The Duke of York has retired from public life due to his connections with Jeffrey Epstein but expects no further consequences. Liam Glen writes on why royals should not be exempt from the law.
On November 20, Prince Andrew, Duke of York and second son of Queen Elizabeth II, announced that he was withdrawing from public duties. This amounts to a retirement from public life decades earlier than would be typical for the 59-year-old royal.
In his statement, he cites public concern over his former friendship with accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Prince Andrew has faced his own allegations of abuse in connection with Epstein’s trafficking ring, and his attempt to defend himself in an interview with the BBC did little to clear his name.
Instead, onlookers were horrified as the Prince failed to show any empathy towards Epstein’s victims and even refused to say that he regrets his friendship with the financier, which was apparently “very useful” to him.
However, it currently seems unlikely that he will face any further consequences. To any who believe in rule of law, this unconditional immunity should be cause for concern.
To those who hang around in royal circles, Prince Andrew’s retirement – which is speculated to be more of a forced resignation – must seem momentous. No doubt high society gossipers will consider it the scandal of the year. But in real terms, it means nothing. Prince Andrew will continue to live a life of luxury unimaginable to most Britons.
Tellingly, insider coverage of the scandal has focused on its impact on the “royal brand.” Had the Prince not been so foolish as to give such a disastrous interview, it is unlikely that he would be facing any official consequences at all. It is only now that he is becoming a public relations liability that the rest of the family is backing away from him.
This, however, may not be the end of the story. Experts believe it possible that officials in the United States, where the alleged crimes took place, could request Prince Andrew’s extradition. Already, he is facing pressure to cooperate with the FBI.
A member of the British royalty facing criminal charges in a foreign country would be a highly unusual and unlikely event, but there are no official laws or procedures which make it impossible.
Prince Andrew should of course be granted the same due process as anyone else, but if authorities gather enough evidence that he could be charged, his royal status should not be cause for hesitation.
Equality Under the Law
In modern democracies, everyone is theoretically held to the same standards. The law knows no difference between the poorest laborer or the wealthiest executive.
The obvious exception to this is royalty, who have no actual jobs, yet are exalted as the highest forms of humanity, always referred to by special titles, and allowed to live in opulence on the taxpayers’ dime.
In Britain, people are generally found enough of the royals to permit this. When serious allegations of wrongdoing emerge, however, it calls the entire system into question.
The theoretical equality under the law is too often subverted. The poor can have their lives ruined by trivial of offenses. Meanwhile, it is likely that many participants in major crimes like the Epstein sex trafficking ring will never see any consequences.
This inequality has been present in every society in human history, and it likely always will be, but that should not stop us from at least attempting to minimize it. And nothing better shows that society is serious about pursuing justice, without regard for wealth and privilege, than holding a member of the seemingly-untouchable royal family to the same standards as everyone else.