World·Royal Fascinator

Why Ghislaine Maxwell's arrest could turn up the heat on Prince Andrew

When British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire on charges related to the investigation into convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, it cast renewed attention on a royal friend to them both: Prince Andrew.

British socialite charged in relation to investigation into convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

Prince Andrew's friendship with U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein has been under renewed scrutiny since the convicted sex offender's suicide in a New York jail cell last summer. Both Andrew and the palace have denied he had any involvement in the sex scandal surrounding Epstein (Albert Leung/CBC)

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When British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire last week on charges related to the investigation into convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, it cast renewed attention on a royal friend to them both: Prince Andrew.

Partway through the news conference following Maxwell's arrest by the FBI on July 2, Audrey Strauss, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said she would "welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us." 

Attention has focused on Queen Elizabeth's second son particularly in connection with an accusation from one of Epstein's young victims: that Maxwell arranged for her to have sex with Andrew at her townhouse in London.

Andrew and the palace have repeatedly denied the story, and in a deposition, Maxwell has said the victim, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, was "totally lying."

Still, the arrest puts a renewed spotlight on Andrew, who bowed out of royal duties last fall after a disastrous interview with the BBC over his friendship with Epstein, who died of suicide while in custody in New York last summer.

Maxwell's arrest "may very well turn up the heat on [Andrew] because the big question now is what does she know and what kind of deal is she willing to make with the prosecutors," said Robert Currie, a law professor in the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax and a specialist in international and transnational criminal law.

"There's a big fight already about whether she's covered by Epstein's own 2008 immunity agreement when he pleaded down to some lesser charges."

Ghislaine Maxwell, longtime friend of Epstein, is shown in New York in 2013. She was arrested earlier this month in New Hampshire. (Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Prof. Trevor Farrow of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto also thinks the recent charges brought against Maxwell could complicate things for Andrew.

"If other people are getting charged and coming forward ... the circle seems to be tightening around those who were involved," Farrow said. "If he can credibly claim that he had no idea what was going on, that will be one thing. If it's something different, the circle seems to be closing in on those directly involved in all of these activities."

So far,  it has been a rather confusing legal scene playing out publicly around Andrew and the Epstein case. 

"My impression of what's happened so far is this: The American prosecutors have said a number of times: 'We want to interview you, we want testimony from you, not in-court testimony, but we want an actual interview where we ask you questions and you give us answers on the record in some way,'" Currie said. 

"His team, I gather, has pushed back with, 'We are willing to give you a written statement.'"

Against that backdrop, reports have emerged that the American lawyers have turned to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the U.S. and the U.K.

Currie said that under that treaty, "British government officials could essentially compel Prince Andrew to come into a room and give testimony under oath, sworn statements."

Prince Andrew, being driven here with his mother, Queen Elizabeth, from church on Aug. 11, 2019, in Crathie, Aberdeenshire, bowed out of royal duties last fall after an interview with the BBC regarding his friendship with Epstein. (Duncan McGlynn/Getty Images)

If that were to happen, it could mean further legal issues for Andrew.

"If he is in a room with American prosecutors answering questions, the case has immediately got a lot more tricky for him," Currie said. "That is why we've seen these seven months of back and forth, 'You're not co-operating,' 'Yes, I am.'" 

For Currie, the case is emblematic of something we're going to see more of.

"People are more mobile than they ever were, evidence is more mobile than it ever was and more and more criminal cases of every stripe are going to have these cross-border elements to them," he said. 

With files from The Associated Press

Zooming with William and Kate

Staff at Surrey Memorial Hospital take part in a Zoom call with Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, in June. A portion of the call was posted online on July 1. (Kensington Palace)

The likelihood of a royal visit to Canada any time soon seems slim to nil, but staff at a British Columbia hospital recently came as close as anyone could to an encounter with the House of Windsor.

The Royal Family's online efforts to support front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic reached Surrey Memorial Hospital, as Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, did a Zoom call with two doctors, two nurses, a respiratory therapist and a social worker. 

"It was inspiring in many ways," intensive care physician Dr. Gregory Haljan said in an interview. "We've all been through a lot of phone calls and meetings lately and working virtually, and this was actually a very warm and engaging conversation."

The half-hour virtual chat took place in late June, and a seven-minute sampling of the exchange was posted online by Kensington Palace on Canada Day.

"The conversation was very wide-ranging, everything from talking about mental health right down to some of the granular details around things like contact tracing," said Haljan, who is head of the critical care department at Surrey Memorial. "They were very well informed."

During the conversation, William told the front-line workers he and Kate were "proud of all of you and of everyone on the front line who has led the way very stoically and very bravely, and put patient care right at the top of the list. You've done a fantastic job."

WATCH | Prince William and Kate talk with staff at Surrey Memorial:

Kate told them: "It's an amazing role that you're playing and a hugely tough one as well. We're in huge admiration of everything you're doing."

The health-care staff prepared for about five days before the call, practising and getting comfortable on Zoom.

Haljan said there was some nervousness among the group for the call that began at 7 a.m PT, but William and Kate "really did a wonderful job of putting us at ease."

"I think everyone really enjoyed the conversation."

Haljan sees it as the kind of conversation that is more important than ever right now, a time when there is a lot of division in the world. 

"Things that bring us together, things that bring the best out of us ... those positive words, that positive energy, are incredibly important right now."

Surrey Memorial saw the most COVID patients of any hospital in B.C., and the staff on the Zoom call were all very much involved in working with them.

Haljan said they all left the conversation with William and Kate feeling better about what they have been through and inspired in their work.

"It was helpful for us in terms of motivation to know there's attention being paid to all the hard work that's happening every day."

Out and about — a bit more

Virtual visits like the one with Surrey Memorial became the regular way of doing royal business over the past few months, but there have been a few more hints recently of a return to meeting and greeting in person — from a safe distance.

Prince William went to a local pub in Norfolk as the U.K. moved into its next stage of reopening.

"As pubs and restaurants reopen around the U.K. this weekend, the Duke popped into the local pub in Norfolk to wish the staff well and hear how they have adapted their operations in order to allow them to return to a new normal," Kensington Palace said on Twitter and Instagram.

William and Kate also visited a hospital not too far from their country home in Norfolk on the weekend to mark the 72nd anniversary of the National Health Service.

Other members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, have also made public visits in recent days.

Royals in Canada

Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne, right, are shown with Thomasina Emoralik, left, during a visit to an Inuit settlement near Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island in present-day Nunavut on July 6, 1970. (The Canadian Press)

When Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne visited Canada in July 1970, the trip seemed to split into two distinct experiences.

First came a few days in the Northwest Territories to mark its centennial, a time of more relaxed events and quieter mingling with those they met. Charles even had a chance to pilot an Armed Forces Hercules on a 160-kilometre flight. 

Then came Manitoba, where one crowd out to see the visitors reportedly numbered 100,000 as the province celebrated 100 years since its entry into Confederation.

"For northerners, it was a royal affirmation that their part of the country is a vital portion of the Canadian mosaic, an essential factor in Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic," the Winnipeg Free Press reported on July 16. "For Manitobans, it was one hell of a grand way to blow out 100 birthday candles."

The trip was the first Canadian visit for Charles and Anne, and reportedly the first time members of the Royal Family had been north of the Arctic Circle.

WATCH | The Royal Family arrives in the North:

The Royal Family lands

53 years ago
Duration 1:48
The Queen, her husband and two oldest children land in present-day Iqaluit for a visit to Canada's North in 1970.

There were lighter moments during the 10-day trip. Charles, the Winnipeg Free Press reported, told someone he didn't think he could dance to the music of The Guess Who, after the Winnipeg rockers of American Woman fame entertained the crowd at a youth dinner. 

But some more serious issues that resonate today — relations with Indigenous communities, environmental concerns — were also top of mind at times.

Tree-shaded Broadway in Winnipeg is lined 20 deep with cheering crowds on July 15, 1970, as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip ride in an open carriage, escorted by members of the RCMP Musical Ride, to the legislature building for Manitoba centennial day ceremonies. (Peter Bregg/The Canadian Press)

"It is not men alone who must work with one another, but we must think of animals, rivers, lakes, trees, even plants, for they all contribute to a homogenous whole," the Queen said during a speech, reported by the Toronto Star. "Everything in this world has its role to play if we are to continue to advance in peace and harmony."

Royally quotable

"It's a very odd feeling. I shall look forward to the day when I can give them a huge hug again."

  • Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, talks with a BBC Radio host about life during the pandemic, and how she has been missing her grandchildren. 

Royal reads

  1. The Queen's private banker wants a greener portfolio. Among other moves, Coutts will exclude companies that get more than five per cent of revenue from thermal coal extraction, oilsands or Arctic oil and gas exploration. [The Energy Mix]

  2. Was there a coverup at the highest levels of a plot to assassinate King Edward VIII? A historian thinks so. [The Guardian]

  3. The Royal Family's online informality during the pandemic may go a long way for them as they ease out of lockdown. [BBC]

  4. As difficult as the lockdown has been, it may also have given Kate a boost. [The Guardian]

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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