Finally something has gone right for Prince Andrew. This is probably because he listened to his lawyers and to his mother, rather than trusting his own notoriously poor judgement.
The settlement he has reached with Virginia Giuffre has not restored his reputation but it has avoided his ruination, something that was — if not a foregone conclusion — a highly probable outcome had he fought the case to the end. He has avoided the personal catastrophe, and the catastrophe for the monarchy, of a court finding that he was a sexual predator. From Oscar Wilde to Jeffrey Archer, cases that start as civil suits have a nasty habit of spawning criminal prosecutions. He can sleep a little easier on that front, although he would probably still be well-advised to avoid trips to America.
By settling at this stage of the litigation he has also avoided the agonising process of giving a pre-trial deposition, which under New York procedure would have exposed him to cross-examination at the hands of Giuffre’s attorney, the much-feared David Boies. I suspect that side-stepping his awkward questions was in itself worth a six or seven figure sum.
Although the amount of the settlement was said to be confidential, the Daily Telegraph is reporting this morning that the total is in the region of £12 million, which may not include the further “substantial” donation to Giuffre’s charity. You can safely add to that at least another million or so for his legal fees. Andrew’s Verbier chalet has either already been sold or is at least under offer. In future, if he is paying his own way, his winter sports may have to take place at the Skieasy dry slope in Chiswick, if they let him in.
Apart from the Swiss chalet he is not known to have many other assets and it seems that the Queen has agreed to pay millions of pounds to bail him out. That is certainly a better option than the prince being tempted to do any more deals with murky Central Asian oligarchs, even if there were still oligarchs prepared to associate with him, which is doubtful. Her Majesty cannot, she will have reflected, take the money with her and if a few million pounds is what it costs to avoid potentially terminal damage to the British monarchy, it is a price worth paying.
As with most settlements, there are a few crumbs of comfort for the paying party. The prince has made no admission of liability, a matter of great importance to him and to the royal family. He has not apologised to Giuffre. He has avoided the enormous legal costs of a contested trial. The sums involved, if the £12 million figure is correct, are vast by British standards but probably less than Giuffre might have been awarded by a favourable New York jury.
As to the final part of the settlement, Andrew has pledged “to demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein by supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims”. Heaven knows what that means. If he hopes to do the traditional royal thing of being appointed the figurehead for a charity supporting the victims of sexual abuse, I doubt he will find one that wants him.