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Monday, January 24, 2022

Prince Charles brushes off question about Andrew 24 hours after urging Queen to exile his brother… as disgraced duke ‘could find out this weekend’ whether Fergie and daughters will be quizzed in US sex assault lawsuit

Prince Charles today brushed off questions about his exiled brother Andrew, amid reports the disgraced duke could find out this weekend whether Fergie and his daughters will be questioned by Virginia Giuffre’s lawyers.

The heir to the throne refused to speak about the crisis engulfing the Windsors after a US judge refused to throw out Andrew’s sex assault case and said it would proceed to trial.

Charles, known as the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland, was asked about the scandal while visiting the Haddo Country Park, Ellon, Aberdeenshire.

Sky News correspondent James Matthews asked: ‘Can I ask your view on your brother’s position?’.

But Charles – who is said to have played a key part in the decision to strip his brother of his military titles, patronages and use of the HRH title – would not be drawn, instead continuing to speak to individuals impacted by Storm Arwen in late November.

Andrew’s legal team are expecting to find out, possible as soon as this weekend, which members of his family will be asked to give evidence under oath, The Times reported.

Ms Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies has been described as the ‘great deposition taker’ in modern America, and has already indicated he might question Sarah, the Duchess of York, and her daughters Princess Beatrice and Eugenie.

They are likely to be quizzed about Andrew’s alibi for the night in 2001 when Ms Giuffre, allegedly one of Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘sex slaves’, said she slept with the prince in Ghislaine Maxwell’s home after they had been dancing together at Tramp, a high-end London nightclub.

In a brutal two-line statement released last night, Buckingham Palace confirmed he would have to fight the case ‘as a private citizen’.  

Between 500,000 and one million trees were uprooted on the Haddo Estate in Aberdeenshire at the end of November as winds of up to 100mph hit the area.

Efforts to clear the once-dense woodlands of fallen trees ahead of replanting have only just begun.

Charles spoke to landscape manager Oliver Deeming and head of visitor services Susanna Atkinson as he walked the “Scots Mile” road towards the National Trust for Scotland property at the centre of the estate, Haddo House.

At the house, the prince met representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, the police and power provider SSEN to hear about the impact of Storm Arwen and the state of recovery efforts.

 

The country park is currently closed to visitors for safety reasons due to the storm damage.

A local resident said Charles’s visit was the first day for some time that the sound of chainsaws was not ringing out around the area.

Palace sources said the ‘ruthless and swift’ decision had been ‘widely discussed’ within the Royal Family following Andrew’s failed bid to persuade a judge to dismiss the civil lawsuit in which he is accused of having sex with a trafficking victim.

‘This is about the survival of the institution at all costs. Always has been and always will be,’ a senior palace source said. In its statement the palace declared: ‘With the Queen’s approval and agreement, the Duke of York’s military affiliations and royal patronages have been returned to the Queen.

‘The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.’

Andrew was yesterday summoned for a 90-minute meeting with his mother at Windsor Castle – and was accompanied by his personal lawyer, Gary Bloxsome, who drove with him from his nearby home, Royal Lodge.

But Mr Bloxsome, who was employed by the prince to orchestrate his fight back against Virginia Roberts’ allegations of rape and sexual assault, was unable to enter the royal residence and was left sitting in the car, castle insiders revealed.

The decision to remove Andrew’s remaining titles and bar him from using his HRH title represents his complete removal from official royal life and will be seen as an attempt to distance the monarchy once and for all from his legal woes.

The duke now faces a jury trial in the autumn over Miss Roberts’ claims, which he has consistently denied. It is believed that discussions among family members have been going on for several weeks as Andrew’s attempts to derail the case were repeatedly shot down. Prince Charles has spoken to his mother by phone from Scotland, where he is in residence, following the judgment against his brother in a New York court.

Prince William was at Windsor Castle on Wednesday to conduct an investiture on behalf of his grandmother and would have spoken to her personally as well.

A well-placed palace source said the Queen and her advisers had decided to follow ‘the same model’ of effective banishment with Andrew as she had with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

‘They have taken this decision to insulate the institution from being hit by all the shrapnel that is flying around,’ they added.

‘It follows the same model as the Sussex separation. The removal of titles and patronages means the institution can now legitimately say it is not involved.

‘It was a ruthless and swift decision which will have been recommended by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge and sanctioned by the Queen.’

Other sources said the decision would have ‘pained’ the Queen enormously, given Andrew’s position as her so-called favourite son.

But just as with Harry and Meghan, the 95-year-old monarch would have known she needed to act for the sake of the monarchy and her legacy.

‘She has the ability, when push comes to shove, to know what is best for the institution and will act in her role as head of state, not a mother,’ said another source who knows her well. ‘She loves Andrew and this doesn’t mean he is no longer her son. But a decision had to be made as it was overshadowing everything the family did and her forthcoming platinum jubilee. Everyone will be feeling very relieved he has finally been cut adrift. It may even help him to have more clarity in fighting the case.’

The beleaguered prince, 61, was last night keen to make clear that his battle to clear his name and restore his reputation was not over. A source close to the duke said his legal team were ‘unsurprised’ by the judge’s decision not to throw the sex case out given last week’s bruising hearing in New York, during which he was openly dismissive of their argument to dismiss the suit.

They added: ‘This is a marathon not a sprint and the duke will continue to defend himself against these claims.’

Another source said they would continue to pursue every legal avenue before the claims got to trial, saying: ‘We are still at very early stages of this case.’ Miss Roberts, 38, who now uses her married name Giuffre, claims she was forced to sleep with the prince three times in 2001, when she was 17. She says she was trafficked and ‘lent out’ by his friends, the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and his then girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, convicted last month of procuring underage girls for Esptein to abuse.

Breaking her silence after the judge’s verdict, she wrote on Twitter early on Friday morning: ‘I’m pleased with Judge Kaplan’s ruling yesterday that allows my case against Prince Andrew to go forward. I’m glad I will have the chance to continue to expose the truth & I am deeply grateful to my extraordinary legal team.

‘Their determination helps me seek justice from those who hurt me and so many others. My goal has always been to show that the rich and powerful are not above the law & must be held accountable.

‘I do not walk this path alone, but alongside countless other survivors of sexual abuse & trafficking.’

Following his disastrous Newsnight interview in 2019, Andrew was forced by the Queen, Charles and William to step down from official duties. But he was allowed to keep a dozen military affiliations, including Colonel of the Grenadier Guards – a position inherited from his father the Duke of Edinburgh – and dozens of charitable patronages went into ‘abeyance’ while he worked to clear his name. Many of those organisations chose to desert him anyway, but some, mostly in the military, had no choice but to keep the prince in position because it was only in the Queen’s gift, as head of the Armed Forces, to take them away.

There was a sense of widespread relief last night that the decision had finally been taken for them. A royal source said the military posts would be ‘redistributed’ to other members of the Royal Family. But as a former Royal Navy officer who served with distinction in the Falklands, Andrew will be allowed to retain his military rank of vice admiral.

The Mail has also been told that Andrew will, for now, remain a member of the Order of the Garter, the most prestigious order of chivalry, which is also in the gift of the Queen. However it is unlikely that the prince will take part in the annual procession at Windsor Castle in June.

Like Harry and Meghan before him, Andrew will no longer be able to use the style ‘His Royal Highness’ in any official capacity, although he has not officially been stripped of it.

But the humiliation of the move will be lost on no one. It is not clear how he intends to style himself but he most likely will simply be called the Duke of York.

It is not clear yet whether Andrew will lose his round-the-clock Scotland Yard bodyguards, which he had retained despite stepping back from official duties. Harry and Meghan were forced to relinquish theirs, but that was as much because they had chosen to move abroad.

Andrew’s daughters Beatrice and Eugenie had their bodyguards taken away from them when they decided not to take on royal duties.

A number of royal experts and commentators have said today’s decision is the strongest possible signal the Queen could send to her second son.

Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt wrote in The Spectator: ‘This is what a sacking looks like when you’re ninth in line to the British throne.

‘Prince Andrew has been well and truly cut adrift. By his only family.

‘From birth, he was styled His Royal Highness. He will go to his grave unencumbered by it. The removal of the style HRH, at the age of 61, will hurt a son of the Queen who doesn’t wear his royal status lightly.’

Meanwhile Dickie Arbiter, a former assistant press secretary at the palace, told The Times that the Queen would be ‘very sad’ about the decision to strip her son of his titles.

He added: ‘But she is pragmatic. It is about protecting the interests of the institution. Andrew now is really out in the cold.’

Tobias Ellwood MP, the chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, said he welcomed the removal of Andrew’s military titles.

He told the BBC’s Newcast podcast: ‘Prince Andrew already had stepped back from many of his public duties – I think all of them, as well – so I think this was anticipated, indeed it was expected, from this perspective, so I’m actually not surprised.’

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said it had no comment about the duke’s military titles because it was a matter for the Palace.

Former BBC Royal Correspondent Jenny Bond said: ‘Clearly pressure has been exerted on him, and pressure on the Queen was growing for some action because of the disquiet within the military, and people beginning to say ‘we don’t want to toast his health’ at the end of regimental dinners.

‘With the court procedures the way they are in the United States, this is going to roll on and on probably well into next year, thus overshadowing the Queen’s platinum jubilee year so that, I think, will be very much up in Prince Andrew’s mind.’

One of the Army veterans who called on the Queen to remove the Duke of York’s honorary military roles has welcomed the decision to strip him of the posts, saying: ‘I’m just glad he’s not associated with the military now.’

Lieutenant Stuart Hunt, who served in The 1st Royal Tank Regiment, branded the matter an ‘unsavoury business’ and said the duke had brought the armed forces into disrepute.

He suggested the matter should have been resolved at least two years ago, and Andrew should have taken the decision himself to stand down then.

Lt Hunt, who served in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s, was one of 152 former Army, RAF and Royal Navy personnel who signed an open letter to the monarch urging her to remove Andrew’s honorary military posts while the duke faces a civil sexual assault trial.

Lt Hunt told the PA news agency: ‘It’s an unsavoury business… I’m just glad he’s not associated with the military now.

‘I’m pleased although it should have happened two years ago or in fact longer when he was taking his little trips out to play golf in St Andrews.’

He lambasted Andrew as ‘not fit to serve’ in an honorary rank and said he lacked any form of credibility as an effective leader.

The 52-year-old, who trained to be an officer at Sandhurst, said: ‘Whether he’s guilty or not, he has brought things into disrepute… He’s not fit to serve in an honorary rank. He has forgone that right by getting into this sort of situation.’

The finance director, who lives in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, added: ‘A better man would have stood down whether innocent or guilty for the sake of the organisation… It’s repugnant really.’

Andrew will retain his military rank of Vice Admiral, the Palace confirmed.

As a former member of the armed forces, the duke, who served in the Royal Navy, was by convention promoted in line with his still-serving peers and made Vice Admiral by the Navy on his 55th birthday in 2015.

He was due to be promoted to Admiral on his 60th birthday in 2020, but asked to defer this after stepping down from public duties.

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