Britain’s Prince Andrew is facing fresh calls to be stripped of his Duke of York title after agreeing an undisclosed financial settlement with a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was 17.
The surprise out-of-court agreement means Prince Andrew makes no admission of guilt over the claims made by Virginia Giuffre, which he had repeatedly denied and only weeks ago vowed to fight in a US civil trial.
Queen Elizabeth last month stripped Andrew of his military affiliations and royal patronages in an attempt to distance the royal family from the allegations. However, he has kept his Duke of York title.
The duke (61) has held the title since the day of his former marriage to Sarah Ferguson, on July 23rd, 1986, and it is a role traditionally created for the monarch's second son and held for life.
But there were growing calls on Wednesday for him to be stripped of the title. Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central, said Andrew's involvement in the sexual assault allegations had been a "source of deep hurt and embarrassment" for many people in the city.
She said: "Although it is a relief that Prince Andrew has finally acknowledged and expressed regret for his close association with a convicted sex offender and sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, his long delay in doing so and initial response to the charges and Ms Giuffre have been a source of deep hurt and embarrassment to many people across the city.
“Carrying a title does create an ambassadorial relationship with that place, and for somewhere with a global reputation, such as York, this is extremely important. It is to be welcomed that he has now pledged to support the fight against the evils of sex trafficking and its victims.
“To demonstrate his seriousness in this endeavour, and his respect for those affected by abuse and the people of our city, I would ask that his first act of contrition is to confirm his support for the withdrawal of his ducal title.”
House of Commons
The queen alone cannot remove titles of peerage. Any attempt to remove the title would have to be led by parliament, through a statute passed by both the House of Commons and the Lords.
The city’s council also said it would write to MPs to express its concern and discuss “any possible ways of ending Prince Andrew’s connection to York”. A poll by the local newspaper the Press last month found that 88 per cent of the 460 respondents wanted the Duke of York to relinquish his mantle.
Darryl Smalley, a Liberal Democrat councillor and the city council's executive member for culture, leisure and communities, said after the out-of-court settlement: "Having been stripped of his military roles and royal patronages by the queen, this should be the end of his direct link with our great city.
“York’s unique connection to the crown and the monarch is an important part of our city’s legacy, history and a great source of pride. Buckingham Palace and the government must consider the implications of the troubling allegations moving forward.”
Ben Wallace, the UK defence secretary, said on Wednesday the decision on Andrew's titles "rests obviously with the palace in the future".
Asked if the Duke of York should be allowed to represent military regiments, he told Sky News: “Well I don’t think he represents any of them at the moment, I think the palace took a decision that those titles were to be removed from him, so I think he is effectively acting now as a private citizen in so far as both addressing the challenges and the allegations.”
He added: “There’s been a, obviously, a payment and I think that is where he currently remains, that the decision on titles rests obviously with the palace in the future, but I think it’s been pretty clear that this settlement is a recognition that he wants to bring this to a close and also recognise as his statement says the suffering and the challenges that the victims have been through as a result of their allegations and their stand against the exploitation by [Jeffrey] Epstein.” – Guardian