Why Meghan and Harry's travel plans are the perfect decoy for the real royal scandal

He was once nicknamed Randy Andy or Air Miles Andy, but his increasingly concerning relationship with the disgraced financier and sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein has been squeezed out of the headlines by silly missteps by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Coincidence or neatly planned spin?


The headlines are getting worse as the media finger points hysterically at Meghan and Harry as they, perhaps foolishly, continue to charter private jets here, there and yonder. The diva-Meghan narrative shows no signs of abating.  A new, more ratings-friendly race row has now emerged with Meghan as the victim of a campaign of discrimination and racism.

Without seeming blithe about such horrible treatment of the newest royal member on the block, the timing of this frenzy is really quite useful for Buckingham Palace which would most likely prefer an environmental faux-pas or bullying accusation over a scandal that involves connections with a sexual predator who abused young girls.

"True or not, it paints a decidedly unroyal picture".

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For there are worse crimes than not flying economy. Far worse. Crimes that involve inappropriate dalliances with young girls and it is convenient that the climate concern brigade are occupied with taking Meghan down a peg or two rather than reporting on some of the uncomfortable facts about Prince Andrew and his close friendship with the late, not-so-great Jeffrey Epstein.

Related: Why the Epstein conspiracy theories risk overshadowing what really went on 

It is fair to say that the Prince's public image, once perceived as a war hero and initially a family man, is now a disaster. The optics are not good. This week a grainy video of him inside the door of Epstein's New York mansion doesn't help. There are reports of royal foot massages given by young women.

In short, true or not, it paints a decidedly unroyal picture.

Prince Andrew has vehemently denied any allegations relating to sexual encounters with the young girls at the centre of the Epstein case (Virginia Roberts was 17 at the time she worked as a masseuse for the millionaire financier). In court documents, she claims she was forced into “sexual relations” with the royal. A judge recently struck out the claims calling them "immaterial and impertinent".

"But what is undeniable is the 59-year-old Duke of York's abysmal lack of judgement when it came to knowing what kind of crowd he was running with".

The Queen's son has also denied the allegations that he touched a young girl on the breast while sitting on a couch at Epstein's home in 2001. Through Buckingham Palace, a statement was released saying that the duke was “appalled” by the recent sexual abuse claims levelled at Epstein, his 66-year-old friend who killed himself in jail last week while facing sex trafficking charges. Palace PR's didn't mince their words; His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent."

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So in short, Andrew was shocked, shocked to hear the awful allegations about his good, now dead friend.

But what is undeniable is the 59-year-old Duke of York's abysmal lack of judgement when it came to being aware what kind of crowd he was running with. He is also a close friend with Ghislain Maxwell, daughter of the controversial media mogul Robert Maxwell, and appeared at private parties and celebrity functions together. In fact, Prince Andrew and Ms Maxwell went on a number of trips together including to Florida and Thailand, according to an Evening Standard report from January 2001, which claimed Epstein had joined them on five such occasions over the previous 12 months.

Their cosy friendship came in quite useful at one stage when Andrew's ex-wife Sarah Ferguson admitted having accepted 15 thousand pounds from their pal Epstein to pay off some of her debts.

In the interest of balance, it must be said that being friends with someone doesn't make you guilty of anything. Prince Andrew, long rumoured to be the favourite of the Queen's sons, has also been a supporter of young people, healthcare issues and the disabled through his charitable work. He has remained loyal to his former wife whom he now lives with.

But the optics don't look good. The whole scene is vague and murky. New emails released this week cast further aspersions on Andrew's account of events during that time.

Could it be that in this case there is just smoke without fire?  We'll probably not know any time soon for Meghan has that target firmly on her back, which may keep the short attention span of the mainstream media occupied while Andrew holes up with Mummy.

Image via BBC

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Read more: The hypocritical reporting on the royal family

Read more: Why Meghan and Harry will never win

Read more: Epstein's death mean his victims are left without answers

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