Minister accuses Prince Andrew of keeping 'horrifically ill-advised' company

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Prince Andrew, Virginia Giuffre, and Ghislaine Maxwell (left to right) posing for a photo - AFP
Prince Andrew, Virginia Giuffre, and Ghislaine Maxwell (left to right) posing for a photo - AFP

The Duke of York kept "horrifically ill-advised" company and his civil sex case risks overshadowing the Queen's platinum jubilee, a minister has said.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said Prince Andrew had "caused enormous challenges for the royal family", but avoided saying whether it was right for the Queen to strip her son of his military roles.

Mr Heappey said that as a minister he did not want to comment further as he "might risk being too colourful".

But he told LBC that Andrew had "caused enormous challenges for the royal family in a year when we should be celebrating the extraordinary service of Her Majesty the Queen as she reaches her platinum jubilee".

It comes as Prince Andrew awaits a civil sex case in the US, with the trial scheduled to take place between September and December.

Virginia Giuffre is suing the duke for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager and claims she was trafficked by Andrew's friend, the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, to have sex with the duke when she was 17 and a minor under US law.

The duke has strenuously denied the allegations.

Ms Giuffre claims Prince Andrew had sex with her against her will at Ghislaine Maxwell's London home and at Epstein's mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Maxwell, Epstein's former girlfriend and a friend of the duke, was convicted in the US on Dec 29 of procuring teenage girls for Epstein to abuse and will be sentenced this summer.

Prince Andrew is also alleged to have abused Ms Giuffre on another occasion during a visit to Epstein's private island, Little St James, and on a separate occasion at Epstein's Manhattan mansion.

The Queen has stripped Andrew of his remaining patronages and honorary military roles as the monarchy distanced itself from the duke ahead of potentially damaging developments in his lawsuit.

Epstein was found dead in his cell at a federal jail in Manhattan in August 2019 while he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges. The death was ruled a suicide.

Calls have also been made for Prince Andrew to lose his York dukedom, which was given to him by his mother on his wedding day in 1986.

And York Racecourse is to rename the Duke of York Stakes in a bid to distance itself from the Queen's controversial second son.

The Queen is known for her lifelong love of horses and racing, as well as being a successful owner and breeder, with eight decades of involvement in the sport.

Prince Andrew was appointed the racecourse's first patron in 2015, but gave up the position in 2019 after stepping down from public duties following his disastrous appearance on Newsnight in an interview with Emily Maitlis.

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