Illustration by Hannah Robinson
Last night Prince Andrew gave a disturbing Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis, and the inconsistencies as well as the facts are of serious concern. Andrew began early in the interview by emphatically claiming that Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious convicted sex offender, was no great friend but simply a ‘plus one’ acquaintance known through his then girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell. This seems distinctly at odds with Andrew’s behaviour, that saw him fly all the way to New York in December 2010, after Epstein’s release, to break up the friendship on account of Epstein’s damaged reputation and the scrutiny surrounding the Royal Family. During the interview Andrew’s manner was slippery and his smug chuckles when discussing what, for these women, is a life-altering experience, was uncomfortable at best.
There was a jarring callousness and egotism in Andrew’s language. He claims this meeting in New York, which involved staying at Epstein’s house for four days out of ‘convenience’, was a misjudgement due to his ‘tendency to be too honourable’. I’m afraid I take great issue with the idea that holding clandestine meetings with the known abuser and exploiter of vulnerable young women to be in any way part of the gentleman’s honour code. Andrew subsequently described Epstein’s behaviour as ‘unbecoming’ which rightly drew a sharp retort from Maitlis. Andrew’s response then was to say ‘I’m being polite’. Epstein was a blot on humanity, he is also dead, there is no need to be polite about such an individual, nor to wriggle out of such a faux pas with further self-aggrandisement.
On a more subtle note, his approach to Maitlis was also revealing. His patronising tone when repeatedly using phrases such as ‘remember that…’ and ‘you have to understand that…’. Then when Maitlis did show a great deal of understanding of the subject matter by revealing the facts in pertinent questions, his facial expressions of grandiose disbelief seemed, to use his own word, unbecoming. His frequent attempts at interruption also showed a transparent desire not to be, well, transparent, but to make a full swing at controlling the narrative. One could also not help but take note of the grandiose setting of such an interview, in Queen Victoria’s ball room at Buckingham Palace, which simply screamed of his sheltered entitlement.
The most startling thing is that Andrew stated that he did not regret his friendship with Epstein because of the ‘cosmopolitan group of US eminence’ contacts that Andrew found ‘very useful’ and led to ‘vital opportunities’. Andrew has missed the harrowing point; it is this soft power that made Epstein able to so successfully exploit those vulnerable women. His little black book of contacts is not something to be celebrated, it is something that should be shuddered at. No smoke without fire is not a legal argument, but the facts are that a member of one of the most powerful institutions of the British establishment had dealings with, before and after his conviction, a known sex offender. The allegations of the women must come first and they must not be denied access to justice because of an antiquated and misused title.