How The Royals Have Responded To The Jeffrey Epstein Drama Over The Years

The following article mentions sexual abuse allegations. 

By now, royal pundits know all about Prince Andrew's scandalous friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The two had a long history; Andrew is known to have stayed over at Epstein's New York residence, and the pair of men were once photographed partying on a yacht surrounded by several topless women. Then there's the infamous picture of a beaming Andrew with his arm around Virginia Giuffre with Epstein's partner in crime, Ghislaine Maxwell, grinning in the background. This picture would go on to become a key piece of evidence in the sexual assault trial Giuffre brought against the prince in 2021. (Andrew denies that the picture is genuine and insists he has no memory of ever meeting Giuffre.)

The British royals have weathered a handful of scandals in recent decades, but Andrew is the first person in the family's long history to have been publicly accused of sexual assault. Given the institution's tendency to sweep things under the rug, it perhaps comes as little surprise that the royal family has tried to stay quiet about the allegations.  

When all court documents relating to the Epstein case were unsealed in January 2024, the royals once again found themselves in an unwanted spotlight. Andrew is mentioned in the documents 69 times, serving as a vivid reminder of Giuffre's accusations.

Queen Elizabeth II listened to Andrew's account of events and supported him

When Virginia Giuffre initially accused Prince Andrew of sexual assault, he turned to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. In his book "Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait," Gyles Brandreth offered the public a peek into what supposedly went down when Andrew first spoke to his mother after the allegations surfaced.

If Brandreth's account is to be believed, the queen patiently listened to Andrew's version of events. Then, instead of peppering him with more questions, she responded with one word: "Intriguing." Many have doubted Andrew's account of events (especially since that picture of him with Giuffre looks pretty genuine) but it appears the queen was open to her son's side of the story. "His mother stood by him. She loved her boy. She retained her 'confidence' in him," Brandreth wrote. "She accepted her son's version of events. She was ready to believe him, and to help bail him out," he continued. The queen also publicly supported Andrew; she was seen driving to church with him mere days after the bombshell allegations became public.

Andrew appeared to thank his mother for her unwavering faith in him in a statement he published after her death. "Mummy, your love for a son, your compassion, your care, your confidence I will treasure forever," the prince wrote.

The palace released a statement

When it comes to scandals, accusations, or insinuations against members of the monarchy, Buckingham Palace prefers to keep mum. Queen Elizabeth II's unofficial motto of "Never complain, never explain" used to be pretty foolproof, but it wasn't going to save face in the wake of a sexual assault scandal involving one of the palace's senior members.

While Prince Andrew's friendship with Jeffrey Epstein was old news by 2019, damning allegations about the nature of their friendship emerged that year. The day before Epstein died, court documents detailing his 2015 case were unsealed, and in these documents, one of the plaintiffs, Johanna Sjoberg, accused Andrew of groping her. The documents also revealed that another plaintiff, Virginia Giuffre, accused the prince of sexually assaulting her. 

Though it might've been tempting to turn the other royal cheek, this was not something that could just be swept under the rug or ignored. So, the palace released a rare comment about the allegations against Prince Andrew. In a statement obtained by NBC News, a rep for Buckingham Palace said, "This relates to proceedings in the United States, to which The Duke of York is not a party. Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue." 

Andrew tried to salvage his image by doing a candid interview with the BBC

In an attempt to salvage his shattered public image, Prince Andrew agreed to sit down with BBC's "Newsnight" to speak about his association with Jeffrey Epstein. It appears Andrew thought this was the only way to clear his name. Instead, the opposite happened. The interview, which aired on November 16, 2019, was a PR train wreck; the prince did not seem to understand the magnitude of Epstein's actions or the effect the allegations could have on his royal career. On the contrary, Andrew seemed to think that, because he was a prince, the whole thing couldn't touch him. He was woefully wrong.

One of the most shocking moments during the interview was when the interviewer, Emily Maitlis, asked the prince whether he regretted his friendship with Epstein. "Still not," Andrew responded. "The reason being is that the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually really useful." 

The prince also offered details about the photograph of him and Giuffre to suggest that it had been doctored. According to Andrew, it was taken on the second floor of Ghislaine Maxwell's London home — but he'd never been on that floor of the house. He also said he was wearing his "traveling clothes" in the picture, not his usual suit and tie. The royal also acknowledged that no one could prove the photo had been faked.

Andrew announced he was stepping back from royal duties

Media lawyer Paul Tweed was one of the many people in Prince Andrew's inner circle who reportedly told the royal not to go ahead with BBC's "Newsnight" interview. The prince went ahead with it regardless, to his detriment. Per Vanity Fair, one royal expert went so far as to call the interview "the biggest act of self-harm by any member of the royal family since the Middle Ages."

On November 20, 2019, Andrew announced in a statement that he would be taking a step back from royal life. "It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family's work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support," he stated. "Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission."

While he did not explicitly mention the BBC interview, it was clear he wanted to address some of the criticism he received after the segment aired. He added that he regretted his "ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein" and expressed sympathy towards the pedophile's victims, something he failed to do during his "Newsnight" interview. He also expressed that he would cooperate with law enforcement.

Queen Elizabeth II stripped Andrew of his military titles

With Prince Andrew's royal reputation in shambles, it was only a matter of time before the palace was forced to take action. Queen Elizabeth II couldn't deny the impact her son's damaged reputation had on the family.

In his book "Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait," Gyles Brandreth recounted what he heard from palace officials regarding Andrew getting stripped of his military titles. "A senior courtier said to me: 'There was a lot of nonsense talked about no one being at the helm, but the queen took a firm grip of things. To use the military jargon, there was only a few days between flash and bang. Action was called for and the queen took it,'" Brandreth wrote.

In 2022, The palace announced that Andrew would no longer go by His Royal Highness title in public and that he had been stripped of his military titles and patronages. This information was delivered through a rare royal statement, which made it clear that the prince would not be resuming his public royal duties and that he would be defending himself in the Virginia Giuffre lawsuit as a private citizen. This announcement arrived after veterans shared an open letter with the queen. The letter, which received over 150 signatures, called for Andrew's titles to be revoked.

Andrew settled the lawsuit with Virginia Giuffre outside of court

When Virginia Giuffre first brought her lawsuit against Prince Andrew, he was adamant that he would see the whole thing through and that settling was not an option. Giuffre's lawyer said the same thing at the time, but then both parties pivoted, and Andrew ended up settling with Giuffre outside of court. The way he performed under pressure during the "Newsnight" interview may or may not have played a part in this decision.

Speaking to The Guardian, veteran attorney Ann Olivarious said that the prince likely settled because his legal teams suspected the depositions and cross-examinations would not go well. "We know he couldn't have handled this deposition, it was going to be a disaster," she said. It appears that lawyers also thought that Andrew didn't have a very strong case, and taking into account the disastrous interview with the BBC, things looked especially dire for the prince.

Even though many legal experts believe Andrew made the better choice, others say the prince made a grave mistake by settling. "If he thought the money was going to make it go away, it's had the opposite effect. It's given it legs. People think 'no smoke without fire,'" an insider told the Daily Mail. The settlement, which has been estimated to be around $16.3 million, wasn't paid solely by Andrew — Queen Elizabeth II reportedly chipped in £2 million (around $2.5 million).

King Charles III reportedly saw Andrew's association with Jeffrey Epstein as 'unsolvable'

When Virginia Giuffre brought the sexual abuse lawsuit against Prince Andrew in 2021, all hell broke loose. There was an ongoing lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein's partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, at the time as well, and Andrew couldn't seem to scrub Epstein's dirty fingerprints from his public image no matter how hard he tried.

The moment Giuffre filed the lawsuit, Andrew's public image took one final tumble, and King Charles III, who was still the Prince of Wales at the time, reportedly thought that there was no undoing the damage. A source close to Charles told the New York Post that the future king saw the allegations against Andrew as an "unsolvable problem," especially because the Epstein drama just wouldn't die down. "The specter of this [accusation] raises its head with hideous regularity," the source said. They weren't wrong. In early 2024, Andrew found himself hanging his head in shame after court documents relating to Epstein's case were released, stirring up headlines regarding his possible involvement in the disgraced financier's underage sex trafficking ring once again.

When the lawsuit against Andrew first made waves, the aforementioned source claimed that, despite having sympathy for his brother, Charles could not simply ignore the damage the allegations would do to the monarchy. Despite the lawsuit eventually being settled outside of court, the Epstein drama continues to loom over Andrew.

King Charles III evicted Andrew from Buckingham Palace

After Queen Elizabeth II's death, it was up to King Charles III to handle all the Jeffrey Epstein drama that had been plaguing Buckingham Palace for almost a decade. So, he took steps to distance the monarchy from his disgraced brother as much as possible.

In December 2022, three short months after Her Majesty's death, reports surfaced that Charles had evicted his brother from Buckingham Palace. Andrew didn't live at the palace, but he did have an office there and could use it as a correspondence address. Charles made quick work of removing any trace of his brother from the royal household's home base, meaning that Andrew had to move his office elsewhere and update his postal address. "Any presence at the palace is officially over. The king has made it clear. He isn't a working royal. He's on his own," a source told The Sun.

As a result of Andrew's so-called eviction from Buckingham Palace, his staff also faced losing their jobs. Aside from being completely removed from the royal residence, Andrew was also expected to hire his own staff, should he have need for them. The Home Office also revoked Andrew's armed security, leading to Buckingham Palace having to foot the bill, which is said to amount to around £3 million annually.

Prince Harry addressed the allegations against his uncle in his memoir

Given the royal family's custom of not talking about family matters in public, it checks out that the House of Windsor has been relatively quiet about Prince Andrew's connection to Jeffrey Epstein. Leave it to Prince Harry to go rogue and become the first royal to publicly acknowledge the allegations against Andrew.

In his 2023 memoir "Spare," Harry shared that he figured he and Meghan Markle wouldn't lose their palace security detail after they parted ways with the royal family. After all, as Harry noted, his uncle still had his security. "[Andrew] was embroiled in a shameful scandal, accused of the sexual assault of a young woman and no one had so much suggested that he lose his security," Harry wrote. "Whatever grievances people had against us, sex crimes weren't on the list."

Harry and Meghan ended up losing their royal security after all; Prince Andrew's royal security is no longer funded by taxpayers, but Queen Elizabeth II had begun covering the cost. In January 2024, The Telegraph reported that King Charles III is gearing up to make Andrew pay for his own security team. 

The palace may have to deal with the reopening of Andrew's sexual assault case

With Prince Andrew back in the news after the infamous Epstein List was released to the public, some called for the Metropolitan Police to reopen its 2015 investigation into Virginia Giuffre's allegations against the royal. Graham Smith, leader of the anti-monarchy group Republic was one of the individuals who implored authorities to give the case another look. "I have reported Andrew to the police, well aware that the Met claims to have looked into this before," he told the Daily Mail. "I am calling on the Met police to reopen this case, I am calling on MPs to debate this affair in Parliament, and I am calling on Charles to make a public statement," he said. 

Whether or not his call for a renewed investigation will be heeded remains to be seen. The London Metropolitan Police told Reuters in January 2024 that it hadn't started a new investigation yet. "We are aware of the release of court documents in relation to Jeffrey Epstein. As with any matter, should new and relevant information be brought to our attention we will assess it," their statement to the outlet read.

In the aftermath of the unsealed documents, Republic marched on Sandringham, trying to get King Charles III's attention. The protest wasn't widely covered by the media. The palace has remained mum about the latest developments, telling the Daily Mail that it no longer had any involvement with Andrew's PR. 

King Charles III will reportedly not allow his brother to ever resume his royal duties

Shortly after the Jeffrey Epstein court documents were unsealed, speculation was rife about the steps King Charles III would take next. Royal insiders were quick to tell the Daily Mail about the possible repercussions, with one saying that if there ever was the slightest chance of Prince Andrew resuming his royal duties, that opportunity has now evaporated into thin air.

"When it comes to any public role for [King Charles III's] brother, there is no way back," a tipster claimed. "There has always been an agreement that Andrew would be permitted to attend private and family events, as is his right. But not public or official ones. That has not changed." Sources told The Sun that Charles had been taking part in discussions to permanently remove his brother from the monarchy before he ascended the throne. "Charles found it very difficult. It was the hardest decision, as it's his brother and he cares for him," the source claimed. "But he knew it was the right thing to do."

In light of Andrew's tattered reputation, there is also talk that Charles is planning on forcing him to vacate the Royal Lodge, where he's stayed since 2003, and move into Frogmore Cottage instead. Sources close to Andrew, however, say that the prince is not keen on this idea.

King Charles III hasn't stripped Andrew of his royal titles, likely because he can't

King Charles III has taken significant steps to shield the monarchy from the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, and the palace has effectively distanced itself from Prince Andrew. But even though the prince was stripped of his military titles in 2022, he got to keep his royal titles. Many royal watchers have wondered why Charles hasn't resorted to revoking Andrew's remaining titles to show the world that the palace has truly severed ties. However, it sounds like the reigning monarch simply doesn't have the power to do so.

According to royal blogger Gert's Royals, the only entity with the power to remove Andrew's royal titles is Parliament, but it can only remove royal titles when the person in question was found guilty by the proper authorities. Andrew has not been found guilty in a court of law, so there's not much Parliament can do. As for whether or not Charles would revoke his brother's titles if he did have the power? We can only speculate.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).