Suspense, high drama and, occasionally, justice, courtroom scenes are as good as it gets. Jack Nicholson bellowing to a young Tom Cruise that he couldn’t handle the truth, Al Pacino declaring that the whole trial was out of order, Sacha Baron Cohen revealing it would cost his life to call off the revolution – to me, they are all masterpieces. Of course, they live in the realm of cinema. Perhaps hoping Prince Andrew would end up in a similar setting belongs in a Hollywood plot.
Prince Andrew has settled the US civil case brought by Virginia Giuffre, who claimed he had sexually assaulted her on three occasions when she was 17. Now, the Duke of York has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum as part of this settlement and has accepted that Giuffre has suffered as a victim of abuse. He will also make a “substantial donation” to Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights, but continues to deny the allegations and has made no admission of liability.
American lawyer Lisa Bloom, who represents several of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, said this was a huge win. She added that it was a victory “for everyday people… standing up against the rich and powerful”.
And, it is. But it’s also hard to deny the bitter taste the outcome has left behind. It implies that a certain number of zeros on a cheque will sweep the damage of sexual abuse under the carpet and that the same amount of money will see you dodge having to answer questions about the assault in a court of law. Again, this wishful thinking would be more at home in an Aaron Sorkin script.
He’s escaped courtroom questioning, but this hasn’t meant enquires have ceased. What next for the duke? After a trying, to put it mildly, few years for the British monarchy, has Andrew not only sullied his own reputation but the institution to which he belongs?
It is now understood that he will remain a counsellor of state, able to step in temporarily for the Queen, along with retaining his title Duke of York and military rank of vice admiral after settling the lawsuit. But, will the public still grant him the grandeur that is usually associated with these titles?
BBC Newsbeat’s Mitch Mansfield set up shop outside one of pubs named The Duke of York in London, and one of many of this namesake around the country, to ask passers-by if they’d stop in for a drink. One remarked “a pint’s a pint”, while another said they would not frequent the pub, but only after the reporter invited her to cast her eyes upwards to see the towering picture of Prince Andrew adorned with a military uniform and medals above the establishment’s entrance. A third said it depended on how drunk she was – you can always rely on the British public.
For Labour’s Rachael Maskell, who represents York Central, the duke’s grandeur is gone. She’s called for him to withdraw his Duke of York title to show “respect for the people of York”. She continued to say that his relationship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein had caused “deep hurt and embarrassment” to the city.
Speaking as part of the University of York’s alumni, as an undergraduate a lot of my time doing what students do best was spent in The Duke of York off King’s Square. If I were to return would I still stop by for a tipple? Most likely. However, it’s also likely that a comment or two would be made at Prince Andrew’s expense and we don’t discriminate, such remarks would equally be dished out when we pass a Pizza Express – not just the one in Woking.
Then there’s the question of money, and where the sum to be paid to Giuffre will come from. More curiously, why you would pay such a lump sum to someone who you claim you had never met?
We don’t know the exact amount that is to be paid, but newspaper reports have suggested sums ranging from £7.5m to £12m. It’s an amount to certainly break a sweat at. Unless, that is, your mother is the country’s reigning monarch or if you had a condition that prevented you from doing so.
Royal finance expert David McClure told the BBC that if the figure fell between £5m and £10m then Prince Andrew may find himself a little shy (there’s a first time for everything). In which case, it’s “more than likely” that the Queen will pick up the tab for her son. As the Queen’s income comes from a mixture of public and private money, there is concern that the public could indirectly pay for Andrew’s settlement.
Suddenly, the certain victory Bloom spoke of feels slightly tainted.
To take creative license from another 90s Tom Cruise film, show us the money. Or at least, where it will come from.