Exclusive: Bill Clinton, Ghislaine Maxwell and the inside story of their trip to Britain
When Bill Clinton flew into London in September 2002 doors naturally flew open for him.
He had stepped down as President of the United States after two terms only the year before and was on his way to address the Labour Party conference.
Among the doors that opened were those to Buckingham Palace, when the Duke of York invited him to tour the Queen’s London home.
At the time no one could imagine the visit would come back to haunt those taking part.
But it has, following The Telegraph’s discovery of this astonishing photograph of Ghislaine Maxwell, first printed on Saturday, sitting on the ornate seat the Queen used for her Coronation in 1953 – in breach of all protocol.
Next to her is Mr Clinton’s friend Kevin Spacey – then Hollywood royalty and shortly to become artistic director of the Old Vic – in the place normally occupied by the Duke of Edinburgh.Advertisement
Ms Maxwell is now ensconced in the far more spartan surroundings of a police cell in New Hampshire after her arrest on Thursday, following a year-long investigation by the FBI.
She is charged with helping to recruit and groom underage girls for her ex-boyfriend, the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, also a friend of the Duke, and faces questions over the extent of the Duke’s knowledge of events.
Spacey’s career and reputation were left in tatters after he was accused in 2017 of making unwanted sexual advances to a 14-year-old actor and a string of other young men. Charges against him were later dropped.
And the Duke is now at the centre of the scandal surrounding Epstein’s sordid activities, with US prosecutors saying they would “welcome” his testimony as part of the ongoing FBI investigation.
At the time the photograph, had it been released to the public, would have been seen as a lighthearted – if somewhat disrespectful – memento of a celebrity visit.
But with the passing of the years this snap is now raising eyebrows around the world, and has come to assume a much more disturbing significance, showing just how close Ghislaine Maxwell was at the time to her friend the Duke.
It was the Duke, after all, who had invited her and Spacey, along with Mr Clinton, to the private tour of Buckingham Palace.
Mr Clinton was in London en route to the Labour Party conference in Blackpool, where he would be guest of honour.Advertisement
There he wowed delegates and Cabinet ministers alike, confirming his reputation as a natural and mesmerising orator when he gave the keynote address as international guest speaker.
On the evening of the speech, Mr Clinton expressed a desire for a burger and was accompanied by Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s director of communications, to a McDonald’s on Blackpool’s Golden Mile – to the astonishment of the locals, and in particular the teenager who served him.
Among the burger party in Blackpool was Spacey, who had come up from London with Mr Clinton.
Before arriving in the UK, the pair spent seven days on a tour of Africa, along with Ms Maxwell and the American actor Chris Tucker, on Epstein’s private jet, a Boeing 727 – reportedly nicknamed the “Lolita Express”.
Photographs obtained by The Telegraph show Mr Clinton posing for the cameras with his arm around Ms Maxwell on the steps to the plane.
It is not clear if Epstein was present on that humanitarian trip to Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Mozambique, and South Africa organised for the Clinton Foundation.
Flight logs appear to show the former president was a frequent user of Epstein’s jet, taking at least 26 trips on the plane.Advertisement
In the early years of his post-presidency, Mr Clinton took four trips on the private plane with stops in Europe, Africa and Asia, in at least one case with Epstein present.
Indeed the same year as the Africa trip, Mr Clinton, in a magazine profile, praised Epstein for his charitable work.Kevin Spacey with Bill Clinton at a dinner during their trip CREDIT: CDWES/The Mega Agency
“Jeffrey is both a highly successful financier and a committed philanthropist with a keen sense of global markets and an in-depth knowledge of 21st-century science,” he told New York magazine through a spokesman.
“I especially appreciated his insights and generosity during the recent trip to Africa to work on democratisation, empowering the poor, citizen service, and combating HIV/Aids.”
Last year Mr Clinton – against whom there are no accusations – firmly distanced himself from Epstein. Angel Ureña, his spokesman, said on Twitter that the former president knew nothing of Epstein’s “terrible crimes”.
“He’s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade, and has never been to Little St James Island, Epstein’s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida,” Mr Ureña said, noting that Mr Clinton was accompanied by Secret Service and other staff members “on every leg of every trip”.
At the end of the Africa tour, the party arrived in London, where the Duke invited Mr Clinton, Spacey and Ms Maxwell to visit Buckingham Palace. There is no record of the visit on the Court Circular, which details all the official engagements of members of the Royal Family, suggesting it was an unofficial, impromptu affair arranged by the Duke for his friends.
The Throne Room is normally accessible only through public tours of the palace or during state visits and official royal functions, and for anyone other than the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh to sit on the chairs is unthinkable and would invite disciplinary action if it were a member of staff, according to sources close to the Palace.
The Chair of Estate on which Ms Maxwell sits is embroidered with “EIIR” and was used by the Queen at the start of her Coronation in Westminster Abbey, up until the point that she was crowned and moved to the Throne Chair. Spacey is seated on its accompanying Chair of Estate, made after the Coronation by the Mayfair firm White Allom and Company for the Duke of Edinburgh.Ghislaine Maxwell and Kevin Spacey sitting on the Queen’s thrones CREDIT: The Telegraph
Rumours had circulated previously about the visit to the Palace, though officials dismissed them, saying the Duke of York had “no recollection” of it taking place.
It is not thought that Epstein was present during the visit by Mr Clinton and the others, however he had previously visited Sandringham and Windsor Castle, along with Ms Maxwell, as a guest of the Duke.
In June 2000, Epstein and Ms Maxwell were among a star-studded guest list at a party hosted by the Queen at Windsor.
The Dance of the Decades event marked four royal birthdays including the Duke’s 40th. The Duke, the Queen’s third child, later told the BBC that Epstein was there at his invitation, not the Royal Family’s, and was to some extent Ms Maxwell’s “plus one”.
In December that year, the Duke threw Ms Maxwell a surprise birthday party at Sandringham, the Queen’s estate in Norfolk, with Epstein among the guests.
He described it in the BBC interview as a “straightforward shooting weekend”.
When it came to the Buckingham Palace trip two years later Ms Maxwell was again invited as a friend of the Duke while, according to a source, Spacey was a guest of Mr Clinton’s.
“They were larking about on the thrones, doing regal waves,” said the source. “Ghislaine sat on the Queen’s throne with Spacey pretending to be the Duke of Edinburgh. No one can recall if the Duke was actually in the Throne Room at the time but he was in charge of the visit.”
A year before the palace photograph was taken, the Duke appeared with Ms Maxwell in another picture.
This one showed him with his arm around a 17-year-old teenager called Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, at Ms Maxwell’s Belgravia house, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace.
Mrs Giuffre says the photograph was taken by Epstein on the night she claims she was introduced by him to the Duke. She claims she and the Duke dined, danced and drank in Tramp nightclub in London before having sex that night. The Duke has consistently denied her claims.
Ten months on Ms Maxwell was posing for the camera again, this time at the very heart of the British establishment. How different that Buckingham Palace photograph looks now.Your Royal AppointmentEverything you need to know about the Royal family with exclusive analysis and content.Start free trialRelated Topics
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