Sources close to Andrew say he risks going down a “lonely path of more legal bills” as he weighs a bid to overturn the multimillion-pound settlement reached with a woman who accused him of sexual assault and even force an apology.
“If he launches the bid, he’s looking at racking up more bills that could push him into debt. It’s a question of whether he has the funds to do that,” a source told The Independent.
He added: “The fear is it could be eye-wateringly expensive and leave him in a money pit.
“It’s a high-risk strategy to go from payout to another to seven-figure sum in an entrenched legal battle. The family is worried whether there could be enough money for it.”
In January last year, after the duke was accused of sexual assault by late billionaire Jeffrey Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre, he stopped using his HRH title. Ms Giuffre alleges that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was aged 17 by the financier and jailed socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. He has vehemently denied these claims.
In February, the prince reached an out-of-court settlement of around £3m with Ms Giuffre, which included a donation to her charity “in support of victims’ rights”. He made no admission of liability.
Andrew’s team, led by US lawyer Andrew Brettler, is now considering legal options after Ms Giuffre’s sex abuse case against high-profile US lawyer Alan Dershowitz was dropped.
Sources close to Andrew believe he hopes that overturning Ms Giuffre’s claim could let him return to royal duties but US law would require the prince to argue legal reasons for overturning the deal, including mistake or accident.
The Independent revealed that people close to the Duke fear he is becoming a recluse as he plots his return and remains “in a bubble” desperately trying to cling on to a place in the royal family.
“He is desperate for rehabilitation, but does not understand the humility and penance he needs to show following the case,” the source said.
“He’s stuck inside this bubble of wanting to have a role in the royal family when he doesn’t have one any more.”
However, it’s understood that due to the stipulations of the duke’s agreement with Ms Giuffre, he’s not able to make a move on the settlement until after February.
Ghislaine Maxwell, 61, who was convicted of sex trafficking, said the well-known photo showing the duke next to Virginia Giuffre is fake. Maxwell has previously cast doubt on the authenticity of the photo, said to have been taken inside her Mayfair home, showing Andrew with his arm around Ms Giuffre with Maxwell in the background.
Speaking to CBS this week, the convicted sex offender said that Ms Giuffre’s claims were unfounded, and that she did not introduce her “dear friend” Andrew to the teenager.
In an interview with TalkTV, aired on Monday evening, Maxwell said: “It’s a fake. I don’t believe it’s real for a second, in fact I’m sure it’s not.” She added: “Well, there’s never been an original, and further there’s no photograph, and I’ve only ever seen a photocopy of it.”
The Independent has approached Prince Andrew’s representatives for comment.