BY PAUL T HORGAN
It was Bagehot who stated that the “Above all things our royalty is to be reverenced, and if you begin to poke about it you cannot reverence it…Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic.“. Unfortunately, rather than daylight, a portion of our royalty has been illuminated by something akin to a battery of 800,000,000 candela searchlights due to the details of the sordid life of American financier Jeffrey Epstein.
The Epstein case did not die with his suicide. I will not use the word ‘apparent’ before ‘suicide’ in the preceding sentence, as just because Epstein was well-connected, it does not follow that his connections also indulged in his criminal perversions, requiring Epstein to be silenced for their own safety from criminal investigation. However, since Epstein was well-connected, and also invited these connections into his numerous residences and vehicles, which included a private island and a Boeing airliner fitted out like an aerial palace, there has been a form of guilt by association in the public mind with every prominent name in Epstein’s black book of contacts.
The person most affected at present by his association with Epstein is Her Majesty’s second son, the Duke of York. This has not been helped by the appearance of a photograph of Prince Andrew that was taken in one of Epstein’s residences with his arm around the waist of a pretty 17-year-old girl, Virginia Roberts, who is now much older, less pretty and is called Virginia Giuffre. What makes the image more damning than it has already been is the third person in the image, that of Ghislane Maxwell, who can now be described without fear of lawsuit as a child sex trafficker following her recent convictions on numerous charges laid by the US Government.
However Giuffre herself was also involved, and very little seems to have been made of this by the searchlight operators. During Maxwell’s recently-completed trial, it emerged that Giuffre, then called Roberts, recruited at least one of Epstein’s victims, called Carolyn, and inducted the 14-year-old girl into Epstein’s depraved lifestyle. According to a BBC report on Maxwell’s trial:
“Carolyn told the court it was one of Epstein’s most outspoken accusers Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, that first told her at 14 years old that she could make money by massaging a wealthy friend of hers.
Carolyn met Ghislaine Maxwell when she showed up at Epstein’s mansion in 2001. Maxwell, she said, told Virginia to take her upstairs to the massage room and “show her what to do.” Prosecutors told jurors that by this time period, Maxwell had devised a pyramid scheme of abuse that no longer required her to personally find young girls for Epstein.
Instead, they would reward vulnerable girls who brought someone new with extra cash. “
Despite being inside what American prosecutors described as this ‘pyramid scheme’, Roberts/Giuffre has managed successfully thus far to portray herself exclusively as a victim rather than a partial enabler, her implicit excuse being her youth and immaturity. It is as victim that she is using the courts to seek compensation from Prince Andrew, by alleging that he had sex with her while she was legally a minor, the age of consent where the alleged sex act took place being 18, when she was at the time 17. There has been a major development in this case, namely the unsealing of the terms of an agreement between Epstein and Giuffre. The text of this agreement seems to indicate that Giuffre, in return for a payment of half-a-million dollars, would
Giuffre argues that since this does not explicitly mention Prince Andrew, it does not count.
But for Prince Andrew this raises another problem. For him to be not liable to Giuffre under the terms of agreement, he has to be someone who actually sexually abused Giuffre, but is excluded as he could otherwise “have been included as a potential defendant“. So he would have to state something like “Yes I did, but it no longer counts”, which hardly restores his reputation. This would be similar to His Royal Highness taking the fifth.
Prince Andrew’s position is absolute, complete and total denial, meaning that the agreement in his case seems irrelevant. Yet admission would appear to exonerate him from any legal liability, at the expense of his reputation, hence the dilemma. The problem is that this lawsuit is based around yet another one of those ‘he said-she said’ arguments where there is no independent corroboration. The photograph is merely circumstantial evidence, except that a man having his arm around the waist of a pretty teenage girl does suggest a relationship more intimate than friendship, but it is only a suggestion, and nothing more.
And this is the real problem. Giuffre seeks compensation, but it is the damage to Prince Andrew’s reputation that is the issue, irrespective of the outcome of any case. In fact significant damage has already been done. Giuffre’s case against Prince Andrew for the moment does continue and thus so does the damage, which so far has been restricted to one man and has not infected or damaged our constitutional monarchy, however much socialists bearing torches may bleat.
Paul T Horgan worked in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.