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king's ransom Queen is ‘funding Prince Andrew’s legal defence against sex claims’

Duke’s legal bill likely to run to millions as he hires crack team of Hollywood lawyers


Prince Andrew with his accuser Virginia Giuffre, then aged 17

Prince Andrew with his accuser Virginia Giuffre, then aged 17

Prince Andrew with his accuser Virginia Giuffre, then aged 17

Queen Elizabeth is privately funding Prince Andrew’s legal fight against sex abuse allegations to the tune of millions of pounds, it is understood.

The 61-year-old British prince expanded his US legal team last week, hiring Princeton graduate Melissa Lerner to work alongside lead counsel Andrew Brettler. Both work for Lavely & Singer, a renowned LA-based law firm reputed for its ability to make celebrities’ legal problems “go away”.

Mr Brettler is thought to be charging Andrew around $2,000 (€1,725) an hour, while the appointments of Ms Lerner, their junior staff and his UK-based legal team – led by criminal defence solicitor Gary Bloxsome – have already sent his bills soaring.

The queen (95) agreed to pay for her son’s defence at the beginning of last year, shortly after his disastrous Newsnight interview, in which he failed to show any empathy for Jeffrey Epstein’s victims or regret over their friendship.

The funds will be sourced from her annual income from her private Duchy of Lancaster estate, which recently increased by £1.5m (€1.5m) to more than £23m (€26m). Courtiers accept the overall legal bill will run into millions, with the civil case likely to drag on for months or years.

The increasingly real prospect of a potential settlement, or damages payout, could cost many millions on top.

Andrew’s accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre (38), has not put a figure on the amount of compensation she is seeking for “significant emotional and psychological distress and harm” but is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, both of which would be “substantial”. She has accused Andrew of sexually assaulting her on three separate occasions when she was 17.

The queen’s financial intervention was considered a necessity. Andrew’s personal finances are shrouded in mystery but experts point out that, despite an affluent lifestyle, he has no discernible income.

The queen’s involvement has meant that Mr Bloxsome is obliged to keep Buckingham Palace updated on developments in the case. However, attempts by courtiers to remain informed of his legal strategy are thought to have been rebuffed, as they have been kept largely in the dark.

The focus of the case has now shifted to the United States, with Andrew’s team vowing to “robustly” engage with the legal process to clear his name. Ms Lerner describes herself as an “entertainment litigator with big law experience in IP (intellectual property) and pharma litigation and white-collar defence”.

She recently represented the family of Chris Cornell, the late singer with rock band Soundgarden, in a case against a doctor they alleged had overprescribed drugs to the musician. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Lavely & Singer is headed by Marty Singer, known in Hollywood as “Mad Dog Marty”. He has represented stars including John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, Charlie Sheen and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Andrew has until October 29 to respond to the lawsuit and the next hearing is scheduled for November 3. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]