You've heard Prince Andrew's name. You know he was pals with Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein. And you know he's been named in sexual assault allegations related to hanging out with those two toads. But until his legal troubles landed on these shores recently, it's fairly likely that most Americans had never even heard of Prince Andrew. (He's barely even in The Crown for crying out loud!)
Allow me, then, to explain who Prince Andrew (a.k.a. the Duke of York) is, why he's about to stand trial in an American court, and why this is all such a huge deal in England. (So huge, in fact, that Harry's big bro William reportedly views Andrew as "a threat" to the royal family. Yikes.)
Who is Prince Andrew, anyway?
- Andrew is the third child of Queen Elizabeth II, little brother to Prince Charles, and uncle to Princes Harry and William. He is ninth in line to the throne, landing after Charles, William, William's three kids, Harry, and Harry and Meghan's two children. In that order.
- The peak of Andrew's celebrity came in the late 1980s after he married Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson (who Friends fans might remember from Season 4's London episode). The couple were tabloid staples throughout the '80s and early '90s, and had two daughters—Princess Beatrice in 1988 and Princess Eugenie in 1990. (You might recognize the sisters from the crazy crap they wore on their heads to William's wedding.)
- Andrew first became friends with Ghislaine Maxwell in the mid-1980s when she was studying at Oxford University. The English upper classes have a tendency to stick together, and Maxwell was both wealthy and well-connected thanks to her father, Robert, a controversial media tycoon. The Maxwells' press links would have undoubtedly been alluring for Andrew. (Remember what Harry said in his Oprah interview about "the invisible contract between the [royals] and the U.K. tabloids"? Robert Maxwell owned one of the biggest papers in the country.)
- Ghislaine Maxwell was the person who first introduced Andrew to Jeffrey Epstein, though exactly when remains unclear. The prince says they were introduced in 1999; his own private secretary claims it happened in the early '90s.
The legal background
Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell's spiraling legal concerns have been slowly creeping up on Andrew for over a decade. Here's what happened and when:
2008: Epstein pleads guilty to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution. His 18-month sentence—later reduced to 13 months—amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist; he's still allowed to leave jail and go to work for 12 hours a day, six days a week. The only upside of this farce? Epstein has to make payments to some of his victims, and officially becomes a registered sex offender.