Ex-royal aide says trying to reopen deal with Virginia Giuffre won’t help Prince Andrew

<span>Photograph: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images

Any attempt by Prince Andrew to try to row back an out-of-court deal with a woman with whom he is accused of having sex when she was a teenager is unlikely to rehabilitate him in the royal family, a former senior royal aide has warned.

The Duke of York was at the weekend urged to challenge his legal settlement with Virginia Giuffre by Alan Dershowitz, an American lawyer who himself was previously accused by her of sexual abuse.

But a senior former courtier said King Charles is still likely to keep his brother at arm’s length from the working royals owing to his longer-term relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier and convicted sex offender.

There are signs of a gathering campaign to rehabilitate Andrew, which is could create a headache for the king as he prepares for his coronation on 6 May. A year ago Andrew paid millions of dollars to settle Giuffre’s claim that she was trafficked to have sex with him on three occasions when she was 17. The settlement did not include any admission of guilt.

This weekend, a staged photo was published purporting to undermine Giuffre’s claims of Prince Andrew’s sexual activity with her.

The image of a bath in a London townhouse was released by Ian Maxwell, the brother of Ghislaine Maxwell, a former friend of Andrew, who is in jail for sex trafficking offences related to Epstein. It shows two people sitting in the bath of Ghislaine Maxwell’s former flat wearing masks of the duke and Giuffre in an attempt to prove “conclusively that the bath is too small for any sort of sex frolicking” of the sort Giuffre had suggested happened in an unpublished memoir.

The gambit comes days after Ghislaine Maxwell claimed in an interview from prison that a photo showing Andrew with his arm around Giuffre’s waist was faked.

The staged bath image was dismissed as “insulting” by sources close to Giuffre, who said it “proves nothing”. But asked if Andrew should challenge the settlement he made, Dershowitz said: “I think he should. This may be only the tip of a very deep iceberg. The media should continue to probe every allegation in an effort to get to the truth.”

There are also suggestions that other US lawyers are poised to try to help Prince Andrew challenge a legal settlement that has cast him into the royal wilderness. The duke has reportedly consulted the US lawyers Andrew Brettler and Blair Berk over possible legal moves that could assist his rehabilitation.

Releasing the bathroom mock-up image, Ian Maxwell told the Daily Telegraph he had not been in contact with Prince Andrew, but offered it as a potential exhibit if it helped his case.

Lisa Bloom, a lawyer who has represented victims of the sex trafficking ring operated by Ghislaine Maxwell and the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, said the move appeared “desperate”.

“The photo shows that two full-sized humans can fit in the bath,” she said, according to the Mail on Sunday. “Virginia said that Andrew began by playing with her feet in the bath. The photo shows that would certainly be possible. Virginia said that she and Andrew then moved into the bedroom where the sexual activity occurred. Nothing in the photo disproves that. Instead of continuing to attack victims, [Maxwell] should be apologising for the pain she has caused to so many.”

Andrew’s settlement with Giuffre triggered a stripping of his public duties and royal patronages. At the funeral of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, last September he was denied the right to wear military uniform, unlike his siblings.

Charles is already grappling with how to handle Prince Harry’s attendance at the state event after his explosive memoir accused the royals of stereotyping his wife, Meghan, and William of knocking him to the floor in a row.

“The king will have been hoping for a quiet run-up to the coronation … untroubled by outside noises,” said a former senior royal aide, who predicted that any rehabilitation attempt by Andrew was likely to fail.

“Even if you want to argue about the size of the bath, Andrew made the settlement,” they said. “More than that, he had a long relationship with Epstein culminating in the BBC Newsnight interview [in which he defended staying with Epstein at his New York mansion after Epstein’s conviction for sex offences as ‘the honourable and right thing to do’]. I am sure they will want to continue with the policy of having him as a private member of the family, not living at Buckingham Palace.”

Andrew continues to live at Royal Lodge, Windsor, leased from the crown estate. Even before Andrew settled with Giuffre, Charles had been planning a slimmed-down monarchy with fewer key players.

Spokespeople for Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace have been approached for comment.