The biggest royal news story today was meant to involve a Shetland pony. Yesterday, the Queen was officially welcomed to her Scottish retreat Balmoral in a ceremony involving the Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland in a ceremony starring none other than the Regiment’s mascot, Shetland Pony Lance Corporal Cruachan IV.
However in the early hours of this morning news broke that Virginia Giuffre, formerly Roberts, an alleged victim of disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, had filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan court alleging that Prince Andrew had sexually abused her when she was 17 years old.
Giuffre has alleged in the court documents that she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York on three occasions in London, New York and on Epstein’s Caribbean island, when she was under the age of 18.
Andrew has repeatedly and strenuously denied Giuffre’s allegations. He has yet to respond to the lawsuit.
“I am holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me,” Giuffre said in a statement. “The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions.
“I did not come to this decision lightly. As a mother and a wife, my family comes first — and I know that this action will subject me to further attacks by Prince Andrew and his surrogates — but I knew if I did not pursue this action, I would be letting them and victims everywhere down.”
Today’s news is a body blow for the royal family. No matter what happens next or how the case might proceed, the only guarantee is that the house of Windsor has been plunged into totally uncharted and very dangerous waters.
Never before has a senior member of the royal family ever been accused of sexual assault before. (To be clear: Andrew has not been charged nor has there ever been any suggestion he might be.)
There is no ‘best case’ outcome with this court case for the Queen and The Firm.
Should Andrew suddenly decide to settle, it would carry with it the lingering whiff of guilt. However, the prospect of the case going to court raises the very real prospect of highly embarrassing evidence being dragged through the American court system. (Any new evidence uncovered during the case could later be used by authorities.)
There is no scenario here where the palace emerges unscathed.