Prince Andrew’s reputation has been forever tarnished by his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, Virginia Giuffre’s accusations that he sexually assaulted her when she was a minor, and the November 2019 BBC Two Newsnight interview about those scandals that was designed to stop the bad-PR bleeding but instead decimated his attempts at damage control and made him look even guiltier than before. Banished: Prince Andrew won’t alleviate his troubles.
Premiering October 5 on Peacock, director Jamie Crawford’s feature-length documentary takes the late Queen Elizabeth II’s second son to the proverbial toolshed, slamming him so repeatedly and thoroughly that one almost expects a referee to materialize to call the fight off. It’s character assassination of the most brutal, and deserved, kind.
There’s nothing revelatory in Banished: Prince Andrew, but there’s plenty of entertainment to be had from its comprehensive and vicious evisceration. “The problem is, the man’s an idiot,” declares former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter, adding “There’s always one runt of the litter, and Andrew was it.” He’s a man with “acquired situational narcissism” according to editor-at-large Helen Kirwan-Taylor, who also calls him a “brat.” “He was very spoiled,” opines Majesty Magazine editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward. The Daily Beast founding editor-in-chief and The Palace Papers author Tina Brown dubs him “infantilized” and his behavior “beyond the pale.” Retired Royal Protection Officer Paul Page describes him as “just a horrible person, a bully.” On and on it goes, with just about every one of the film’s many talking heads making no bones about their opinions regarding Andrew’s immaturity, entitlement, licentiousness, and stupidity. It’s a doozy.
“This entire saga boils down to sex and greed,” states reporter Annette Witheridge early in Banished: Prince Andrew, which aims to comprehend Andrew’s recent travails by looking at the winding path that led him to his disreputable present. From his birth in 1960, Andrew was doted on by his mother, who felt guilty about having not been consistently present for her first two children, Charles and Anne. This bred in Andrew an air of great privilege, and it was furthered by the fact that he was the sort of athletic, gregarious and charming young man that his father Philip always wanted, and which set him apart from his studious, serious older brother. He peaked, at least in terms of public popularity, during his initial years fighting in the Falklands War, when he became Britain’s most eligible bachelor (“The one with the Robert Redford looks”) and his dating habits earned him the nickname “The Playboy Prince.” When his sensationalistic affair with actress Koo Stark was frowned upon by the Crown, he married Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, and promptly began monetizing their fame as a means of maintaining the lifestyle he coveted, but which—because he wasn’t independently rich like his mom and brother—he couldn’t afford.
Andrew’s union to Fergie didn’t last long. More bedrock was his friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, with whom he was so close—dating back to when she was at university in England—that there were rumors they were a romantic item. Maxwell’s fall from U.K. high-society grace courtesy of her media mogul father Robert Maxwell’s dishonor and death motivated her to move to New York City, and Andrew—feeling kinship with Maxwell, another famous child forced to make it on her own—frequently visited, all while acting in a phony ambassador post that he used to solidify shady deals with unsavory characters. There, he met and began hanging out with Jeffrey Epstein, and Banished: Prince Andrew contends that the two were an ideal pair, since Andrew helped elevate Epstein’s status (and gave him entrée to additional powerful figures), and Epstein offered Andrew the wealth, privacy, and sense of importance—of being the center of attention—he craved.
Epstein also provided Andrew with lots and lots of young girls. Banished: Prince Andrew recaps its subject’s long history of womanizing—which was so rampant that it led some to believe he was a sex addict—in order to contextualize Giuffre’s accusations against him as the byproduct, and culmination, of a lifelong pattern of behavior. Rather than just “oafish” and “rude,” he was an apparent pedophilic predator who sought out Epstein’s company because the financier and convicted sexual offender could give him precisely what he wanted, with Maxwell as the glue that held them together. Giuffre’s claims, and Andrew’s disastrous responses to them on Newsnight, are diligently rehashed here, as are other sordid allegations leveled against the prince, such as a masseuse who recounts (in an archival The Sun interview) how she was greeted by Andrew with, “Great ass! Do you take it in the ass?”
“Rather than just “oafish” and “rude,” he was an apparent pedophilic predator who sought out Epstein’s company because the financier and convicted sexual offender could give him precisely what he wanted, with Maxwell as the glue that held them together.”
Banished: Prince Andrew covers plenty of ugliness, all while simultaneously making Andrew out to be a grinning juvenile fool; Page’s tale about discovering 50-60 teddy bears on the then-41-year-old Andrew’s bed (and a laminated picture of them in a drawer, so staffers knew precisely how to arrange them) is a humiliating anecdote that emphasizes his lack of maturity. Director Crawford complements these stories with plentiful newspaper headlines, photographs and old clips of Andrew at public events, painting a damning portrait of a largely unloved and ridiculed man who turned to Epstein as a friend and confidant out of both need and desire. It’s as unflattering as these things get, and all the more convincing for its sheer wealth of evidence and speakers willing to go on the record to censure him in unqualified terms.
In the wake of his nightmarish BBC appearance, Andrew settled with Giuffre—which Arbiter thinks is a not-so-subtle admission of guilt—and currently lives a shunned life near Buckingham Palace without his titles, which he was stripped of by his late mom. Banished: Prince Andrew suggests that Andrew’s circumstances may grow direr still in the near future, since Charles—having now assumed the throne—is not particularly sympathetic to his sibling, and Maxwell could cut a deal and cooperate (by giving up damning information about her pal) to reduce the 20-year prison sentence she’s facing. Crawford’s documentary thus serves as a blistering takedown, if not, perhaps, the final nail in his coffin.