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Prince Andrew seen visiting Queen as Epstein sexual assault hearing looms

Prince Andrew has been seen at Balmoral where Queen Elizabeth II is on her summer holiday, just days before the first court date in his Jeffrey Epstein lawsuit.

The Duke of York has still not been served papers by lawyers for his accuser Virginia Giuffre as he has been unreachable in private royal residences, according to The Sun and Daily Mail.

The prince lives at guard-protected Royal Lodge, in Windsor Great Park, but was photographed at Balmoral, with pictures published in The Sun.

The Queen spends every summer at the sprawling, private estate set on 50,000 acres of Scottish countryside.

Giuffre filed a civil lawsuit in New York accusing the prince of rape in the first degree when she was 17 in the early 2000s.

The lawsuit alleges crimes committed against her by Andrew but is not a criminal case and he has not been arrested or charged.

Giuffre is suing for damages for "severe and lasting" emotional distress as a result of "sexual assault and battery" when she was 17 years old.

A filing by her lawyers reads: "On one occasion, Prince Andrew sexually abused [Giuffre] in London at Maxwell's home. During this encounter, Epstein, Maxwell, and Prince Andrew forced [Giuffre], a child, to have sexual intercourse with Prince Andrew against her will."

Prince Andrew seen visiting Queen as Epstein sexual assault hearing looms

Prince Andrew is yet to respond to the lawsuit and his representatives have also not commented to the media since it was filed.

However, experts told Newsweek the legal action heaps pressure on his reputation whether he engages with it or not.

Amber Melville-Brown, a partner and global head of media and reputation at international law firm Withers, previously told Newsweek: "Reputationally it may already be effectively 'game over' for Prince Andrew despite the lack of any court decision, and notwithstanding his vehement denials."

She added: "From a reputational perspective, Prince Andrew may be damned if he does respond to the allegations and defend the complaint, and damned if he doesn't.

"Silence in the face of accusations is not necessarily golden-while it may be a proper part of any legal defense strategy, to the public it may evidence improper disrespect for the court system; and while being vocal outside court may seem obvious to defend a reputation from serious accusations, it can be catastrophic if contrary to the strategy employed in court to defend the claim."

Prince Andrew withdrew from public life in November 2019 after a car crash interview with BBC Newsnight.

At the time, he said: "I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."

However, the lawsuit describes how he has not allowed himself to be interviewed throughout the Epstein investigation, despite requests.

Giuffre alleges she was forced to have sex with Andrew and feared retaliation if she said no.

The court filing reads: "During each of the aforementioned incidents, [Giuffre] was compelled by express or implied threats by Epstein, Maxwell, and/or Prince Andrew to engage in sexual acts with Prince Andrew, and feared death or physical injury to herself or another and other repercussions for disobeying Epstein, Maxwell, and Prince Andrew due to their powerful connections, wealth, and authority."