Prince Andrew: the lengthy and embarrassing legal ordeal ahead

The lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre in Manhattan is likely to go to trial by jury, US legal experts say

When a Manhattan judge rejected Prince Andrew’s efforts to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s sexual abuse lawsuit against him, it marked a victory for his longtime accuser.

Judge Lewis Kaplan’s Wednesday ruling also means that the embattled royal will remain embroiled in lengthy – and embarrassing – legal proceedings for the foreseeable future.

“This is a huge development because it clears probably the biggest legal hurdle Virginia Giuffre and her team had to get her case to a jury,” said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers.

Giuffre, now 38, has long alleged that she was coerced into sex with the Duke of York at the age of 17 by two of his associates – the disgraced American financier Jeffrey Epstein and British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. Andrew’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kaplan’s decision.

Epstein, a convicted sex offender, killed himself in a New York jail in summer 2019 pending trial on sex-trafficking charges. Maxwell was found guilty on 29 December of sex-trafficking and related charges for bringing teen girls to Epstein.

Giuffre first alleged in legal papers filed in 2015 that she was forced to have sex with the prince in Epstein’s New York mansion, on his private island in the US Virgin Islands, and at Maxwell’s London home.

Giuffre filed the civil suit against the prince in Manhattan federal court in August of last year, also accusing him of battery and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

Andrew denies the allegations.

(January 1, 1999) 

In the early 90s, Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, met investment banker and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Their relationship was initially romantic, but it evolved into something more akin to Maxwell being a confidante and personal assistant. 

Prince Andrew was reportedly introduced to Epstein through Maxwell in 1999, and Epstein reportedly visited the Queen’s private retreat in Aberdeenshire.

Some have suggested the introduction was made earlier. A 2011 letter to the Times of London from the prince’s then private secretary, Alastair Watson, suggests Andrew and Epstein knew each other from the early 90s.

(January 1, 2000) 

Andrew, Maxwell and Epstein are seen together at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Later that year, Epstein and Maxwell attend a joint birthday party at Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen.

(January 1, 2001) 

Andrew and Epstein holiday together and are pictured on a yacht in Phuket, Thailand, surrounded by topless women. The Times of London reported the prince’s holiday was paid for by Epstein.

In the same year, Virginia Giuffre, then 17, claims to have had sex with Andrew in Maxwell’s home in Belgravia, London. Giuffre, whose surname was Roberts at the time of the alleged incidents, says she slept with Andrew twice more, at Epstein’s New York home and at an “orgy” on his private island in the Caribbean.

(January 1, 2008) 

Epstein is jailed for 18 months by a Florida state court after pleading guilty to prostituting minors.

(January 1, 2010) 

Soon after his release, Epstein is visited by Andrew in New York. The pair are photographed together in Central Park. Footage emerges years later, reportedly shot on 6 December, that appears to show Andrew inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion waving goodbye to a woman from behind a door.

(January 1, 2011) 

Andrew quits his role as UK trade envoy following a furore over the Central Park photos.

(January 1, 2015) 

Allegations that Andrew had sex with Giuffre emerge in court documents in Florida related to Epstein. The papers say she was forced to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, which is below the age of consent under Florida law. Buckingham Palace denies the allegations. The claims against Andrew are later struck from US civil court records following a federal judge’s ruling.

(January 1, 2019) 

Andrew is accused of sexual impropriety by a second alleged Epstein victim, Johanna Sjoberg. She claims he touched her breast at the billionaire’s Manhattan apartment in 2001. Buckingham Palace says the allegations are "categorically untrue".

(August 10, 2019) 

Epstein is found dead in his jail cell after being re-arrested and charged with sex trafficking. A medical examiner says the death was a suicide. A pilot on Epstein’s private jet later that month claims Andrew was a passenger on past flights with the financier and Giuffre.

(November 20, 2019) 

Andrew takes part in a disastrous BBC TV interview during which he claims he could not have had sex with Giuffre because he was at home after a visit to Pizza Express in Woking, and that her description of his dancing with her beforehand could not be true because he was unable to sweat, and that he had "no recollection of ever meeting this lady". After several days of negative reaction, Andrew announces he is to step back from public duties "for the foreseeable future".

(January 27, 2020) 

US prosecutor Geoffrey Berman gives a public statement suggesting there has been "zero cooperation" with the investigation from Andrew.

(June 8, 2020) 

After Berman again claims Andrew has "completely shut the door" on cooperating with the US investigation in March, lawyers for the prince insist he has repeatedly offered to cooperate and accuse US prosecutors of misleading the public and breaching confidentiality.

(July 2, 2020) 

Maxwell, who has seldom been seen in public in recent years, is arrested by the FBI on charges related to Epstein. Unsealed testimony from a 2015 civil case reveal a series of claims about her role in Epstein's sex-trafficking ring, including allegations that she trained underage girls as sex slaves

(September 24, 2021) 

US officials confirm that Prince Andrew has received court papers relating to a sexual assault civil lawsuit from Giuffre, seeking damages. Her lawyers had earlier said the duke had officially been served with the papers, but his legal team had disputed the claim. Two weeks later, a court in New York granted his lawyers permission to see the confidential settlement agreement between Giuffre and Epstein.

(October 11, 2021) 

The Metropolitan police in London say they are taking no further action after a review of the allegations that Prince Andrew assaulted Giuffre. In August, the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, had said “no one is above the law” and that she had asked her team to look at the material again.

(December 30, 2021) 

Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial ends with a guilty verdict on five of the six counts she faced.

(January 12, 2022) 

A judge in New York rejects Prince Andrew’s attempt to throw out the sexual abuse civil lawsuit brought against him by Giuffre. The prince's lawyers had attempted to argue that Giuffre’s 2009 settlement with Epstein shielded the duke from her taking legal action against him.

(January 13, 2022) 

Queen Elizabeth II strips her son of a range of military affiliations and royal patronages after more than 150 military veterans write to describe their “upset and anger”.

His legal team asked Kaplan to throw out Giuffre’s suit on several grounds.

His lawyers contended that a 2009 settlement between Giuffre and Epstein shielded him from her lawsuit. They pointed to a clause that released “second parties and any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant … from all, and all manner of, action and actions of Virginia [Giuffre], including state or federal, cause and causes of action.” Andrew was not named in this settlement.

Andrew also argued that Giuffre’s claims were too vague, meaning that he wouldn’t be able to adequately defend himself against the allegations. Kaplan rejected the vagueness claim and said it would be premature for him to decide on what, exactly, the 2009 settlement meant for Andrew.

“Judge Kaplan said it’s a question of fact, and questions of fact go to the jury,” Rahmani said. “If it were clear that the settlement agreement covered the prince, he could have dismissed the case, but he chose not to. He said the intent of the settlement agreement is something that juries would have to decide.”

Rahmani pointed out that “the vast majority of civil lawsuits settle for a number of reasons”.

A woman and man, both wearing blue suits, walk together
Virginia Giuffre, here with lawyer David Boies, first alleged in legal papers filed in 2015 that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Victims might not want to testify in public about sexual abuse. Defendants, meanwhile, do not want to face judgment should juries find in favor of accusers – nor the continued onslaught of bad press that can increase with a public trial.

However, Rahmani believes this is the rare civil case that is more likely to go before a jury than settle. Giuffre previously settled “for what I would say is an insignificant amount – a nominal amount, pennies on the dollar” for a sexual abuse claim against mega-millionaire Epstein.

And, unlike many others, Giuffre has openly discussed her trauma. She did not testify at Maxwell’s trial, so “this is her one chance to tell her story in a very public way”, Rahmani said.

The prince might also be opposed to settlement for his own reasons. “Prince Andrew has denied that this ever happened, so if he enters into any settlement – even if there’s no admission of liability, even if he tries to keep it confidential, even if it’s not for legal reasons – for PR, reasons, I think this case is going to move forward,” Rahmani said.

“There’s just a number of factors that make this a very unique civil case, which is why, I think, much, much, much more likely to go to trial than your other civil cases.”

Andrew can fight Kaplan’s ruling, either by asking the judge to reconsider, or asking an appeals court to review the decision, though the odds are not in his favor.

“An appeal will be very difficult,” said longtime defense attorney Julie Rendelman. “It was made very clear that the issues that were raised by Prince Andrew’s attorneys are something that are a question of fact, not a question of law and therefore, something that a jury needs to decide, not the judge.”

“When you look at the decision that the judge wrote, it covers all the bases in terms of all the issues raised, and I think that particularly when it comes to a question of fact for a jury, an appeals court is hard pressed to step on that decision-making process.”

While some deadlines are scheduled in the case – including, for example, a 28 July cutoff for both sides to submit a pre-trial proposal – they should be taken with a grain of salt. Depositions and production of evidence could spur still more depositions and production of evidence, spurring extensions of deadlines.

Andrew contends that on the night Giuffre claims she was forced into sex with him in London, he had brought his daughter, Beatrice, to a late-afternoon children’s party at a Pizza Express in Woking. The prince insists that he was then at home with his children all night.

  • Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organisations. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at


Victoria Bekiempis in New York

The GuardianTramp

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