‘Air Miles Andy’ – controversial royal, playboy prince and Falklands hero

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The Duke of York will face a defining moment in his public life when Virginia Giuffre gives evidence in court about allegations he sexually abused her.

Andrew has for many years been dogged by controversy but the upcoming civil lawsuit trial will determine his future within the monarchy and how he will be viewed by history.

During his life, the “Playboy Prince” earned high regard for his bravery during the Falklands War and served as a trade envoy, but he is best known as the man whose reputation was left in tatters amid the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal.

The Duke of York has been dogged by controversy for many years (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

But later in life his connections with controversial foreign figures raised concerns and he was dubbed “Air Miles Andy” after being criticised for his globe-trotting, especially helicopter trips to pursue his passion for golf.

At 22, Andrew saw active service in the Royal Navy as a Sea King helicopter pilot in the Falklands War. His service included flying his aircraft as a decoy target, trying to divert deadly Exocet missiles away from British ships.

He later married and divorced the bubbly, flame-haired Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, who herself has generated some of the most humiliating royal scandals of modern times.

The York wedding
The Duke and Duchess of York on their wedding day (PA)

After serving for 22 years in the Royal Navy, the duke became the UK’s special representative for international trade and investment, but his 10 years in the role generated a great deal of controversy.

As a roving ambassador, one of his first tasks was a post-September 11 trip to New York, but he was criticised for attending a party during his stay.

Andrew has faced questions over his connections to politicians in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Libya and Turkmenistan.

His judgment was questioned after he held meetings with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif, and when he entertained the son-in-law of Tunisia’s ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at Buckingham Palace.

Duke & Duchess of York's home
The Duke of York’s former home, Sunninghill, was dubbed ‘South York’ (Tony Harris/PA)

Simon Wilson – Britain’s deputy head of mission in Bahrain from 2001 to 2005 – wrote in the Daily Mail that the duke was “more commonly known among the British diplomatic community in the Gulf as HBH: His Buffoon Highness”.

In 2011, it emerged that Andrew was friends with American financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution.

Photos surfaced of him with his arm around Virginia Giuffre, also known as Virginia Roberts, who claimed that Epstein employed her as a masseuse but exploited her while a teenage minor.

The Yorks
The duke has been supported by his daughters, Eugenie and Beatrice (Chris Jackson/PA)

In 2013, Andrew was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, but Britain’s pre-eminent scientific institution faced unprecedented dissent from members over the move, with one professor describing the duke as an “unsavoury character”.

Tech-savvy Andrew, who was the first member of the royal family to have an official Twitter account under his own name, focused on his Pitch@Palace work, bringing together industry experts with young entrepreneurs and technology start-ups.

Then in 2015, while enjoying a New Year skiing holiday with his family, he was named in US court documents as having had sex a number of times with a teenage girl, a minor under US law.

Andrew on a royal engagement in 2010 (Chris Radburn/PA)

She was identified in reports as Virginia Giuffre, the American teenager with whom Andrew had been pictured.

The duke vehemently denied the allegation.

In April 2015, a US federal judge ordered the claims to be struck from civil court records as the long-running lawsuit against Epstein continued.

Duke of York playing golf
The Duke of York playing golf (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The duke’s appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight programme later in November was intended to draw a line under the matter.

But it was dubbed a “car crash”, with commentators questioning his responses and condemning his unsympathetic tone and lack of remorse over his friendship with the sex offender Epstein.

During the interview, Andrew denied that he slept with Ms Giuffre, saying one encounter in 2001 did not happen as he had spent the day with his daughter, Princess Beatrice, taking her to Pizza Express in Woking for a party.

The Queen and baby Andew
Prince Andrew with the Queen at Balmoral in 1960 (PA)

And he twice stated that his relationship with sex offender Epstein had provided “seriously beneficial outcomes”, giving him the opportunity to meet people and prepare for his future role as a trade envoy.

Now the Epstein saga appears to be reaching its conclusion with Ms Giuffre’s civil sex case against Andrew due to be heard in the autumn.

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