Prince Andrew’s defence against a sexual assault lawsuit is reportedly being privately funded by the Queen.
The Duke of York has hired a cast of US lawyers renowned for representing A-list celebrity clients to work on the civil case brought by Virginia Giuffre, with attorney Melissa Lerner joining her $2,000-an-hour Lavely Singer colleague Andrew Brettler last week.
Ms Giuffre is claiming she suffered ‘significant emotional and psychological distress and harm’ from being forced to have sex with the prince three times.
She says she was 17 at the time, a minor under US law, and the victim of a sex-trafficking ring led by paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew has vehemently denied the allegations and claimed he has no recollection of ever meeting her.
The duke is understood to have no discernible income and will soon own no property once the sale of a £17 million chalet in the Swiss Alps goes through.
He bought it in the Verbier ski resort with ex-wife Sarah Ferguson but previous owner Isabelle de Rouvre argued she was still owed £6.7 million from the sale.
Andrew leases his home, Royal Lodge, on the Queen’s 4,500-acre Windsor estate.
The Telegraph reported funds for his legal defence are being sourced from her majesty’s private Duchy of Lancaster estate which has an annual income of £23 million.
Royal courtiers believe the overall legal bill will run into millions, with the case likely to drag on for months or even years.
A potential settlement, or damages payout, could cost many millions more on top. Buckingham Palace has been approached for comment.
Andrew fled to the Queen’s Balmoral estate in the Cairngorms, Scotland, earlier this month in an apparent attempt to avoid being served with legal papers by Ms Giuffre’s team.
He finally returned on Thursday, 10 days after his daughter Princess Beatrice gave birth to her first child.
Ms Lerner describes herself as an ‘entertainment litigator with big law experience in IP (intellectual property) and pharma litigation and white collar defence’ in an online profile.
She works at the Los Angeles-based firm headed by Marty Singer, who is known in Hollywood as ‘Mad Dog Marty’ and has represented stars including Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson and Charlie Sheen.
Andrew and his team have until October 29 to provide a response to the case, while a further legal conference has been set for November 3.
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