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Prince Andrew to face sex abuse charges as a private citizen

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now let's head to London where Prince Andrew has given up all public duties as well as his military titles and royal charities, according to Buckingham Palace. The palace also says the queen's second son will defend himself as a private citizen against a civil suit alleging sexual assault. The prince faces what could be hugely damaging civil trial in New York.

And for more, we turn to NPR London correspondent Frank Langfitt. Frank, explain why the prince is giving up these honors now.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Yeah. Ari, I think Buckingham Palace is trying to distance itself as much as possible from Prince Andrew. And he's become totally toxic, certainly here in the United Kingdom. As we've reported, the prince faces this civil suit by a woman named Virginia Giuffre. She says she was forced to have sex with the prince when she was 17. He's repeatedly denied this.

Buckingham Palace is making the move now, I think, because yesterday, a judge in federal court in New York dismissed Andrew's motion to, you know, dismiss the lawsuit. And this means the case could head to trial in the fall, and that'll be even more damaging to Andrew and, of course, the royal family.

There is also mounting outside pressure. There was this letter from more than 150 Royal Navy, RAF and Army veterans. They wrote the queen, and they asked her to strip the prince of eight military appointments. So honestly, I don't think she really had much choice here.

SHAPIRO: You say the prince is totally toxic in the U.K. How is this news playing out there?

LANGFITT: Very badly, I mean, as that letter suggests. The allegations from Giuffre, they've been around for years. But after the arrest and death of Jeffrey Epstein, who was the prince's friend and also convicted sex offender, these allegations basically got new life and got a lot more attention.

And back in I think it was 2019, the BBC did an interview with the prince, and he tried to put this all to rest. And it was widely seen as a really disastrous interview. And this is the prince speaking at the time with the BBC's Emily Maitlis.

(SOUNDBITE OF BBC BROADCAST)

EMILY MAITLIS: Is there any way you could have had sex with that young woman or any young woman trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein in any of his residences?

PRINCE ANDREW: No. And without putting too fine a point on it, if you're a man, it is a positive act to have sex with somebody. And so, therefore, it's very difficult to try and forget positive action. And I do not remember anything.

SHAPIRO: Well, Frank, looking ahead to this trial, do people think the prince might actually end up defending himself in person in a U.S. courtroom?

LANGFITT: I think people have a hard time imagining that, Ari. But selling the case may take more than just money. Giuffre's lawyer is named David Boise. He's very well-known in the United States, of course. This is what he said to the BBC last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF BBC BROADCAST)

DAVID BOISE: I think it's very important to Virginia Giuffre that this matter be resolved in a way that vindicates her and vindicates the other victims.

LANGFITT: I think the concern there probably from the palace is that they may want some kind of a statement in addition to any settlement from the prince. And that may well, of course, have spooked them because it wouldn't be easy to dispose of this.

SHAPIRO: He is ninth in the line to the throne. Does this present a threat to the democracy - to the monarchy, rather?

LANGFITT: No. I mean, on its own, no, Ari. I mean, but a - you know, you lived here. You covered this story. The royal family has a tricky relationship with the British public. They need to set a good example, do charitable works. And, you know, in exchange for that, the public supports the monarchy, and the U.K. won't become a republic under that support.

But this has been a really difficult time. We've seen Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, leave the royal family amid charges of racism, which the royal family has denied. The queen is 95, not in great health. And she has her - she's going to be celebrating her platinum jubilee this year. It's a record-setting 70 years on the throne. It's pretty clear why the palace wouldn't want Andrew's scandal hanging over those celebrations.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Thank you.

LANGFITT: Great to talk, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRIAN ENO'S "2/2") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.