Since the death of the Queen on 8 September, Prince Andrew has returned to the public sphere.
The Duke of York’s prominence at events marking the death of his mother, such as the progress of her coffin through Edinburgh and London this week, is to be expected. Andrew is grieving personal loss during a national period of mourning.
But just months ago, amid fallout from his long and controversial association with the convicted sex traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, any public appearance at all would have seemed entirely unlikely.
The royal, now eighth in line to the throne, was stripped of his military patronages and use of the HRH title after he paid a financial settlement to Virginia Giuffre, who had accused him of sexual assault, a claim he denied.
For attorneys who represented Epstein victims, and for other advocates for sex-crimes victims, Andrew’s sudden reappearance has seemed jarring. Some have said it could prove triggering for Epstein survivors, even if they never encountered Andrew.
Mariann Wang, who represented more than a dozen Epstein survivors, said it was “beyond shameful to see Andrew being granted any form of state-sponsored honor or privilege, given his past affiliation with Jeffrey Epstein”.
Epstein pleaded guilty to solicitation of a minor for prostitution in 2008.
Andrew, who continued to associate with the New York financier long after his guilty plea, vehemently denies a claim that he had sex with an Epstein accuser when the girl was a teen.
Wang continued: “The brave women who came forward to hold Epstein, Maxwell and others to account deserve better. His past conduct and judgment make clear that he is not worthy of any state-sponsored privileges, including reaping the benefits of being a royal.”
Spencer T Kuvin, who represented more than half a dozen Epstein victims, said such women have long been “disgusted and appalled at Andrew’s continued friendship with Epstein, even after [Epstein’s] conviction and the stories that had come about about what Epstein had done to those young girls” at his homes in New York, Palm Beach and elsewhere.
Kuvin added: “It’s the epitome of poor judgment and, frankly, an embarrassment to the crown, that [Andrew] would consort with someone like Epstein after all that news would come out.”
Kuvin said he understood why people might bristle at protesters calling out Andrew during mourning activities – as happened in Edinburgh, when a man who shouted “Andrew, you’re a sick old man” was detained by police – but recognized why it might happen.
“You want to honor the memory of a very respectable monarch who served over 70 years – I get the fact that it’s probably not the correct place or time to be yelling something out at a funeral – but at the end of the day, you also want to acknowledge the fact that [Andrew] should not be publicly allowed to benefit from society and these organizations, given his past and he should be held accountable by the public.
“I get the level of frustration and feeling that person had, because [Andrew] is a creep.”
Scrutiny over the prince’s links to Epstein reached new heights earlier this year.
In January, as a lawsuit brought against the prince by Virginia Giuffre continued, the Queen stripped Andrew of his military affiliations and royal patronages.
Giuffre has claimed that Epstein, and his accomplice Maxwell, coerced her into sexual encounters with Andrew. The prince strongly denies all wrongdoing. But in light of the lawsuit, Buckingham Palace also announced that Andrew would no longer use the “His Royal Highness” honorific in any official capacity.
In February, Giuffre agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement. Attorneys for the prince said he “regrets his association with Epstein”.
Observers said it was unlikely Andrew would return to public life. Mark Stephens, a media lawyer, said the prince was “reputationally toast, and will never appear on a royal balcony ever again and has effectively been airbrushed from polite society and the royal family”.
But that was before the death of the Queen.
Aurore DeCarlo, senior partner at the law firm CA Goldberg, which did not represent any Epstein victims but specializes in victims’ rights work, said Andrew’s return to the public sphere could harm survivors.
“From the perspective of victims and victim rights advocates, seeing Prince Andrew or any other powerful and well-known [alleged] offender returning to public life and being warmly embraced by the public as they do so, can have significant negative consequences,” DeCarlo said.
“The media images of Prince Andrew being adored and sympathized with can certainly give the impression that all has been forgiven, despite lasting pain and damage still lying in his wake.
“This can have a deterrent effect on victims who want to, and should, speak out about abuse, and yet fear the very real risks of having their lives turned inside out and torn apart.”
Susan Crumiller, who also has not represented any Epstein victims but whose practice focuses on feminist litigation, said: “Every time abusers are allowed to participate in public life without opprobrium, we as a society are saying that we value abusers over their victims. The message to survivors everywhere is loud and clear – and it is harmful.
“Nicety, politeness and decorum are tools that are used to keep survivors silent and enable abusers to remain in the public sphere without consequence.”
A representative for Prince Andrew declined to comment.