|GIRLS GALORE: (From top) Virginia Roberts, as she is now; Prince Andrew in a pensive mood; Koo Stark, the soft porn star he dated in the early 1980s
Lord Swraj Paul, 80, who used to be a roving ambassador for British business, has a little laugh. I used to do the same job as Prince Andrew, he chuckles, with wife Aruna by his side. He gets the girls, I got the...
Dull routine? Hard work? Weeks away from home?
He does not finish but it is not hard to get the message.
There has been plenty of high minded coverage in the past three weeks about Andrews suitability as the United Kingdoms Special Representative for International Trade and Investment but most of it has been hypocritical.
What people really want to know is was he doing it? And, if he was, who was he doing it with?
The story developed legs (Fleet Street jargon for a story which will run and run) when the Daily Mail got hold of a picture of a blonde American girl, Virginia Roberts, then 17, with Andrew, who had his arm around her bare waist.
The picture was taken in 2001 — Virginia is now a married mother of three living in Australia — but there was enough in the image to suggest Andrew was mixing business with pleasure on his world travels drumming up business for UK plc.
Virginia has revealed she was recruited at 15 in 1998 by an American billionaire businessman, Jeffrey Epstein, to act as his masseuse cum sex toy. Epsteins Florida mansion, which was decorated wall-to-wall with teenage Lolitas, also received Andrew as a special guest.
He also flew on Epsteins private jet and invited him to royal households.
Epstein, who later served 13 months of a remarkably lenient 18-month sentence for having sex with underage girls, also gave Fergie, Andrews ex-wife, a £15,000 gift to help her deal with her debts.
After relentless media coverage not only in the Daily Mail but also in the broadsheet The Daily Telegraph, a paper generally supportive of the monarchy, Andrews forthcoming trip to Saudi Arabia has had to be postponed.
So who is Prince Andrew, otherwise known as Randy Andy (in the early 1980s, he went out for 18 months with Koo Stark, who turned out to be an American actress who had acted in a couple of mild soft porn flicks but is now bankrupt) or Air Miles Andrew (so called because of his fondness for flying by private jet or helicopter)?
The Prince Andrew, Duke of York, KG, GCVO, CD, ADC(P) (Andrew Albert Christian Edward; born 19 February 1960), is the second son and third child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Diplomats say he probably has a bit of an inferiority complex because he did not go to university, choosing a career in the navy instead. He served in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War in 1982 and flew helicopter sorties, though his commanders probably made sure he did nothing too dangerous. Anyway, when he returned, he could be labelled a hero.
He married Sarah Ferguson in 1986 and had two daughters, Beatrice in 1988 and Eugenie in 1990. The couple were divorced in 1996. Fergie, who retains her title as the Duchess of York, has remained friends with her former husband but has periodically brought the royal family into disrepute partly because of her healthy sexual appetite and partly because she lives beyond her means.
After leaving the navy and not being qualified to do much else, Andrew appointed himself a roving ambassador for UK plc in 2001. To be fair to him, he has done the job pretty well but no one can say exactly how much new business can be credited to him. Certainly, he reads his briefing papers.
The only problem is that his brusque and arrogant style of dealing with British diplomats has rubbed several the wrong way. Apparently, it was usual for slighted diplomats to refer to him as HBH (His Buffoon Highness).
Simon Wilson, who was the number two at the British embassy in Bahrain (before he became head of mission in Calcutta), commented: Officially, he doesnt get paid for the role, but the style in which I observed him carrying it out beggared belief. He travelled with a team of six, including equerries, private secretaries, protection officers and a valet… There was also a 6-foot-long ironing board that he insisted went everywhere he went.
Last week the The Daily Telegraph published a letter from Stephen Day, 73, a former British ambassador to Qatar and Tunisia, written to the foreign secretary and other ministers: It takes a lot to bring former British Ambassadors to criticise a member of the Royal Family in public but it is surely now recognised that the Dukes activities are doing such serious damage to the Royal Family itself and to Britains political, diplomatic and commercial interests that an entirely new role should be found for him as soon as possible.
For now Andrew has been saved by his doting mother, which can be the only explanation why Prime Minister David Cameron announced he had full confidence in the prince.
With Prince Williams wedding to Kate Middleton due to take place on April 29 at Westminster, the monarchy was hoping for a period of positive coverage. That is still forthcoming but has been overshadowed recently by Andrew.
As trade ambassador, Andrew made some unwise contacts and is now being found guilty by association. Through Goga Ashkenazi, a Kazakh socialite with a large house in London, he met Timur Kulibayev, the Kazakh Presidents son-in-law. Kulibayev bought the Duke and Duchess of Yorks former marital home, Sunninghill Park, in Berkshire, for £15 million. What is odd is that Andrew had been unable to sell the property after putting it on the market for £12 million — perhaps this is the first recorded instance in history of a buyer insisting on paying a higher price than asked. Anyway, the house lies overgrown and abandoned.
The average British tabloid reader is not especially bothered about whether Andrew hobnobbed with bent businessmen. The newspapers, too, while pretending to express interest in matters of ethical business, are like their readers — they want to know what really went on inside Epsteins Florida mansion on the Palm Beach waterfront. How many girls were there? How young were they? How willing were they to please Epsteins guests?
It is a well-known sociological phenomenon that after an exhausting day pushing up their nations GDP, many highly sexed business high flyers need to unwind in the time honoured way. That said, there have been no complaints emanating from Andrews four trips to India other than that he left a meeting prematurely to go off to a private party at Mukesh Ambanis home.
In America, an FBI probe uncovered at least 20 girls levelling sexual allegations against Epstein. Eventually, Epstein struck a plea bargain with prosecutors under which he was allowed to plead guilty to two relatively minor charges. Now, some of the girls, who did not know of the deal, want to bring fresh charges against Epstein — and this might drag Andrew into giving witness statements.
In her civil writ, Virginia Roberts has alleged that her duties included being sexually exploited by Epsteins adult male peers including royalty. Epstein was paying me very well because Id give him sex whenever he wanted it.
In 2001 Epstein took Virginia on a trip to London where she was bought a £5,000 bag, and (taken) to a few other designer stores where we bought a couple of dresses, a pair of embroidered jeans and a pink singlet, perfume and make-up. She was told youre going to dance with a Prince tonight and urged to be smiley and bubbly because he was the Queens son.
That evening she met Andrew, with whom she later danced at Tramp nightclub. In the morning, Virginia was told: You did well. He had fun.
Most papers in Britain have carried the wink, wink, nudge, nudge caveat: There is no suggestion that the Duke had sexual contact with any of the girls or that he knew Epstein abused any of them.
In British history, Prince Andrews misdemeanours might rank as relatively mundane
■ Henry VIII (1491-1547) had six wives, of whom, two he divorced, one pre-deceased him, and two, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, lost their heads — literally.
■ The Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, the future king Edward VII (1841-1910), was married to Princess Alexandra and had six children, but was a well-known philanderer. One of his mistresses was a famous actress, Lillie Langtry, who, in turn, had many lovers. Edward had the Red House (now Langtry Manor Hotel) constructed in Bournemouth, Dorset in 1877 as their not so secret love nest. Edward once complained to her, Ive spent enough on you to build a battleship, to which she responded, And youve spent enough in me to float one.
■ Edward VIII (1894-1972) flaunted his relationship with the twice married American, Mrs Wallis Simpson. For a while, he pretended, even to his father, Edward VII, that they were not sleeping together when everyone knew they were. He abdicated the throne in 1936 in order to marry her. While that could be excused on grounds of love, less easy to overlook were his pro-Nazi sympathies. He gave a Nazi salute when visiting Hitler with his wife in 1937. He was succeeded to the throne as King George VI by his younger brother, the Duke of York, who was made of much sterner stuff than the present Duke of York. George VIs stammer is the subject of the current Oscar-winning film, The Kings Speech.
■ When Prince Charles met Camilla Shand (later Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles) in 1970, she jokingly mentioned that her maternal great-great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was the long-time mistress of Charless great-great-grandfather, Edward VII, so how about it? (or words to that effect). Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is now Charless second wife and may become queen. When they were having an affair as married folk, he expressed his passion for her with a great literary flourish in a phone call that was happily recorded: I want to be your tampon.