Prince Andrew sex allegations: What suicidal urge drives royal people into the toxic embrace of these rich 'friends'?

The current situation is scarier than any the Prince has faced since the Falklands

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was more than 20 years ago, but I still remember the “Squidgygate” calls from the Palace press office. After an alleged lover was recorded calling Diana, Princess of Wales by the pet name “squidgy” on multiple occasions, I knew it meant another ruined holiday.

This holiday’s royal surprise is even worse than those unhappy souvenirs of the “Charles verses Di” era. It’s worse just not because the allegations involve dodgy billionaires and underage sex , nor because it’s a mortifying embarrassment for the new homogenised monarchy of the Middleton era – though that’s bad enough – it’s worse because this time the American legal system is involved.

The alleged female victim is invoking the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and has a former US Federal judge in her corner. He is unlikely to wilt under the kind of pressure Buckingham Palace might use to brush off a home-grown irritant.

This situation is scarier than any the Duke of York has faced since he put his helicopter in harm’s way between Argentinian Exocets and the British Falklands Task Force. 

He might view it as a more dangerous threat – since such a legal case could drag him through the circles of US law discovery hell, all the while being tormented by media interest that is as prurient as it is global. Think of the reputational damage as Prince Andrew takes the oath at his sworn deposition. He’s technically not a party to the suit (a straw to which Buckingham Palace appears keen to cling) the consequences will be dire and long-lasting.

Given that this legal storm was forecast in the British press as long ago as April last year, the corporate types who now advise the Windsors on their image should have had their crisis plan ready to roll.

 

Let’s hope their new year improves, though the odds aren’t encouraging. Consider this: even if (as we must all sincerely wish) Prince Andrew’s spokesperson was telling the truth when she “categorically denied” the allegations, one obstinate question will remain. What suicidal urge drives royal people – not just the poor old Duke of York – into the toxic embrace of these rich “friends” like Jeffrey Epstein?

Surely it’s not just the jets, yachts, private islands, night clubs and pervasive sense of entitlement? Charitably we might concede that many of these rich friends support royal good causes, save the taxpayer jet fuel and occasionally use their influence to advance British interests. Dress it up how you like, such justifications are too often cynical or just naive. So heedless royal moths keep homing in on the poisonous flames emitted by the rich and famous. 

The Epstein case reminds us that choosing to befriend the obliging ultra-rich is no part of a Prince’s royal duty. It’s a personal choice and carries immense risk.

Because of our constitutional arrangements, whether we like it or not, such risks are shared by all of us. That’s why we depend on the royal folk to choose their risks wisely. In that context, we shouldn’t ignore another princely PR drama, currently eclipsed by the Prince Andrew fuss. The Prince of Wales’s advisors seem to have suppressed a BBC documentary which dares to examine their sometimes questionable attitude to the heir’s image management.

No wonder US observers are turning for guidance to their oracle of all things British, Downton Abbey. The Dowager Countess of Grantham sums it up rather nicely: “The truth is neither here nor there. It’s the look of the thing that matters.”

Patrick Jephson was private secretary to Diana, Princess of Wales from 1988 to 1996