The thing about writing about Prince Andrew and his many, many travails is that every time you might think things have hit rock bottom for the permanently embattled royal, and then blamo! Some new story breaks and things look even more Hindenburg-level disastrous for him.
Having, over the last two years, lost in the most dizzying fashion his reputation, social standing, charity connections, status as a working member of the royal family and the freedom to rub shoulders with as many billionaire Central Asian despots as he can cram into a Buckingham Palace drawing room, things have just gotten that much more dire for the former naval officer.
I know. Couldn't happen to a nicer chap.
This week, the civil case filed against Andrew by former teen sex trafficking victim Virginia Giuffre, who alleges she was sexually assaulted by the Queen's second son on three occasions (an accusation he has strenuously denied), will be back before a judge in New York, with his high-priced legal team having filed a motion to have the case thrown out.
While we have to wait and see how the presiding Judge, Lewis Kaplan, will rule, the last week has been a spectacularly lousy one for Team Andrew, which aside from his immediate family, seems to be entirely made up of lawyers charging by the hour.
On Thursday last week, his former friend Ghislaine Maxwell was found guilty of sex trafficking underage girls in a blow for his own legal prospects (Going along to a 'Hookers and Pimps' party with Maxwell in 2000 doesn't seem like such a good idea in hindsight now does it?)
Prince Andrew with then Virginia Roberts. Photo / Supplied
During the Maxwell case, the court heard that Andrew had flown on the 'Lolita Express', Epstein's private jet, and that Esptein and Maxwell's 'Little Black Book' had 16 different phone numbers for the Duke, including his mobile and ones for Balmoral and Sandringham, the Queen's two privately owned estates.
Maxwell's guilty verdict could also undermine Andrew's team's attempts to paint Giuffre as an unreliable witness.
While Giuffre was not called as a witness, one royal aide has told The Telegraph: "The jury has declared that these women are credible, their testimony is credible.
"If a jury has decided they are telling the truth, that gives her story a significant boost."
Elsewhere, Andrew's lawyers' move to try and halt proceedings based on jurisdictional grounds, that is, where Giuffre lives, were denied.
And then, his legal team revealed that there are no witnesses who can back his claim that he was at a suburban Pizza Express on the night Giuffre alleges she first had sex with the royal and that there are no documents to support his assertion that he can't sweat, a bizarre claim he made to further dispute Giuffre's account.
But the bad news just keeps coming for the toxic HRH because now it turns out that royal aides are considering essentially stripping Andrew of his York title and casting him into further "exile" if Giuffre wins her case.
The Times has reported that courtiers "have discussed plans to ask the Duke of York to stop using his title" if Giuffre prevails in their courtroom stoush.
"If he loses the case, the question is: what do you do with him?" a source familiar with the discussions has said. "You can't make him resign like you would a normal person but he would be asked to put his dukedom into abeyance."
Queen Elizabeth II during her annual Christmas broadcast in Windsor Castle. Photo / AP
Another idea reportedly on the table is that Andrew would be shunted off into something called "internal exile" and would also be made to forgo the charity ties he still has (why any organisation would still want to be associated with him is totally beyond me).
What makes all of this particularly noteworthy is that the very fact that there are already conversations afoot about what action the Palace would take if Andrew is defeated, is the first real indication that Mummy dearest may no longer be entirely willing to shield her son to the ongoing detriment to the royal family and the Crown.
Per The Times, "While no firm decisions have been made, royal officials acknowledge that action would have to be taken to insulate the monarchy."
While these would all be humiliating and would likely dent the ego of a man who (pre downfall) carried himself with the puffed-up self-importance of a jowly Napoleon, the question is, is this even remotely enough of a punishment?
Or would such a move just simply be too little, and far too late, to stop the reputational rot that Andrew has caused the monarchy?
But it is not only the Duke's behaviour that has reflected badly on the house of Windsor. Sadly, so does the Queen's.
Ever since the infamous photo of Andrew, Giuffre and Maxwell first appeared in 2011, Her Majesty has, at nearly every turn, protected him and used the full power of her position to shield him.
In 2011, after the photo came out, she invested him with the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, the highest personal honour she can bestow, in a symbolic gesture of support in direct opposition to public feeling.
Then, days after Epstein's death in 2019, she took Andrew to church in a (to me, deeply foolish) display of motherly approval.
Melania Trump, Prince Andrew, Gwendolyn Beck and Jeffrey Epstein at a party at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, on February 12, 2000. Photo / Getty Images
Even as of 2021, Her Majesty has "let it known" she wants him to retain his prestigious military roles. In September last year, when US lawyers tried to serve him with papers, it was to his mother's Scottish bolthole Balmoral that he fled to try and evade them.
Even if the Queen does finally step up and – should Andrew lose – force him to put his York title in abeyance, would that even begin to actually counter the possibly irreparable damage caused by not only Andrew but also by Her Majesty's handling of this situation?
Or does it all feel, much too little and much too late?
Time and time and time again, the palace has taken steps to ensure the Duke of York (let's use the title while we still can huh?) has not been made to face the brunt of the consequences of his morally bereft actions, in a doomed attempt to prop up his mouldering reputation.
Time's up old boy.
(To be clear here, Andrew has never been charged with any crime nor has there ever been indication that he might be).
And, it would seem, time's up for Andrew getting to hide behind the Angela Kelly-designed skirts of his mumsy who, based on this Times report, would seem to finally be contemplating showing some iota of leadership on this front.
Still, I'm not sure the Queen pressuring him to stop using his York title and say barring him from prancing about in military garb on the Buckingham Palace balcony (or whatever "internal exile" actually means) will be enough to make the public magically forget her atrocious handling of all of this.
To me, it's simply wrong that Queen has called to bear the clout and lustre of the throne to try and save the skin of a man who, even if nothing else, saw fit to spend five days staying in the home of a registered sex offender.
That Her Majesty did this at a time when fears about Republican sentiment fomenting in the corners of her overseas dominions are a very real concern speaks volumes. Kids before the Commonwealth it would seem.
Maternal devotion is one thing but sacrificing the institution you have spent your entire life defending for a son who has shown a dearth of moral fibre? One only has oneself to blame for whatever blowback she might be facing.
When it came to Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's huffily quitting, Her Majesty acted with a certain ruthless focus on protecting the monarchy at all costs.
Andrew, by contrast, has not been held to any even remotely similar standard, much to the palace's continuing discredit.
Prince Andrew speaks during an interview at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor on April 11, 2021. Photo / AP
(Princes Charles and Andrew were said to be deeply involved in the decision for Andrew to be made to step back as a working member of the royal family in the days after his ruinous Newsnight interview in late 2019. I've often wondered, would the Queen have made such a decisive move if it had been left solely up to her? Sadly, I think not).
The Queen now stands to possibly pay a very high price for her choices, both literally and figuratively.
It is the nonagenarian ruler who has reportedly been picking up the very hefty legal bills for her errant son, footing the cost of his A-list defence teams in both the US and the UK, which will most likely set her back millions of pounds. Things could get even more expensive for her if Giuffre wins the case (she is seeking unspecified damages).
Given Andrew's dismal financial state (he and his former wife Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, are still trying to off-load their Swiss ski chalet with the former owner claiming they still owe her $9.2 million) it would be Her Majesty who would most likely have to put her hand in her pocket to meet whatever amount the judge might award Giuffre.
Next up, if Judge Kaplan denies Andrew's motion to dismiss this week, things will look even bleaker for the Queen.
Should the case proceed, the palace now faces other royal family members, potentially including the Duchess of Sussex and Andrew's daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, being deposed along with his former protection officers.
Added to which, key dates for the trial, likely to take place in the second half of the year, are set down for May, June and July, that is smack bang during the culmination of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
There is also still the prospect that Maxwell could turn on her former associates, including Andrew, in return for a more lenient sentence, according to a former Southern District of New York (SDNY) prosecutor who told The Telegraph, "If she flips, she'll flip now."
If ever there was a time when Andrew might miraculously regain his ability to sweat, it should be now. And for the Queen? Sadly, the same holds true for Her Majesty too.
- by Daniela Elser, news.com.au
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.