LONDON — The British royal family will try to put one of the most vexing scandals it faces behind it, with the announcement on Tuesday that Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, had settled a lawsuit brought by a woman who accused him of raping her when she was a teenager.
But questions linger, not least who is paying the undisclosed settlement, given Andrew’s well-publicized, if mysterious, financial ups and down.
For the queen, who marked the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne earlier this month, the settlement removes the prospect of embarrassing details emerging about Andrew’s contacts with his accuser, Virginia Giuffre, whom he met through his friend, the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
“There are still a lot of questions,” said Penny Junor, a royal historian. “We will never know which of the people in this sorry tale was telling the truth. But we won’t get a daily diet of revelations that will embarrass the family.”
While Andrew did not admit guilt in a statement announcing the settlement, he said he “regrets his association with Epstein and commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others.”
A trial would almost certainly have cast a long shadow over the queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which are scheduled for June. The anniversary year has already kicked off on an anxious note, with news that the queen’s eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, was found to be reinfected by the coronavirus, two days after he had been in contact with his 95-year-old mother.
Buckingham Palace declined to say whether the queen had contracted Covid or even been tested for the virus. But on Tuesday, fears about her health eased somewhat after the palace posted photos of her conducting virtual audiences with ambassadors from Spain and Estonia, who were presenting their credentials.
Charles, who is 73, was reported to be experiencing mild symptoms. He last had Covid in early 2020 as the virus was first engulfing Britain. On Monday, his wife, Camilla, 74, also tested positive, according to their household. These latest health concerns came after the queen missed multiple engagements last fall because of illness.
With the monarchy in transition, the queen has moved swiftly recently to put her family’s affairs in order. On the anniversary of her accession, she issued a statement saying she hoped that Camilla would be known as queen after Charles ascends to the throne, settling an issue that long dogged the couple.
Last month, after a federal judge in Manhattan dismissed Andrew’s effort to get Ms. Giuffre’s lawsuit dismissed, the queen moved to distance him from the family, even though royal experts often describe him as her favorite son. He was stripped of his honorary military titles and instructed no longer to use the honorific “His Royal Highness.” The palace said he would defend himself “as a private citizen.”
Whether that means Andrew is on the hook for the settlement is not clear. Both sides agreed not to disclose the amount and Buckingham Palace declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the duke and his lawyers. A spokeswoman for Andrew’s lawyers would not discuss the source of the funds.
How the 61-year-old prince affords his lifestyle, not to mention his legal bills, has long fueled speculation in British papers. Andrew receives an annual stipend of 250,000 pounds ($338,000) from the queen, according to an analysis of his finances by the Times of London, as well as an annual pension of 20,000 pounds ($27,066) from the Royal Navy, in which he served as a helicopter pilot.
But Andrew, who is also known as the Duke of York, runs up expenses for security at his main residence, Royal Lodge, in Windsor, as well as for the staff and upkeep of the 30-room house (the crown estate owns the property). Since he stepped back from official duties as a member of the royal family after the furor over his ties to Mr. Epstein, it is not clear who pays for his security.
Andrew also owns a ski lodge in the chic Swiss resort Verbier, for which he paid $22 million in 2014. That transaction, with a French socialite, Isabelle de Rouvre, ended in litigation when Ms. de Rouvre sued Andrew for failing to pay the last installment of the purchase.
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The prince also has a fondness for expensive Swiss watches and is often photographed in luxury cars.
Last year, the Times of London reported, a prominent Conservative Party donor, David Rowland, paid off a loan of $2 million that the prince owed a Luxembourg bank. Andrew’s former wife, Sarah, has also had her share of financial problems. But much about the couple’s finances remains cloaked in mystery.
Several British papers have reported that the queen has covered Andrew’s legal expenses and may pay his settlement. She draws more than $27 million a year in private income from the duchy of Lancaster, a far-flung collection of properties she owns in London and the north of England.
By sending Andrew into internal exile, the royal family may hope to put such questions to rest. By relinquishing his official duties, he is no longer entitled to receive money from the public purse. But critics are still likely to question whether taxpayer money is being used to pay the settlement with Ms. Giuffre.
Royal experts said there was a welcome, if overdue, show of contrition in the statement issued by lawyers for the prince. In a calamitous interview with the BBC in November 2019, he offered little regret for his association with Mr. Epstein or sympathy for his victims.
“The fact that he has finally expressed regret about his relationship with Epstein and sympathy for the girls who were trafficked by Epstein was much needed,” Ms. Junor said.
Despite that, Andrew’s future as a member of the House of Windsor looks bleak. Buckingham Palace made clear last month that there was no way his honorary titles or perquisites would be restored, even if he prevailed in a trial.