Prince Andrew's very expensive option in sex abuse case brought by Virginia Giuffre

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Prince Andrew's very expensive option in sex abuse case brought by Virginia Giuffre

The disgraced Prince has only one more thing left if he wants to avert ruin. It could be a complete disaster for the Queen though.

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Just in case you were starting to feel an iota less of antipathy towards Prince Andrew, let me tell you a brief story:

It is days after he was served with the papers for his civil sex abuse case and the former royal was at home at Royal Lodge, a 31-room grace-and-favour pile he occupies on the Windsor estate. (Unlike his brother and sister Prince Charles and Princess Anne who own their own country homes).

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Let’s assume his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, was at home because these days she seems to generally only pop up on Italian chat shows (where she said she stands behind her former husband “100 per cent”) and when she’s undertaking such dignified outings as opening an aesthetics clinic in a Polish village, population 2800.

So, we’re at Royal Lodge. He’s been served with the lawsuit that will see him stand trial, facing accusations of sexually assaulting Virginia Giuffre, nee Roberts, on three occasions (a claim he vehemently denies).

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Is Andrew in his study contemplating the untold, irreparable damage his choices are having on the monarchy? Nope. He was out in the estate’s vast grounds yelling at a gardener.

According to the Sun, he left a gardener “shaken and upset” after he “shouted and yelled” at her over a situation involving saplings.

“He was over the top,” an insider has said of the incident. “Andrew is under a great deal of stress but it’s no reason to take it out on staff doing their job.”

READ MORE • Prince Andrew faces hours of questioning by Virginia’s legal team

This revelation now joins the ever-growing list of instances when the embattled former working member of the royal family’s notoriously short temper has been on display.

Lucky none of us are within hollering distance of Royal Lodge because the news over the weekend would have done nothing to soothe that particular beast.

While family might be an obvious source of solace and support in times of crisis, not so for the house of Windsor’s most loathed member.

Andrew, who is often referred to as his mother the Queen’s favourite, would seem to be distinctly less popular with his siblings. It was Charles, Anne and baby brother Prince Edward reportedly meeting on several occasions and then joining together in agreement that the axe had to fall which finally saw Her Majesty finally strip Andrew of his prestigious military titles, patronages and public use of his HRH.

Crucially, not a single member of the family has spoken out in his favour or voiced even the most anodyne of statements even to say they wouldn’t be commenting while the case played out in New York. (Contrast that with Prince William speaking out firmly days after Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary Oprah Winfrey interview last year to deny charges of racism).

The 61-year-old’s nearest and not-so-dearest are also said to be united in what they think needs to happen next, with the Telegraph reporting that “Privately, senior royals are understood to be aghast at the allegations, as well as the global news coverage the case continues to generate.

“Multiple royal sources admit that, whatever it takes, everyone behind palace walls just wants the case to ‘go away’. As such, an out-of-court settlement, despite the connotations inevitably attached, remains the favoured strategy.”

Elsewhere, another report in the Telegraph has revealed that “While [Andrew] has told friends that he is determined to clear his name, sources admit that a settlement remains an option and that he is under increasing pressure from Buckingham Palace to bring the whole thing to a close.”

Prince Andrew's very expensive option in sex abuse case brought by Virginia Giuffre

The infamous photo of Prince Andrew, Virginia Giuffre, and Ghislaine Maxwell. Photo / Supplied

The picture that is emerging today is of momentum building fast for the duke to find a way to settle his civil sex abuse case before it gets to the trial or even deposition stage.

At present, the prince is slated to be deposed by legendary lawyer David Boies, possibly in London, in what would be up to seven hours of answering questions on camera and under oath. It’s a prospect that experts say could have devastating consequences including the very real chance that parts or all of his testimony could end up in the public arena.

“This is the point when he would typically be considering whether or not to engage in settlement negotiations. There is leverage now,” former US federal prosecutor Moira Penza told the Telegraph. “Prince Andrew will not want to go through a deposition.”

Nor, one would imagine, anyone from the Queen right down to her corgi puppies.

With pressure mounting on him to find a way out of this seemingly never-ending fiasco, the only option is a settlement. In January, after Andrew’s attempt to have the case thrown out was quashed, Ms Giuffre took to Twitter posting: “My goal has always been to show that the rich and powerful are not above the law & must be held accountable.”

However now Boies has, for the first time, given a very serious hint that their side would possibly be open to going down the settlement route.

In a profile of 80-year-old lawyer Boies over the weekend, he said: “I think that we would be unlikely to settle in a situation in which somebody just handed over a cheque. So if Prince Andrew maintains ‘I’ve never heard of this person’, ‘I don’t know who she is’, ‘The photographs are fake’, then I don’t think that we would want to settle on that basis.”

Here’s where things get interesting. Boies went on to pause and then say: “That said, “if you had a settlement that was large enough to be, in effect, a vindication, then it’s something we would obviously look at.”

Hear that Andrew? If the cheque has an eye watering number of zeros tacked on the end then maybe, just maybe, there is a way out.

Only thing, it won’t be cheap.

Speaking to the Sun, lawyer Spencer Kuvin who has represented a number of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims has suggested a possible payout could be north of $26 million (NZ $27.9 million).

“To punish some­­one worth a fortune you have got to hit them in their pockets and punish them accordingly,” Kuvin has explained.

The eight-figure question here is, where would Andrew even begin to try and find that much money?

The Duke of York would seem to be very short of hard readies these days. He and Fergie are currently trying to sell their $25 million Verbier chalet for the same price as they bought it in 2014, in what looks like a fire sale. Given they are reported to have paid for much of the property with a mortgage, it seems unlikely this transaction will free up much if any cash.

Outside of the property, his most valuable assets would seem to be his pretentious $420,000 green Bentley and a $280,000 Patek Philippe watch. Even auctioning all of this (look out for the new seller HRHDukeofYork pompously popping up on eBay any day now) would not even pull in a smidgen of what he would need to find.

(As one source told the Telegraph earlier in January: “The Duke is currently totally dependent on the Queen but that surely cannot go on forever. The trouble is the Yorks’ outgoings are still huge.)

There would seem to be only one solution here: The Bank of Mum.

Prince Andrew's very expensive option in sex abuse case brought by Virginia Giuffre

Prince Andrew is said to have blown up at his gardener after he was served with the papers for his civil sex abuse case. Photo / Getty Images

For the Queen, she is damned if she does here but potentially even more damned if she does not. She can either use her considerable funds to pony up the cash which would be a horrible look. (“What does it look like if the Queen’s money is used to settle sex abuse allegations?” a royal source told the Times. “Holy cow, that’s horrible. But it could be the only option.”)

The only other play, of letting Andrew swing and let the case play out in court, would likely be even more reputationally devastating for the crown and the royal family’s image.

It’s a Catch-22 unlike any other the 95-year-old monarch has faced during her nearly 70-year reign.

As Boies himself said: “This has got to be any mother’s nightmare. And to have it play out so publicly because of Prince Andrew’s position is particularly unfortunate. Because it must be of a magnitude that is far worse for her.”

For a family that famously never carries money, there is a certain horrible irony that, at the end of the day, the only thing that might bring this ongoing car crash of a situation to a close is cold hard cash – and lots and lots of it.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and a writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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