A friend and long-time advisor of Prince Andrew (now to be known as the Duke of York, given he’s been stripped of his “HRH” title) tells me that his family—especially his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, who cohabitates with him and has been his staunchest ally—is deeply concerned about his mental health and whether or not he will even “make it” to the deposition he’s now slated to give in his legal battle against Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
Giuffre—who was introduced to the prince in 2001 when she was just 17—alleges that the prince had unwanted sex with her three times: first, on the night they met in London, when that now-infamous photo was taken, and then at Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse and on Epstein’s private island in Little St. John.
A photograph appearing to show Prince Andrew with Jeffrey Epstein's accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre and, in the background, Ghislaine Maxwell. (Photo courtesy of Florida Southern District Court)
Prince Andrew has denied meeting or having sex with Giuffre. But behind closed doors, the prince is said to have finally realized “the impossibility” of the position in which he has now found himself, without any apparent way to escape confronting Giuffre’s claims. My source told me, “There's nothing much more you can do to him. The family turned against him—apart from his mother, and his ex-wife and the daughters. Everyone's against him. I would be concerned there's going to be a tragedy here. I really would be concerned. And I'm not saying that lightly.”
Even though it was the Queen who told Prince Andrew face-to-face that he was being stripped of his royal titles and privileges, I am told the prince knows that his mother still loves him as her son. But other relatives including Prince Charles and Prince Edward have completely cut him off. “It was the numbers in the end within the family that forced the Queen’s hand,” my source says.
The source continues, “He's lost everything. Everything. He's ruined… The three women most closely involved—Sarah, Beatrice, and Eugenie—have been absolutely devastated about the whole thing.”
As I write this, Sarah, Beatrice, and Eugenie—Andrew’s ex and daughters—are waiting to be notified by David Boies, the attorney for Virginia Roberts Giuffre, if their testimony is going to be asked for, too. That request is expected within 24 hours, according to my source.
In the event the three women give depositions, there won’t be much they can say about the actual alleged assault in London in 2001 because the duchess was abroad and the girls were very young. But they can certainly be asked about the prince’s character, which, according to my source, could be described as “naïve” and “insular.” I wrote in my previous newsletter how most of the prince’s dinners are at home rather than out. He is arguably now paying a price for that insularity.
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and her daughters Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice at Ascot Racecourse on June 19, 2015. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The “tragedy” from the advisor’s point of view is that the prince is now cornered when he need not have been. He should have put out his narrative—whatever that is or was—way sooner, certainly before last summer, and taken charge, rather than being forced to be on his back foot and reactive now to Giuffre, who has total command of the news cycle.
Whether or not the prince will answer excruciating questions from Giuffre’s lawyers in a deposition is unclear. We know he is attending, but he is not obligated to answer anything.
My source thinks Prince Andrew will dodge the tough questions: “He cannot possibly go and give evidence. I mean, it'd be utter madness. To do that, he'd be eaten alive.”
Of course, to avoid answering questions will not bode well for him in the civil suit.
The other option is just to settle. But, at this point, how difficult would it be? Giuffre has said she wants her day in court. And she is most certainly entitled to it.
My source says that the prince’s team made a very bad tactical mistake and that it’s possible the now-desperate prince may only just be realizing this.
“They should have talked to David Boies,” he says.
Last summer, Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies gave the prince’s lawyers warning in the form of a letter known as a tolling agreement, which, if signed, would have bought time for private talks. But Boies said publicly that if nothing happened before August 14 (when a statute enabling sex assault victims to sue in New York for past abuses expired), his client would file and the matter would move toward trial in public.
But the prince’s then-lawyers didn’t move.
And Prince Andrew said nothing.
My source says that the prince—and possibly some of his advisors, too—apparently did not understand what was at stake, even after the fallout from the trainwreck of a BBC interview Prince Andrew gave in 2019 after which he stepped back from his public duties.
My source says, “He's had a number of years to see if the risk was there, but he didn't see it. I think there's no doubt about that at all. He really is that naïve.”
Prince Andrew, Duke of York, attends the funeral of Prince Philip at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021. (Photo by Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images)
This is the second time in recent months when I’ve encountered a high-profile British person who underestimates the American legal system and was wrong to do so. If Prince Andrew is Exhibit B, the family members of Ghislaine Maxwell are Exhibit A. They told me they really didn’t care that the Southern District of New York’s conviction rate is higher than that of London’s Old Bailey. They were confident they’d prevail. And look how that turned out for them.
Significantly, the American lawyer who has successfully masterminded incredibly successful legal and media campaigns on behalf of his clients in both cases is David Boies, who has himself faced controversy because he represented Harvey Weinstein and was on the board of Theranos, the health-tech company whose founder Elizabeth Holmes was just convicted of fraud.
Right now, Boies is back in the limelight as the hero litigator he was previously known as, given his critical role in the downfalls of Jeffrey Epstein, Maxwell, and now the prince.
Boies has repeatedly told me in the past two years that Prince Andrew was making a big mistake in not accepting his offers to talk—both to him and to the FBI. (Boies also thought Ghislaine Maxwell made a huge mistake in not going to prosecutors with what she knew in 2016. Given her recent conviction, it seems he was right.)
I reached out to Boies today to ask about Prince Andrew’s legal decisions. He’s got a sore throat and is resting before going before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, so his publicist Dawn Schneider responded to me via email with the following:
I need only direct you to last summer. A huge news cycle[*] ran in late July, maybe early August (I know b/c I started it) about the ‘tolling agreement’ that David sent to Prince Andrew’s legal team that went ignored.
Much was reported about that with David talking about his repeated efforts to enter into a discussion. David has been on the record saying as much even before last summer but the net is the tolling agreement he [Prince Andrew] refused acknowledge, much less sign, would have bought him time.
At that point, anyone with a brain knew that was a precursor for litigation being filed against him. And that’s exactly what happened.
No surprise that his legal team is now wishing they had signed it.