TALK OF THE TOWN: Will countess still curtsey to Prince Andrew

TALK OF THE TOWN: Will the Countess of Derby still curtsey before Prince Andrew when he next visits Knowsley Hall?

Prince Andrew’s reputation may be taking a battering as he tries to get the US court claim against him thrown out – yet the embattled Duke still has some friends, and few are as loyal as the Earl and Countess of Derby.

Her Ladyship has traditionally even curtseyed to him, an old-fashioned degree of deference certainly not demanded by Royal protocol.

Nonetheless, when he’s greeted that way at Knowsley Hall, the couple’s grand Merseyside estate, I’m told that other female guests feel compelled to follow suit – while the men make a gentle bow of the head.

Lord and Lady Derby, who own Knowsley Hall, are very formal when Prince Andrew visits their estate, with Cazzie, pictured right, curtseying – even though this is not demanded by Royal Protocol 

Prince Andrew is being sued by Virginia Roberts, pictured centre, in civil court in New York. Prince Andrew denies the allegations 

Prince Andrew, pictured, stepped back from public life after the allegations were made public

The gesture may be even more surprising given that the Countess, whom friends call Cazzie, was briefly romantically linked to Andrew before she became engaged to her husband Edward, a former Grenadier Guards officer known as Teddy.

Andrew is said to be delighted by such ostentatious displays of respect. ‘Cazzie is very formal, which is why she does it,’ one pal tells me. ‘Her friends tend to do what she does.’

There is certainly no obligation to show Andrew this level of etiquette which causes mild amusement among their wider circle.

Brought up at the 6,000-acre Audley End estate in Essex, which has been in her family since the reign of Henry VIII, Cazzie is the second of eight daughters of the late, thrice-married 10th Lord Braybrooke.

Because her father had no sons, his title passed to his third cousin twice removed – an internet entrepreneur who lived above a hair salon in Battersea, South London – while, due to a legal quirk involving the family trust, the Audley End estate passed to a female cousin. Perhaps that kind of family history, in part, explains why Cazzie, 58, has persisted with the deference of a vanished world.

The couple’s spokeswoman tells me the Derbys are ‘on leave’ and is unable to say whether the curtsey will be ditched from protocol.

But Cazzie is undoubtedly aware of public feeling. Two years ago when a photograph emerged of her, Andrew, paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell attending Ascot together in 2000, she issued a statement explaining she had never been friends with Epstein and that ‘her thoughts lie first and foremost with the victims of Epstein’s abuse’.

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