Prince Andrew to lose royal titles in latest fallout from Epstein ties

Prince Andrew is to stop using the title “his royal highness” and lose his role as a royal patron to scores of organisations as controversy continues over his links with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

A statement from Buckingham Palace, official residence of the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II, announced that the prince, 61, would also lose his long list of honorary military titles, including his ceremonial role as colonel of the Grenadier Guards.

The step is the latest attempt by the monarchy to limit the damage from the prince’s close links with Epstein, who was found hanged in a New York jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial for the alleged sexual abuse and trafficking of underage girls.

A New York judge on Wednesday rejected an attempt by the Duke of York to prevent a civil action by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims she was trafficked for sex with the prince three times before she was 18. The prince has denied her claims.

Prince Andrew, the Queen’s second son, had previously stepped back from his royal public duties in 2019 in the wake of a disastrous interview with the BBC’s Newsnight programme about the allegations.

“With the Queen’s approval and agreement, the Duke of York’s military affiliations and royal patronages have been returned to the Queen,” the Palace’s brief statement on Thursday said. “The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen.”

The controversy over the case comes as the Queen, 95, prepares next month to become the first British monarch to reach 70 years on the throne.

It is rare for a member of the royal family to lose or give up the HRH title. Diana, Princess of Wales, lost hers in 1996 following her divorce from Prince Charles, the heir to the throne. Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and his wife, Meghan Markle, voluntarily agreed to stop using HRH in early 2020 when they announced they were giving up royal duties and moving to the US.

An aide to Prince Andrew insisted on Thursday evening that the prince had given up his title by agreement, rather than being stripped of it.

Hiss royal duties were heavily focused on organisations supporting business and enterprise, including Pitch@Palace, which supports start-up entrepreneurs. He also held a wide range of military titles after 22 years’ service with the Royal Navy, which included time as a helicopter pilot during the 1982 Falklands war.

His legal troubles have intensified since Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and friend of the prince, was convicted last month in New York of five counts of sex trafficking stemming from her relationship with Epstein.

Although Giuffre’s allegations formed no part of Maxwell’s case, Giuffre was among the first of Epstein’s accusers to go public. A widely published picture allegedly taken by Epstein shows the prince with his arm around Giuffre’s waist and Maxwell in the background. The prince has insisted he has no recollection of meeting Giuffre.

The prince’s lawyers have given no indication of how they intend to respond to Giuffre’s legal action following Wednesday’s defeat. They had unsuccessfully argued her action was ruled out by a previous settlement she reached in 2009 with Epstein, which they claimed barred her from taking action against Epstein’s associates.

However, a person close to the prince on Thursday stressed the procedural nature of Wednesday’s judgment and said the prince would continue to contest the case.

“This is a marathon not a sprint and the duke will continue to defend himself against these claims,” the person said.

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