The scandal was narrowly avoided when, instead of being called as the correspondent in the divorce, he was merely asked to give evidence as a witness when a disgusted husband sued his wife (who was Edward’s lover) for dissolution of their marriage.
Over two decades, Buckingham Palace has got everything possible wrong. The alarm bells should have first gone off when Andrew, together with Ghislaine Maxwell, flew on Epstein’s plane from Luton to Edinburgh in September 2006.
Weeks earlier, Epstein had been arrested on charges of unlawful sex with a minor. Nothing happened. Worse, on July 15, he had been allowed to visit Windsor Castle as Andrew’s guest at Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday bash.
Maxwell and Harvey Weinstein were Andrew’s other invitees. It was followed by a four-day Christmas visit to Epstein’s New York mansion shortly after his prison-term ended in 2010, to watch a private release of blockbuster The King’s Speech.
Andrew has always strenuously denied wrongdoing, but courtiers should have known that royalty and criminals do not mix. This is hardly the end of the legal headache the prince is causing for the palace.
Rather, it is likely to be the beginning of a long and extended chapter. The prince is already an official part of the broad-reaching Epstein FBI investigation.
Both then-president Donald Trump and his attorney general, William Barr, endorsed a request to the United Kingdom for legal assistance in interviewing the prince. It is the first time a request has been made involving a royal since the War of Independence.
The pressure on Boris Johnson’s government to yield is mounting. Should the prince refuse to cooperate, he will never be able to enter the US again without risking arrest as a material witness.
According to reports, Andrew is considered a “person of interest” by investigators and is viewed at least as a potential witness.
Little known – but deeply worrying to the palace, given the ever-increasing outcry about the prince – is the fact that Scotland Yard is reviewing its files on the events of March 2001.
WATCH BELOW: Virginia Roberts Speaks Out About Involvement With Prince Andrew
In 2015, Virginia Giuffre lodged a formal complaint of being sex-trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell to Maxwell’s London home for the sexual gratification of Andrew.
Maxwell still owned the property, and police were going to forensically exam it. Virginia recalled, however, in 2021 ‘next thing I hear, just like the FBI, they were not allowed to pursue the investigation’.
As the lawsuits progress, the palace may have to give up its records and videotapes relating to the date of Virginia’s London visit.
Even now, the palace has not learnt its lesson. Andrew is still a senior royal with his HRH title intact. One way of dialling down the heat would have been for the prince to retire completely from all royal duties and to hand back his HRH title.
The palace should have done so already in 2011 when the prince lost his unpaid position as Britain’s trade envoy. Instead, the palace gave him a front line position alongside Prince Charles.
The prince’s lawyers have not commented on the lawsuit.
Nigel Cawthorne is the author of Prince Andrew: Epstein, Maxwell and the Palace, out November 24, from Booktopia for $28.75.