Although his name was barely mentioned, Prince Andrew’s presence hovered uneasily over every moment of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial. 

The idea came up two times, with a hint of his folly and astonishing lack of judgment.

He was named by a pilot as one of the passengers flown on sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet, the so-called ‘Lolita Express’, with all its unsavoury undercurrents. 

And ‘Jane’, one of the anonymous girls who claimed she was groomed by Maxwell to be abused by Epstein, said she had been on the plane with the Prince. 

Andrew, on his part has acknowledged that he was on the plane. However, he insists that he didn’t see anything unusual.

As disturbing as the courtroom disclosures undoubtedly were, it was the emergence of a photograph of Maxwell cuddling up to Epstein on a bench at the Queen’s picnic cabin at Balmoral — issued by the prosecution — that electrified proceedings.

Since only the closest of friends are invited to the royals’ Scottish estate, the fact that Andrew welcomed the pair into this most private of inner sanctums seemed to prove beyond doubt just how intimate they all were.

The infamous photo of Virginia Roberts, Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell was taken at Maxwell's home in Belgravia

Maxwell’s Belgravia home was where the famous photo of Virginia Roberts and Prince Andrew, as well as Ghislaine Maxwell, was taken

Prince Andrew leaves sex offender Jeffrey Epsteins home and go for a stroll together through New York's Central Park. Taken in 2011

Prince Andrew walks with Jeffrey Epsteins, a sex-offender, and takes a stroll through New York City’s Central Park. Taken in 2011

The 61-year old Prince is haunted by more than one photo.

The Balmoral picture has a very similar image, but Andrew takes the center stage. 

This picture shows Maxwell smiling beside them and the 41-year old Duke of York.

Her lawyers claim that the Epstein prize for Andrew was the gamine Miss Roberts. 

For the Prince, who strenuously denies that claim and her allegations that they had sex — which she says they did on three separate occasions — the snapshot has, for years, been a millstone.

According to him, he doesn’t remember the picture or ever having met the teenager. During his disastrous Newsnight interview in 2019, he told Emily Maitlis: ‘I have absolutely no memory of that photograph ever being taken.’

The photo has a troubling new meaning today. Think about how the photo might be captioned. 

From right to left, ‘the sex trafficker, the “sex slave” and the Duke’. Who is the person behind the camera, you ask? Jeffrey Epstein, a predatory paedophile.

Kevin Maxwell, Christine Maxwell, Isabel Maxwell, and Ian Maxwell, the brothers and sisters of Ghislaine Maxwell, arrive at US Federal District court house

The brothers and sister of Ghislaine Maxwell are Kevin Maxwell and Christine Maxwell. Isabel Maxwell and Ian Maxwell arrive at the US Federal Court House.

Andrew’s life has been changed in an instant. His hopes of salvation and evading the legal action mounted by Miss Roberts — who has filed a civil case in New York claiming he abused her — rests on a hearing to be held next Tuesday.

She has accused Andrew of ‘rape in the first degree’, that he forced her to have sex with him three times in 2001: at Maxwell’s London home (scene of the midriff photo); in New York at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion; and on the late financier’s Caribbean island.

But with the resolution of the Maxwell case, prosecutors may well feel emboldened to go after others — not only those, like Maxwell, who supplied girls for Epstein’s gratification, but also the alleged beneficiaries; the men (and they were mainly men) with whom he shared his pleasures.

Perhaps they are trying to prove that nobody is above the law. An FBI request to speak with the Duke has been sitting in limbo.

It is not surprising that Andrew’s highly-priced team of attorneys in London and America has closely followed Maxwell’s case. 

Dozens of references were made to Virginia Roberts — placing her at Epstein’s properties, on his aircraft and her close contact with Ghislaine.

Flight logs produced by the prosecution put Miss Roberts in London on the March 2001 weekend she says she had sex with Andrew for the first time in Maxwell’s Belgravia mews home. Something the Duke has insisted ‘didn’t happen’.

Lawyer David Boies (L) and Brad Edwards (R) speak to the press along with alleged victim Annie Farmer after a bail hearing in US financier Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking case

After a bail hearing for Jeffrey Epstein’s case regarding sex-trafficking, David Boies (L), and Brad Edwards(R) spoke to the media with Annie Farmer (alleged victim).

The repeated references to the Duke’s accuser placed her at the centre of Epstein’s ‘pyramid’ of sexual abuse. 

The two appeared to back up her story that she was an underage victim. Maxwell had recruited her and sent her around the world.

Photos found after a 2019 FBI raid on Epstein’s New York mansion and shown to the jury included a topless image of Miss Roberts. 

Roberts wasn’t called to testify as a witness for the prosecution. The official explanation for Miss Roberts’ decision to not take the stand was not given.

But in London ‘Team Andrew’ welcomed the news, with a source telling us: ‘As the most high-profile and vocal accuser . . . It is possible to imagine Ms Giuffre, Roberts as the star witness.

‘However, the fact she is not to be called can only lead one to conclude that her increasingly inconsistent accounts make her a less than credible witness.’

For months, Andrew’s lawyers have accused Miss Roberts of being unable to get her story straight. 

In recent salvos, the Duke’s legal team pushed for her lawsuit to be thrown out, branding her claims ‘ambiguous at best and unintelligible at worst’.

And just this week they filed a five-page motion saying the New York court does not have jurisdiction over Miss Roberts’s claims because she is pretending to be a U.S. resident while actually living in Perth, Australia, with her husband and children.

Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell sits as the guilty verdict in her sex abuse trial is read in a courtroom sketch in New York City

Jeffrey Epstein partner Ghislaine maxwell sits while the guilty verdict of her sex-abuse trial in New York City is read.

Andrew was raised in a home where judgment and planning are the benchmarks for success. His combination of foolishness and arrogance has proved to be a disaster.

He has been treated as a pariah since the BBC interview. This is because he was stripped of his function as a working prince. He has been removed from all honorary military and charitable posts. Instead, he is sequestered at Royal Lodge in Windsor.

Forced to avoid public discourse, only once have we heard from him, and that was following Prince Philip’s death, when he paid tribute to his father. 

His appearance was shabby, middle-aged, and worn out when he first emerged from Windsor Great Park to drive a Range Rover.

At times it has been hard to reconcile this Prince with the ‘Randy Andy’ figure who emerged from the ruins of his ten-year marriage — although it had actually ended years earlier — and embarked on a series of affairs that were, inexorably, to lead him into the path of Maxwell and, ultimately, Epstein.

Andrew was a free-spirited, fancy-free Andrew in the late 1990s. He had been with a number of middle-class, mostly professional women after Fergie. They were all younger than him, but not as young as Virginia Roberts.

This photo of Jeffrey Epstein in front of one of his private planes was submitted into evidence during the trial of his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell

This picture of Jeffrey Epstein posing in front of one his private planes was taken during his trial for madam GhislaineMaxwell.

He often ran into an old friend while visiting New York. They first met as undergraduates at Oxford University. 

Glamorous, chic and with an enviably packed contacts book, Ghislaine Maxwell had one other thing in common with the Queen’s second son: an aversion to media scrutiny.

She was anxious not to be pictured with new lovers; he fled to New York to start a new life.

Maxwell was now secure with Epstein as his new sugar daddy.

According to prosecutors, she began to transition from girlfriend to managing the billionaire’s domestic and office staff from the mid-1990s onward. 

She also brought her transatlantic address book into play, widening Epstein’s social circle and introducing the wide-eyed Andrew.

A sleazy haul of never-before-seen photos unearthed in an FBI raid and introduced as evidence showed Ghislaine Maxwell giving Jeffrey Epstein foot rubs on his private jet dubbed Lolita Express

Unsightly photos taken in FBI raids were brought to court as evidence. They showed Ghislaine Maxiwell giving Jeffrey Epstein foot rubs while flying on his private plane, Lolita Express.

Andrew, many believe, was not only out of his financial depth but also socially in the glamorous world Ghislaine Maxiwell lived. 

Pictured at a February 2000 party at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago country club in Florida, to which he had been brought by Maxwell and Epstein, the Duke looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Not only did Andrew meet the future president and Melania, Trump’s future third wife, he also chatted to sex-aid entrepreneur Christine Drangsholt, who began promoting her business with pictures of herself and the Duke.

Buckingham Palace was beginning to sound alarm bells. Courtiers wondered if the Prince was having a crisis in his mid-life. Are these just the opening steps of a Cold War style honey trap that would bind Andrew to Maxwell & Epstein in such a way that Andrew has not been able publically to break them apart?

The fun didn’t stop there. Florida wasn’t long behind Maxwell. She introduced Florida to her friend from the demi-monde at a New York club where people were dressed as Bondage Freaks and Hookers. 

Heidi Klum (lingerie model) was among the guests. She wore a PVC black dress with a viciously spiked collar for her dog and wrist restraints.

Ghislaine, dressed in gold trousers and a blonde wig, explained: ‘I’m a hooker tonight. We are going on to another party with a pimps and prostitutes theme.’

Andrew was able to relive his youth by embracing the Eurotrash lifestyle within a matter of months.

It didn’t matter to him: he was apparently hooked by the wealth and reach of these new friends and the doors they could open. 

The relationships between Andrew and Epstein, however, became stronger. After their generosity, he was able to share some of his food with them. 

They were his guests at Royal Ascot and, infamously, at the Queen’s ‘Dance of the Decades’ party at Windsor Castle, a gala to mark the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday, Princess Margaret’s 70th, Princess Anne’s 50th and Andrew’s 40th.

Later that year, the Prince threw open Sandringham for his friends, with a shooting party to mark Ghislaine’s 39th birthday. And don’t forget that Balmoral visit.

Maxwell started to also introduce Maxwell, including South African model Heather Mann and PR Emma Gibbs.

Camera crews and onlookers were seen outside of the Manhattan courtroom after the guilty verdict in the sex abuse trial Maxwell

After Maxwell’s guilty verdict, cameras crews and observers were visible outside the Manhattan courtroom. 

Maxwell, Epstein, and Andrew seemed to have a strange symbiotic relationship. Epstein never seemed to be far away from Ghislaine when Andrew was present.

They were both there as Andrew was captured on a boat in Thailand, 2001. He was surrounded by young sunbathing women.

In his only public comment about this three-way relationship, Andrew told the BBC: ‘Remember that it was his girlfriend [Maxwell]That was the main element. He was the. . . plus one.’

Now, with his own case only days away, his focus is to reassure the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family that the vast investment of his mother’s money on his defence has been well spent.

Family members have been left in the dark about the Prince’s strategy, but understandably Andrew wants to protect the monarch from any damaging fallout from the Maxwell case.

He was correct in one aspect: he promised that the trial wouldn’t bring any new, brutal shocks.

He might, however, be aware that friendship and loyalty can sometimes come at the cost of common sense. Will he be able to do so?