PRINCE Andrew will sensationally face a court battle with his rape accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a judge has ruled today.
The Duke of York failed in his attempts to stop the case after he was sued for allegedly sexually abusing his accuser when she was just 17.
The bombshell ruling represents a hammer blow to the royal who has strenuously denied allegations made by Ms Giuffre.
Her allegations have dogged Andrew, 61, since she first made them in 2011, when the now infamous photograph emerged of him with his hand around her emerged.
His reputation is already in tatters over questions over his friendship with paedophiles Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, who was recently convicted of trafficking girls for him to abuse.
In a car-crash interview with the BBC he denied ever meeting her and if he appears in court, he will certainly be cross examined under oath about that claim.
The case is also a huge embarrassment for the royal family, as the Queen prepares to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee.
His current predicament stems from his controversial friendship with paedophile Epstein, who Ms Giuffre alleges introduced her to the royal.
She accused Epstein of raping her and sued him but reached an out of court settlement in 2009 in which she was paid $500,000 (£371,000) in return for dropping the case.
Prince Andrew's lawyers argued he was covered by a part of the settlement in which she also agreed not to sue "any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant".
But David Boies, Ms Giuffre's lawyer, said only the parties of the settlement agreement - Epstein and Ms Giuffre and their associates - could benefit from it, and not a "third party" such as Andrew.
Judge Lewis A Kaplan agreed and said the 2009 agreement cannot "demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously" show the parties intended to "benefit Prince Andrew".
At this stage it's unclear whether Andrew will give evidence in person, via a video link or refuse to participate.
Virginia claims she was trafficked by sick duo Epstein and Maxwell to be abused by Andrew after meeting him at a nightclub in London.
It is alleged that she was taken back Ghislaine's townhouse were she was forced to have sex with the Royal, who was at the time aged 41.
Andrew strongly denies all allegations against him and also claims he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by his pals Maxwell and Epstein.
REPUTATION IN TATTERS
The Duke could face a trial which may see him having to give a deposition to a US court - and a parade of witnesses trotted out regarding the allegations.
Andrew's lead attorney Andrew Brettler argued that his client should be covered by it because Ms Giuffre had mentioned “royalty” in her civil complaint against Epstein.
But his arguments was met with scepticism at almost every turn by Judge Kaplan.
At one point he told Brettler: “That’s not a dog that’s going to hunt here.”
Virginia's settlement had been kept under seal - but judges last month ordered it to be released yesterday unless "good cause" could be shown otherwise
But her legal team successfully argued that the agreement should not stop her case against Andrew.
They previously said the agreement was an attempt by Andrew to use a "get out of jail free card".
Andrew has repeatedly denied all allegations against him, which includes rape in the first degree, and his attorney's have claimed his accuser has a "tendency to change her story".
They also previously warned that she could be creating "false memories" with her claims.
Virginia, now 38-year-old, claims she was enticed by the Duke of York's pal Maxwell and lured into paedo Epstein's sick sexual pyramid scheme.
She alleges she was forced to have sex with Andrew on three occasions - in London, New York and on Epstein's island Little St James.
Her legal team argue she was a "frightened, vulnerable child with no one there to protect her" when she was allegedly abused by Andrew, saying "no person, whether President or Prince, is above the law".
Andrew is named as the only defendant in the suit, brought under New York state's Child Victims Act, but Epstein and Maxwell are mentioned frequently throughout.
She is seeking unknown amounts of compensation and punitive damages over the allegations.
Virginia claims she feared for her life when she was allegedly forced to have sex with Andrew, who is accused of having been aware of her age and status as a "sex-trafficking victim".
Court documents claim Ms Giuffre was "lent out for sexual purposes" by convicted sex offender Epstein including while she was still a minor under US law.
The docs add the alleged assaults "have caused, and continue to cause her, significant emotional and psychological distress and harm".
"Prince Andrew's actions, described above, constitute extreme and outrageous conduct that shocks the conscience," the lawsuit stated as it described the emotional distress suffered by Ms Giuffre.
"Prince Andrew's sexual abuse of a child who he knew was a sex-trafficking victim, and when he was approximately 40 years old, goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is intolerable in a civilised community," it added.
DENIES MEETING ACCUSER
In an infamous Newsnight interview with the BBC's Emily Maitlis in November 2019, Andrew denied claims that he slept with Ms Giuffre and said he had "no recollection" of ever meeting her.
He also said he has no memory of the well-known photograph of him with his arm around Virginia's waist at Maxwell's house, and has questioned whether the photo had been doctored.
The fallout from the interview saw the royal criticised for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein's victims and a lack of remorse over his friendship with disgraced financier.
Andrew has previously pledged to assist with any investigation into his former friend, but there has been a long running war of words between his team and US prosecutors about how much assistance he has offered them.
Epstein hanged himself in his prison cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking offences.
And meanwhile Maxwell faces potentially spending the rest of her life in prison after she was convicted for her role in the scheme.