that “Accusing a member of the world’s best known royal family of serious misconduct has helped Giuffre create a media frenzy online and in the traditional press. It is unfortunate, but undeniable, that sensationalism and innuendo have prevailed over the truth.” The lawyers then introduced an ad hominem attack on Giuffre when they suggested that she, rather than being a victim of Epstein’s, had actively recruited girls for the financier to abuse, asking an acquaintance whether she knew young women “who are kind of slutty.”
The deposition suggested that “It is a striking feature of this case that while lurid allegations are made against Prince Andrew by Giuffre, the only party to this claim whose conduct has involved the willful recruitment and trafficking of young girls for sexual abuse is Giuffre herself, including while she was an adult.” The implication is that a desire for fame and cash has led her to seek revenge upon an innocent, if high-profile, figure, and that the lawsuit should be summarily dismissed.
It may be, of course, that this is what happens, that Prince Andrew subsequently regains his former position in society and that the entire farrago is eventually forgotten about. If you believe that, then I’ve got some Squid Game bitcoin to sell you. Whatever happens in the court case, the reputational damage that has been caused to the Duke of York will remain with him until his dying day, whatever his future involvement with the royal family. Given that the two heirs apparent, Prince Charles and Prince William, have let it be known that there is no route back for him, he cannot expect redemption.
Which is why this attack on Giuffre shows few signs of succeeding in the court of public opinion. Rather than making the Duke look like a noble but wronged figure, it has once again emphasized all the traits of sleaze and exploitation that led to his downfall in the first instance. Punching down towards a younger woman has never been a good look, but in the current climate, the associations with bullying, from a high-profile member of the patriarchy no less, simply look both desperate and vindictive. And early indications show that the intervention has already failed. The district judge Lewis Kaplan has suggested that he expects a civil trial on the accusations to take place before the end of 2022, to coincide with both the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the publication of Prince Harry’s autobiography. The potential, even likelihood, for humiliation grows daily.
Yet Prince Andrew is either unwilling or incapable of lowering his profile. Rather than maintaining what could pass for a dignified silence, he has instructed his lawyers to lower their Prada loafers into the gutter and prepare for a fight. It can only backfire, especially if Giuffre is prepared to share devastating and sexually explicit testimony in open court.
But there we have the Grand Old Duke of York’s modus operandi in a nutshell. He’ll march his men up to the top of Capitol Hill, and then march them down again into the courtroom. When he is up, he is up, and when he is down, he will lash out. This sordid saga shows no signs of having reached its lowest point yet, and its latest twist indicates that there are many tawdry developments left to come.