For months, years even, the accusations have piled up against Prince Andrew, always denied by him but left unchallenged with nothing more than an apparent vow of silence.

This omerta proved to be self-protective.

The prince’s reputation is in the gutter and the good name of the wider Royal Family has been soiled by the fallout.

However, the gloves have been taken off. Andrew’s adversarial American lawyers have come out fighting to confront the sexual abuse claims that have swirled about the head of the Queen’s favourite son for so long.

The question is, will it work? Or could their aggressive intervention risk causing more damage to the prince?

Andrew's lawyers accused Miss Roberts of only suing Andrew in the hope of securing ¿another pay day¿

Andrew’s lawyers accused Miss Roberts of only suing Andrew in the hope of securing ‘another pay day’

Anyone who calls in ‘evidence’ from a New York tabloid newspaper by way of wreaking vengeance is entitled to have their motives seriously examined.

Yesterday, his legal team filed a 36-page motion to dismiss the civil action that Virginia Roberts had brought against the US courts. She claims that the Duke of York, aged 61, raped and raped Virginia.

Accompanying this dossier was an article that accused Miss Roberts, 38, of being a ‘money-hungry sex kitten’ and once ‘head bitch’ for paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring.

It included comments from Miss Roberts’ sister who claims she was asked by Epstein to recruit underage girls.

This was certainly a dramatic change in Andrew’s strategy and women’s groups reacted with fury accusing him of ‘victim shaming’ and further evidence of the prince’s ‘appalling judgment’.

But in exposing his accuser’s alleged past, even Andrew’s supporters were lamenting the absence, once again, of any apparent sign of remorse in his eleventh hour response to her legal action.

It was that failure to offer any sympathy towards Miss Roberts, now known by her married name Giuffre, or the other women drawn into Epstein’s sordid clutches that outraged viewers after the prince’s notorious BBC Newsnight interview in November 2019.

However, the time for repentance may be over.

This was certainly a dramatic change in Andrew¿s strategy and women¿s groups reacted with fury accusing him of ¿victim shaming¿

This was certainly a dramatic change in Andrew’s strategy and women’s groups reacted with fury accusing him of ‘victim shaming’

His US lawyers are unashamedly belligerent in their language

They accused Miss Roberts of only suing Andrew in the hope of securing ‘another pay day’.

Motivated by greed she had been emboldened to ‘cobble together’ a claim against him after making millions of dollars from others in similar circumstances.

In a legal memorandum to have the case dismissed, the prince’s ‘attack-dog’ attorney Andrew Brettler said: ‘For over a decade Giuffre has profited from her allegations against Epstein and others by selling stories and photographs to the Press and entering into secret agreements to resolve her claims against her alleged abusers, including Epstein and his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.

‘Most people could only dream of obtaining the sums of money that Giuffre has secured for herself over the years.

‘This presents a compelling motive for Giuffre to continue filing frivolous lawsuits against individuals such as Prince Andrew whose sullied reputation is only the latest collateral damage of the Epstein scandal.’

Andrew, whose friendship with Epstein (who was jailed two years earlier) has made it difficult to bring such incendiary claims to the public domain.

Of one thing we can be sure, the court filing which states that the duke unequivocally denies the allegations and had ‘never sexually abused or assaulted’ Miss Roberts, was signed off by Andrew.

A friend of the prince said yesterday: ‘He has stayed silent, perhaps for too long, but it is right and proper that he should be allowed to defend himself. His reputation and his life have been destroyed. Enough is enough.’

Some, inevitably, will wonder if it is all too late, that in the court of public opinion the prince has already been judged and found guilty

Some will doubt if it is too late. In the court of public opinions, the prince has already been found guilty.

For weeks it has at times seemed as if Andrew was running scared, he was said to have been hiding behind his mother’s skirts at Balmoral and apparently going out of his way to avoid being served with the Virginia Roberts deposition.

His options for responding to the increasingly hostile public opinion he was being forced into were further narrowed.

Instead, he chose the deadline to file his defence to mark his moment of starting his fightback.

Inevitably, some will wonder if it’s too late. The court of public opinion has already found the prince guilty.

Others will question the morality behind shaming Miss Roberts’ reputation, who was, despite being a paragon, equally a victim to Epstein.

Certainly Andrew’s timing has not been ideal.

It does seem unfortunate that his actions are at the centre of attention at a time when the Royal Family’s focus is on the health of the Queen.

Indeed it is reminiscent of Prince Harry’s self-serving decision to go ahead with his and Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March when Prince Philip was in hospital and close to the end of his life.

Andrew fears that his approach could backfire, and that the public reaction will mean that his professional position won’t be restored.

Some will question the morality of impugning the reputation of Miss Roberts, who although no paragon was equally a victim of Epstein

Some will question the morality in questioning Miss Roberts’s reputation. She was, however, not a paragon but was equally a victim to Epstein.

But he calculated that continuing to do nothing is equally hazardous and by highlighting Miss Roberts’s alleged greed he may have unearthed a compelling defence.

His friends insist that submitting the article in which her ex-boyfriend Philip Guderyon contended she was not a sex slave but rather a ‘money hungry sex kitten who flashed her cash and enjoyed the finer things in life’ was necessary.

It was to counter the inconsistencies in her ‘increasingly salacious’ accounts of her alleged sexual abuse.

‘They are not the duke’s lawyers’ comments,’ says the friend, ‘but it is perfectly legitimate to include them because the narrative cannot be owned by one individual.’

The article quoted Mr Guderyon saying that he would drive Miss Roberts to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion: ‘She was like the head bitch.

‘She’d have like nine or ten girls she used to bring him. She never looked like she was being held captive.’

Crystal Figueroa, the sister of another former boyfriend of Miss Roberts was quoted as saying: ‘She (Roberts) would say to me, “Do you know any girls who are kind of slutty?”’

In hiring Andrew Brettler, who has represented a string of celebrities facing sexual assault charges, including the Hollywood star Armie Hammer, Andrew’s legal strategy has completely changed.

The prince, who was pictured with his arm round the bare midriff of Miss Roberts, says he has no recollection of ever meeting her

The prince was seen with his arm around Miss Roberts’ bare midriff. He said that he doesn’t remember ever having met her.

Having previously refused even to acknowledge the complaint against him – apparently convinced that it would be dropped – he was persuaded to fight the allegations tooth and nail.

The lawyer had also warned him that ignoring the court proceedings – another tactic – would do him no favours.

Instead Mr Brettler said he was prepared to turn the tables on Miss Roberts and question her ‘multiple inconsistencies’.

Miss Roberts claims she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew on three separate occasions in 2001 when she was 17; in London, New York and on Epstein’s private Caribbean island and is seeking unspecified damages that could run into millions of dollars.

The prince was shown with his arm around Miss Roberts’ naked midriff. He claims that he has no memory of ever meeting her.

Brettler is not a coward, accusing her repeatedly of changing her story without providing any details.

‘Given the laundry list of purported sexual offences Giuffre claims Prince Andrew committed against her, the utter lack of factual allegations on the topic is conspicuous,’ he says.

In exhibiting his accuser’s own dubious past, Andrew has now gambled everything on turning this increasingly unseemly saga into a battle that pitches his folly against the ‘money-grubbing’ Virginia Roberts.

The outcome is uncertain, and it will be unsavory.