Prince Andrew, give the Duke of York title back to Yorkshire - Christa Ackroyd

I am sorry if Lord Daniel somebody or other thinks this newspaper is crammed full of whingeing and whiners. I suggest he does not read this week’s column.

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in 2016. Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.
Prince Andrew, Duke of York, in 2016. Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

From levelling up (it hasn’t happened), to transport links (they now won’t happen), to the fact that someone who is set to continue to represent, albeit in name only, this fine honest county of ours is a man who has just paid out a multi-million pound settlement to a woman he claims never to have met, we have plenty to moan about.

This newspaper has called for the Duke of York to lose his title. And, for the avoidance of doubt, so do I. I have absolutely no sympathy. His arrogance, his attitude of self entitlement and his total lack of self awareness have been almost as damning as the claims made against him, which he has always denied.

Events of the past few years regarding the Duke of York (and this week is the last time I will use that title) have been anything other than grand. They have been sordid and damaging and whatever he has paid out to put an end to it, he has lost in the court of public opinion. The fact his title has been repeated in every newspaper article regarding Prince Andrew’s about-turn and cash payout to Virginia Giuffre has stuck in my throat this week.

And although I was deeply upset to see the Queen looking so frail amidst it all, I think she and her advisers are wrong to let him keep the title. I hope one day he will lose that too along with all the other Royal patronages he has been forced to give up. Why should we be the ones stuck with an association with him? We neither need him nor want him.

I always believed the climbdown would happen ever since that disastrous interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis. You remember the one where the Prince didn’t sweat so she must have been making it up, where he was actually in a Pizza Express so he couldn’t have been doing what he was accused of because he was babysitting? Oh and the one where he didn’t regret his friendship with a convicted paedophile? Well this week’s grovelling statement has done nothing to change public opinion, especially in Yorkshire. Yet it seems we are lumbered with him, for now at least.

It’s what he suggested might be his new role now that made me sick to my stomach. There was no admission of guilt but plenty of remorse in the statement carefully worded, no doubt by expensive lawyers, the same lawyers who only a few months ago were right behind him when he said he would see the woman who claimed she was forced to have sex with him three times on the orders of Jeffrey Epstein in court. Only now Prince Andrew commends her bravery and that of other survivors of a former friend he now at long last “regrets” associating with.

And not a mention of Ghislaine Maxwell whom of course he wasn’t even close to. What’s more he not only accepts Virginia Giuffre was the victim of abuse, he bemoans the fact she has been subject to “unfair public attacks”. What, like his American lawyers making reference to descriptions of her as a “money hungry sex kitten” who began a “baseless lawsuit” to “achieve another pay day” – that kind of public attack?

But you know what really angers me about this week’s unseemly goings on? The fact that somehow Prince Andrew really believes he can demonstrate “his regret” by offering himself as some sort of ambassador against “the evils” of sex trafficking. And what’s more he will support its victims, he says. How exactly? And who would want him?

Over many years, I have covered many stories of women in Yorkshire who have been forced to have sex by men. It is my passion that we never accept the abuse they have to endure, that it can and never will be seen as inevitable, or worse still just part of what is often sickeningly described as the oldest profession in the world.

I have worked alongside charities who support them and seek to find them a way out from the abuse they have suffered. I have met and talked to women forced into prostitution. I have talked with others who genuinely believe the men who instruct them are doing so out of love. It is called grooming.

I have also met women brought into this country from abroad by men who force them to offer themselves for their benefit. They are a sorry group whom good honest people dedicate their lives to by showing them a way out and teaching them how rebuild their lives. And more importantly how to trust again. They are often living in the shadows. They have often been brought here with the promise of a better life to live an appalling one. How on earth can Prince Andrew help any of them now?

What he must do is bow out of public life. He must accept that for him it is over, that this civil court case, which only ended with the paying of a huge sum of money, could have damaged the monarchy forever. Maybe it already has in this the year his mother is celebrating 70 years on the throne. I hope not, although never before have I heard so many people once in support of the Royal family calling for them to go. Or at least demanding to know who actually paid the money to Ms Giuffre and her charity in support of victims’ rights. People want no part of it.

As for Ms Giuffre, I wish her well. It must have taken guts to stand up and demand to be heard.

But for Prince Andrew to see a potential new role as any sort of ambassador for anyone, let alone the victims of sex abuse, would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic. All that is left for him to do is slink away and give Yorkshire our title back as well.

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