Prince Andrew’s legal team has finally accepted that he has been correctly served with legal papers by his sex accuser.
It sets him up for a dramatic US court battle with the complainant, Virginia Roberts.
The ninth in line to the throne has conceded ‘the inevitable’, sources told the Daily Mail, and now has 21 days to respond to her accusations of rape, sexual assault and sexual battery.
But Miss Roberts’s attorney, David Boies, also told the Mail last night that he expected the prince’s US lawyer, Andrew B Brettler, to apply for a ‘reasonable’ extension to respond to the complaint – and indicated they would likely agree.
Sources have said that Prince Andrew retains ‘every confidence in his legal team and their strategy’ in his sexual assault lawsuit
The Duke of York is being urged by friends and aides to ditch his London-based lawyers, according to reports. Pictured: The Duke of York with Virginia Roberts, then 17, and Ghislaine Maxwell in London
Sources have confirmed that they fully expect Andrew’s team to embark on that course of action.
But they also warned that the duke intends to ‘come out fighting’ and use the civil court claim to repudiate Miss Roberts’s accusations ‘point by point, claim by claim’ and, they hope, clear his name.
A second preliminary hearing is due to take place in Manhattan on October 13. Andrew has always strongly denied the accusations.
Last week his lawyer claimed that the legal papers had not been properly served in the UK, after they were left with a policeman at the gate of his Windsor mansion.
For one person to sue another in a civil case, the claimant has to formally present legal papers to the other party to notify them of the action – a process known as a service of proceedings.
However, by earlier this week Miss Roberts’s legal team had lodged documents with a court in New York saying they had been able to send papers to Mr Brettler in Los Angeles via FedEx courier and email officially notifying the prince of the case.
The filing said the High Court in London was also informed. Mr Boies – who is widely considered to have ‘outwitted’ Andrew’s London-based legal team at every turn – said: ‘Andrew’s counsel have agreed that service has been made.
‘Theoretically the clock is now ticking. However, it would be normal for them to ask for, and for us to agree to, a reasonable extension of time to respond to the complaint.’
The news comes as sources close to the prince attempted to scotch reports saying Andrew was being urged to ditch his London-based legal team – led by Gary Bloxsome at Blackfords LLP – amid concern about its strategy.
The claim was made following reports that the Duke of York is being urged by friends and aides to ditch his London-based lawyers.
Prince Andrew is seen with his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson leaving Windsor on September 7
Ms Roberts’ legal team has been trying to serve Andrew with legal papers this month (pictured – they are left in a London postbox)
Concerns have been expressed about the stonewalling strategy of the team – led by Mr Bloxsome – against the explosive allegations.
Virginia Roberts has accused the prince of having sex with her on three occasions when she was 17, knowing she had been trafficked by his close friend, the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew has strongly denied the accusations. But many in the prince’s circle are said to believe the attempts to play a dead bat to the allegations have been both a legal and a PR disaster, allowing Miss Roberts’s lawyers to outwit and outplay them at every turn.
Her solicitor David Boies has scathingly described their actions as a ‘game of hide and seek behind palace walls’.
Even the judge in the case, Lewis Kaplan, made clear his irritation at the delay tactics last week, telling the prince’s US attorney Andrew B Brettler: ‘Let’s cut out all the technicalities and get to the substance.’
But a source close to the Duke of York told the Daily Mail yesterday: ‘Irrespective of media reports, the duke retains every confidence in his legal team and their strategy.’
Virginia Roberts accused the prince of having sex with her on three occasions when she was 17, knowing she had been trafficked by his close friend, the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein
In a car-crash 2019 interview with the BBC, Andrew claimed he had no memory of ever meeting Roberts, now a 38-year-old mother-of-three who lives in Australia and goes by her married name, Virginia Giuffre.
A now-infamous photo, taken inside the London townhouse of Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell, shows Andrew smiling for the camera with his arm around Roberts’ waist while Maxwell stands in the background.
Andrew’s eldest daughter Beatrice gave birth to her first child, a girl weighing 6lb 2oz, on Saturday, Buckingham Palace announced in a statement on Monday.
However, the beleaguered Duke of York is yet to return from Balmoral to meet his new granddaughter, according to reports.
But after yet another disastrous week trying to fight the damning allegations against him, Andrew was spotted putting his right foot forward (for once) by rescuing a dog while attending a reception in an upper storey of the royal residence.
He managed to rush to the aid of the small canine after it became excited at the sounds of the royal security dogs barking below and bolted towards an open window.
Moments before the dog plunged to its doom, the Duke of York rushed to the window and rescued it from peril before cradling the helpless creature in his arms.
Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice at Royal Ascot on June 18, 2019
Beatrice’s good news, which comes only seven months after younger daughter Eugenie gave birth to her son August, has already been welcomed by Sarah, Duchess of York.
She is said to have returned from Balmoral on Friday and met her new grandchild over the weekend.
A friend of the duchess told the Mail: ‘She’s perfect and Sarah is absolutely smitten. She’s always very proud of both girls but to have two grandchildren in a year is a total joy.’
The friend suggested that Beatrice’s daughter might even have inherited her mother and grandmother’s flame-coloured locks, saying: ‘She’s got a hint of red… and a hint of gold.’
But it seems that Sarah’s troubled former husband has not returned with her.