“Never complain, never explain,” has long been the guiding principle of the royal house of Windsor when it comes to dealing with scurrilous accusations by the “reptiles” of the gutter press.
So it is some indication of the profound sense of panic set off by an extraordinarily detailed set of allegations in the Mail on Sunday today—based on a previously unpublished interview with the woman who alleged this week in a U.S. court filing that Prince Andrew had sex with her as a 17-year-old when she was a “sex slave” being controlled and pimped by the politically well-connected pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein—that Buckingham Palace has now issued not one but two denials that the Queen’s second son ever had sex with the young woman in question.
The second denial from the palace went so far as to name the woman—who is a Jane Doe in the U.S. court filing—after she was identified by name in the Mail on Sunday’s piece.
On Friday, the story had looked like it might blow over as Buckingham Palace sought to dismiss it as a “civil case.” But today’s shocking claims by the Mail have significantly upped the ante.
The new palace statement said, “It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with [the woman]. The allegations made are false and without any foundation.”
Prince Andrew is breaking off from his annual ski holiday with his family—including his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson—and flying home to confront the escalating crisis.
The new claims present numerous big problems for Prince Andrew.
First, obviously, is the fact of his longstanding friendship with the unsavory Epstein, with whom he continued a relationship even after was jailed for 18 months in 2008 after admitting to soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. Their friendship dates back at least as far as 2001, when Andrew was photographed sunbathing on a yacht in Thailand surrounded by topless Thai women while holidaying with the disgraced tycoon.
Second is the level of incidental detail provided in the newly published interview, which makes it clear that even if the woman is lying about having sex with Andrew, as the palace claims, large chunks of her account are clearly based in fact. For example, the woman claims that after she was flown to London as a “present” to the Prince, they went to the London nightclub Tramp, saying, “We went on to Tramp. ... He was the most hideous dancer I had ever seen. He was grabbing my hips and he was pouring with perspiration and he had this cheesy smile.”
The third problem is the evidence of corroborating witnesses. In another section of the interview, the woman says, “A beautiful girl called Johanna Sjoberg, who worked for Jeffrey, was sitting on Andrew’s knee. Ghislaine (Maxwell, a British socialite in Andrew’s circle) guided me over to Andrew and I think he recognized me though I don’t know if he remembered my name. We kissed each other on the cheek and Ghislaine placed me on his other knee.”
The Mail on Sunday reports that Sjoberg confirmed the encounter in a separate interview, saying she was 21 at the time and had been hired by Ghislaine Maxwell to answer phones and serve drinks in return for $20 an hour.
Maxwell was not available for comment describes all claims against her as “untrue” and “obvious lies.”
Problem number four for the Prince is that he was photographed with the young woman in question—a picture of the girl smiling into the camera has been circulation for years. She is wearing a crop top, and Andrew has his arm wrapped around her waist. There is just no way of selling this picture with an innocent defense like, “she just asked for a snap.” One is forced to ask, what on earth was Andrew doing hanging out with scantily clad teenagers?
But the biggest problem of all is that all of these allegations feed into the biggest open secret of royal circles—the “randy Andy” narrative that pegs Andrew as an insatiable womanizer. When he was 30, this was OK. When he was 40, less so. Now, at the age of 54, he is starting to morph slowly but surely from playboy prince into a dirty old man.
His marriage to Sarah Ferguson in 1986 produced two children, Beatrice and Eugenie, but the couple separated in 1992 and were divorced four years later, although Sarah Ferguson still lives in the family home, Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, when she is in the U.K.
Since the separation, it seems Andrew has embarked on his Lothario lifestyle with renewed gusto, having reportedly dated a number of women, including Denise Martell, a former Playboy model from Los Angeles, who claimed to have had a three-day fling with Andrew in the course of which he allowed her to tuck him into bed wearing, somewhat confusingly, boxer shorts. Other reported girlfriends have included PR girls Aurelia Cecil and Caroline Stanbury, and the businesswoman Amanda Staveley, whom he reportedly came close to marrying. In an interview with the Financial Times last year, Stavely refused to confirm or deny that she had “turned her back” on a marriage proposal, saying only that Andrew was a “very considerate boyfriend” and a “very special man.”
One former girlfriend, according to a Vanity Fair profile of the prince, has said that one of his bedroom routines is to model his girlfriends’ underwear by way of a joke.
However, the most bizarre Andrew incident of recent times came when Courtney Love announced on-air during an interview with Russell Brand on Britain’s Channel 4 that Andrew had turned up at her house at 1 a.m., looking “to party.”
“He’s come to Hollywood to look for chicks. I don’t know what he expected at my house; I think he thought it was going to be like a party,” Love said.
Andrew’s spokesman was forced to admit the Prince had visited her house, but claimed the prince—teetotal since the age of 19—only had a cup of tea.