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Virginia Giuffre and Prince Andrew agree to a deal that will end her lawsuit

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Britain's Prince Andrew has settled out of court with Virginia Giuffre, the woman who had accused the Duke of York of sexual assault on three occasions when she was 17 years old. As Willem Marx reports, the duke's legal team had spent months fighting to avoid this U.S. civil case in and out of court.

WILLEM MARX, BYLINE: In some ways, this is a very public story that starts with a private photo. The image in question shows Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth, grinning at the camera with his arm around a much younger woman. Behind them smiles Ghislaine Maxwell, a long-time companion of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. She was recently convicted of luring teenage girls into sexual abuse. The young woman shown was 17-year-old Virginia Roberts, now 38-year-old Virginia Giuffre, who's long said Prince Andrew sexually assaulted her as part of a pattern of abuse instigated and abetted by Epstein and Maxwell. Andrew has repeatedly denied those allegations. But after a 2019 BBC interview where he struggled to explain clearly the circumstances around Giuffre's claims, he stepped back from his public duties as a member of Britain's royal family.

Then last year, Giuffre launched a civil lawsuit accusing the prince of sexual assault on three occasions - in London, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was stripped of several royal privileges and hunkered down with lawyers, issuing statements that called her lawsuit baseless and frivolous. But after a New York judge ruled the suit could proceed, fears in Britain grew that Andrew could embarrass his mother and other royal relatives.

ED OWENS: The wider House of Windsor would have been extremely concerned that, had this gone to court, uncomfortable questions would have been asked of Andrew, which would have probably been responded to with very, very uncomfortable answers, as well.

MARX: Ed Owens is an historian and the author of a book called "The Family Firm" about the British royal family, the British public and mass media.

OWENS: The British royal family will certainly be hoping that this enables them to move past, if you like, this moment of scandal. And yet, nevertheless, you know, the great weakness of monarchy is that it's made up of personalities. And the personality in question, and who I think will remain a problem to some extent, is that of Prince Andrew.

MARX: In the settlement agreed between the two sides, Andrew acknowledged Giuffre's bravery as a victim of abuse and called attacks against her unfair. He will donate an undisclosed sum to a charity of her choice focused on victims' rights to, quote, "demonstrate his regret" for his friendship with Epstein. But the damage to his reputation and his family may make it hard for him to resume any meaningful role in the public eye ever again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Willem Marx