In an unforeseen development in the civil sex claim filed by Virginia Giuffre, Prince Andrew has reached a settlement out of court for an undisclosed amount of money.
The unexpected settlement has opened up plenty of questions and speculation, whilst the carefully constructed statement has left royal pundits trying their best to read between the lines.
Whilst it is not unusual at all for civil cases, particularly in the US, to be settled out of court – around 90% of them are – court documents filed by Prince Andrew’s lawyers not three weeks ago show that the disgraced royal “demands a trial by jury on all causes of action asserted in the complaint”.
Given that the duke has vehemently denied all accusations against him, and infamously insisted that he was in Pizza Express in Woking on the night in question in 2001, the question remains – what has changed?
The Royal Family will certainly be wishing that this settlement could have been reached months ago, avoiding the messy and damaging public spats of teams of lawyers on both sides. However, with Andrew due to give evidence under oath both in London and New York over the spring, and with the trial set to take place in the Autumn, there is some silver lining that there won’t be a trial media circus overshadowing the Queen’s upcoming jubilee celebrations
The main question being asked is who is paying for this settlement? No figure has been officially disclosed, but rumours suggest the figure could be north of £12m. The royal family both cost and contribute to the public purse – with official expenses in 2019 suggesting that royal official expenses cost the taxpayer £67m. The Queen is, of course, privately wealthy, but questions – and rightful questions – are being asked as to whether the taxpayer is funding this settlement. Anti-monarchy group Republic, as well as MPs, have already demanded to know whether the British public are essentially paying for Andrew to avoid appearing in court. It could be a wise move for the Royal Family to categorically deny that public funds were being used in the case to stop any further speculation.
The statement specified that Andrew would make a “substantial donation” to Ms Guiffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights, and supporting the fight against sex trafficking. But it is unlikely that victims’ of these horrific crimes will be comforted much by this. If anything, it is likely to contribute to the sense that rich and powerful men are able to pay their way out of problems and accusations, rather than face the course of justice.
The monarchy will be able to weather this storm, but it seems unlikely that Prince Andrew’s reputation will ever recover from this one. Despite no admission of guilt, Andrew has certainly been found guilty in the court of public opinion, and it would be best for the monarchy if he was to be kept firmly out of sight, (hopefully) out of mind, going forward.