London (CNN)When British newspapers go in for the kill, they don’t hold back.
On Wednesday, the Sun newspaper splashed the headline: “His Final Disgrace,” the Daily Mail called it the “Duke’s Final ‘£10 million’ Humiliation” and The Daily Star declared him a “Royal wrong ‘un.” If Prince Andrew had hoped to end the stream of negative headlines coming out of his civil sexual assault case by settling out of court for an undisclosed sum, it didn’t work.
That’s because the UK’s media no longer had to wait for a verdict before passing their own judgment on the Duke of York’s character. Throughout the case, Andrew has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing but the move has left some wondering why he would settle if he has no memory of ever meeting his accuser Virginia Giuffre — as he claims. And he previously vowed to clear his name at trial.
Neither Andrew nor Giuffre would comment beyond the settlement statement filed with the court, but royal commentators conclude that the prince had to stop the drip-drip of salacious revelations in the Queen’s platinum jubilee year, which is meant to be about celebrating — not berating — the monarchy.
The other reason for the relentless headlines lies in the fact that Buckingham Palace isn’t dousing the firestorm either, instead redirecting queries to the duke and his legal team. The Queen had already showed how far she was willing to go to distance the institution from her son by stripping him of his remaining military titles and roles last month. With the case over, the lingering queries surround how Andrew is funding the deal, which British media estimates is upwards of £10 million ($13.6 million). More specifically, the bones of contention are over whether the Queen helped foot the bill, and if she did, was public money involved?
A flurry of politicians, academics and commentators are demanding transparency over the financial sources behind the settlement.
It’s inconceivable that the Queen would use the Sovereign Grant — which comes from the taxpayer — to pay her son’s legal fees. The palace would need to declare it and it would certainly be viewed as a misuse of public money. The institution would be well aware of this and, as such, would not entertain the idea. The problem is that we won’t know conclusively until the official accounts are published next year.
Andrew talks to his older siblings, Charles and Anne, at the funeral of Patricia Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma on June 27, 2017 in London, England.Some have speculated that the Queen and Prince Charles could have contributed using their personal incomes from their private estates and investments. The handling of those finances doesn’t need to be publicly revealed, though they do choose to declare some of it.
Andrew may have his own money or may have gone to the private sector to secure the funds. At this point, it is just not clear and in the vacuum a narrative of possible wrongdoing is emerging. Until it’s made clear where the money has come from, the whole family’s finances will be under scrutiny.Labour member of parliament Andy McDonald told the BBC he would be raising the issue in the House of Commons, saying: “We don’t know the precise figure but there is a risk that this will be at the public’s expense so we need to have that resolved. We need to know exactly where this money is coming from.”
Mother and son watch the Trooping The Colour parade in 2018.Separately, allegations of corruption at the top of Prince Charles’ charitable network resurfaced this week after the Met Police announced it was launching an investigation into an alleged cash-for-honors scandal. A spokesperson for the Prince of Wales referred us to a previous statement, maintaining that he “had no knowledge of the alleged offer of honors or British citizenship on the basis of donation to his charities.” Regardless, the investigation couldn’t have come at a worse time for the family.
Royal finances are notoriously confusing because both public and private money play into them, but the palace does go to great lengths to clarify how taxpayer funds are used. Now it is under pressure to do so sooner rather than later as the questions over how Andrew covered his substantial legal costs will only get louder.