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The Queen’s decision to sever all official ties with the Duke of York and cast him adrift as a “private citizen” could be used against him in court, friends fear.

Buckingham Palace announced earlier this month that it had stripped Prince Andrew of all military titles and patronages, ordered the 61-year-old not to use his HRH title and ruled out any return to public duties.

The “ruthless” decision was made after the Duke failed to persuade a New York judge to drop the civil case earlier this month.

Such a move had previously been delayed, despite mounting legal and public pressure, for fear that it could be seen to pre-empt the outcome. Palace aides recognised that it would be interpreted as a premature judgement on the case but ultimately felt they had no choice, believing that, win or lose, the Duke could never fully clear his name.

The move could play into his accuser’s hands if the case gets to trial, sources have now warned, suggesting that even his own family consider him too toxic for their “brand”.

One friend said: “We fear that cutting him off looks like the Royal family have pre-judged him and that this could somehow be used against him in court. Stripping him of his duties before legal proceedings have barely got under way is hardly a vote of confidence.”

Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 38, has alleged that she was sexually abused or raped by Prince Andrew on three separate occasions in 2001, when she was 17. He denies all the allegations. She is seeking unspecified damages.

Ms Giuffre’s lawyer, David Boies, is described as one of America’s most feared litigators, who destroys opponents on the witness stand.

Mitchell Epner, a former federal prosecutor now practising with the New York law firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich, said the Duke’s charitable work should be front and centre of his defence strategy.

“When it comes to juries, facts are not persuasive but stories are,” he said. “They should be highlighting all the good works he has done, the fact that he was a brave, decorated soldier who put himself in harm’s way, the hours that he has toiled at great personal expenditure of time on behalf of so many charities.

“But in that scenario, David Boies can now bring up the fact that the Queen has stripped him of all such links as a direct result of this lawsuit. It becomes the dog that did not bark.”

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge are said to have been “instrumental” in the decision to force the Duke out, determined to prioritise the Royal family at all costs.

When first cut adrift in November 2019 after his disastrous Newsnight interview, the Duke was afforded his own legal and PR team, allowing Buckingham Palace aides to wash their hands of the whole affair.

But even that will be interpreted as the institution giving up on him – “pulling up the drawbridge”, one source said. “If they’re not prepared to back him, then who on Earth will?” the source added. “What hope is there for a jury confronted with these facts?”

Privately, senior royals are understood to be aghast at the allegations, as well as the global news coverage the case continues to generate.

Asked about the case in public, both Prince Charles and Prince William have stonewalled questions in recent weeks. No member of the Royal family has spoken out publicly in Prince Andrew’s defence, even to simply insist that the legal process must be allowed to take its course.

Multiple royal sources admit that, whatever it takes, everyone behind palace walls just wants the case to “go away”. As such, an out of court settlement, despite the connotations inevitably attached, remains the favoured strategy.

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