Prince Andrew has been stripped of his ‘freedom of York’ title, after York City Council voted to remove the honorary title. The decision was passed following a unanimous vote.
The move is the latest blow for Prince Andrew, who recently reached an out of court settlement with Virginia Giuffre. She had filed a civil sex claim against him in the US. The settlement is rumoured to have been £12m. While Prince Andrew has denied the allegations against him the payout means he has avoided a trial.
Councillors at York City Council held an Extraordinary Council Meeting on Wednesday evening at York Racecourse to discuss and vote on the honour it had granted to Prince Andrew, reports The Mirror. Many of the councillors noted that the move was nearly a starting point for the changes that should be made.
As it stands, Andrew continues to hold the Duke of York Title. But councillors called on either the Queen or the Government to strip him of the title.
Labour councillor Aisling Musson said the title was a “stain of an association” with the city. Prince Andrew is the first person ever to have the Freedom of the City removed, councillors were told.
While the vote passed unanimously, there were two formal abstentions, from the Lord Mayor and the Lord Mayor elect.
Lib Dem Darryl Smalley, City of York Council’s executive member for culture, leisure & communities and proposer of the motion, said: “The honour is held by many notable and accomplished people who carry it with pride and responsibly. Having been stripped of his military roles and royal patronages by the Queen, we believe that it is right to remove all links that Prince Andrew still has with our great city. The removal of this honorary title sends the right message that we as a city stand with victims of abuse.”
Mr Smalley said the council had previously debated at length, its commitment to stand with victims of sexual abuse and work to end violence against females. He added: “As such, we believe it is inappropriate for Prince Andrew to retain his ambassadorial title that is so intrinsically linked to our city and finally, the next logical step would be for Prince Andrew to do the right thing and relinquish the title. If he fails to do so, the Government and Buckingham Palace must step in to remove his title to finally end Prince Andrew’s connection to York.”
Councillor Gwen Swinburn called on the council to distance themselves from the “disgraced” prince. She said: “He needs to be declared persona non grata in York. You need to be starting whatever process is needed to remove his Duke title.
“You need to instruct staff and agree with Members, to never use that title in any context. You need to instruct staff to never invite him to any event, ever.”
Ms Giuffre, who is also known as Virginia Roberts, Claimed she was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with the royal when she was 17, a minor under US law. The settlement agreement states that Andrew will donate to Ms Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights and that he has pledged to “demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein” by supporting the “fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims”.
Although the parties have settled the case, the agreement is not an admission of guilt from the duke and he has always strenuously denied the allegations against him.
Calls to strip the Duke of York of his title were made shortly after the settlement was reached. Labour MP Rachael Maskell, who represents York Central said at the time: “Although it is a relief that Prince Andrew has finally acknowledged and expressed regret for his close association with a convicted sex offender and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, his long delay in doing so and initial response to the charges and Ms Giuffre has been a source of deep hurt and embarrassment to many people across the city.
“Carrying a title does create an ambassadorial relationship with that place, and for somewhere with a global reputation, such as York, this is extremely important. It is to be welcomed that he has now pledged to support the fight against the evils of sex trafficking and its victims. To demonstrate his seriousness in this endeavour, and his respect for those affected by abuse and the people of our city, I would ask that his first act of contrition is to confirm his support for the withdrawal of his ducal title.”