OPINION - How a man on a mission came crashing down in tide of scandal

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Duke of York arrives to attend a church service at St Mary the Virgin Church in Hillington (AFP via Getty Images)  (AFP via Getty Images)
Duke of York arrives to attend a church service at St Mary the Virgin Church in Hillington (AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

The fate of the man once styled as the “Playboy Prince” was sealed the moment a US judge ruled he must face a civil trial over sex abuse allegations.

Advised by her son and grandson, the Queen put the reputation of the monarchy first and cast Andrew into royal exile.

It was all so different when I interviewed Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace to mark his 50th birthday just over a decade ago. Back then he seemed a man on a mission. Still a senior member of the royal family, he was energised, full of ideas and seemed in a good place.

Andrew’s roller coaster ride during his royal career had once seen him dubbed “Randy Andy” by the tabloids due to his penchant for dating attractive models and actresses.

He was “Hero Andy’” for his exploits as a helicopter pilot during the Falklands conflict and had a successful career in the Royal Navy before becoming a government trade ambassador.

Then along came the Jeffrey Epstein disaster of his own making. It was a slow burn at first, but then everything came crashing down when his erstwhile friend Epstein was convicted as a paedophile before being found dead in his New York prison cell after committing suicide. The smoking gun had been fired.

It fired again when Andrew’s long-term friend Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s “girlfriend”, was convicted of sex trafficking. Virginia Giuffre, who alleges the prince had sex with her on three occasions when she was under the age of 18, has never given up her fight. The duke strenuously denies the allegations. I am sure her lawyers will make Emily Maitlis’s questioning look easy.

After this most dramatic fall from grace, it seems the least worst option for Andrew is to try and settle out of court and disappear from public view — and save the royal family from further embarrassment.

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