Prince Andrew last night denied claims he was a ‘party prince’ as he faced questions over his relationship with disgraced paedophile Jeffrey Epstein – as he admitted his relationship with the financier has been a ‘constant sore’ to his immediate family.
The Duke of York, 59, faced questions on BBC Newsnight about his links to Epstein who was found dead aged 66 earlier this year in a prison cell while being held on sex trafficking charges.
Asked what the appeal of Epstein was and why they became friends, Andrew said the financier ‘had the most extraordinary ability to bring extraordinary people together’ and that he wanted to ‘learn’ and ‘engage’ after transitioning out of the Navy.
The Newsnight presenter grilled the Duke on whether his decision to spend time with Epstein had anything to do with being ‘perceived by the public as being the party prince.’
The Duke of York, 59, faced questions on BBC Newsnight about his links to Epstein who was found dead aged 66 earlier this year in a prison cell while being held on sex trafficking charges
Speaking during the interview, he said the appeal of Epstein was that ‘he had the most extraordinary ability to bring extraordinary people together’
Andrew admitted that the effect of his relationship with Epstein has been a ‘constant sore’ in the family. The Duke of York has two children with his former wife Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York (pictured, Beatrice Ferguson, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, and Eugenie Ferguson
But Andrew responded: ‘Well, I think that’s also a bit of a stretch. I don’t know why I’ve collected that title because I never have really partied.
‘I was single for quite a long time in the early 80s but then after I got married I was very happy and I’ve never really felt the need to go and party and certainly going to Jeffrey’s was not about partying, absolutely not.’
Andrew’s television interview with BBC’s Newsnight was seen as the royal’s attempt to draw a line under his controversial relationship with the disgraced financier, and to deny publicly claims he had underage sex with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims.
But he stated twice his relationship with Epstein, who died in jail while facing sex trafficking charges, had some ‘seriously beneficial outcomes’ and it gave him the opportunity to meet people and help prepare for a future role as a trade envoy.
Although he admitted that the effect of his relationship with Epstein has been a ‘constant sore’ in the family.
‘We all knew him and I think that if we have a conversation about it,’ he said. ‘We are all left with the same thing, what on earth happened or how did he get to where he was, what did he do, how did he do it?’
‘And so it’s just a constant sort of gnaw. I mean this first came out in 2011 and it was a surprise to all of us because the photographs were published at a separate time to when I was there and then we sort of questioned what on earth is going on and as a family we discussed it.’
A photograph apparently showing Andrew with his arm around then 17-year-old Roberts, now Giuffre, and with Epstein’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell standing in the background, has been widely published. Supporters of Andrew, however, have disputed its authenticity.
As scrutiny grew over Andrew’s relationship with Epstein, the Duke explained: ‘And then in 2015 when the allegations were made in the deposition, there was a sort of this is the immediate family, not the wider family.
‘The wider family couldn’t be more supportive but the immediate family, it was well, what’s all this about?’
Andrew stated twice his relationship with Epstein (pictured in 2005), who died in jail while facing sex trafficking charges, had some ‘seriously beneficial outcomes’ and it gave him the opportunity to meet people and help prepare for a future role as a trade envoy
Virginia Roberts (pictured) alleges she was coerced by paedophile US businessman Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the Duke, into having sex with Andrew on three occasions
Asked if the episode had been damaging to the Queen, he said: ‘I don’t believe it’s been damaging to the Queen at all, it has to me and it’s been a constant drip if you see what I mean in the background that people want to know.
‘If I was in a position to be able to answer all these questions in a way that gave sensible answers other than the ones that I have given that gave closure then I’d love it but I’m afraid I can’t.
‘I’m just not in a position to do so because I’m just as much in the dark as many people.’
The Duke of York has two children with his former wife Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.
Before the interview aired, she posted an extraordinary Instagram post in which she defended her ex-husband Prince Andrew, ‘this giant of a principled man’ amid allegations over his close friendship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The duke denied he slept with Mrs Giuffre on three separate occasions when questioned by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, saying one encounter in 2001 did not happen as he had taken his daughter Princess Beatrice to Pizza Express in Woking for a party, and they spent the rest of the day together.
The same alleged sexual liaison, which the American said began with the royal sweating heavily as they danced at London nightclub Tramp, was factually wrong as the duke said he had a medical condition at the time which meant he did not sweat.
Sarah Ferguson tweeted out a series of pictures of the duke, defending him ahead of the bombshell interview
The Duke of York has been interviewed by Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis at Buckingham Palace and will be broadcast on BBC 2 at 9pm on Saturday
The duke said the whole episode had not been damaging to the Queen, only to himself, and that the wider royal family ‘couldn’t be more supportive’.
Public relations and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski said: ‘I have never seen anything so disastrous. For any students of PR that is how not to do it.
‘It was like watching a man in quick sand and unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would have thrown him a line to get him out.’
Andrew described social media as a ‘problem’ of the 21st century during the interview, and he was mocked relentlessly online with many highlighting his mention of the pizza restaurant.
When asked by Maitlis if he regretted the ‘whole friendship with Epstein’, the duke replied: ‘Now, still not and the reason being is that the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful.’
Earlier in the interview, Andrew had said he was transitioning out of the Royal Navy and wanted to the know more about the world of business as he would become the UK’s special representative for international trade and investment.
Mrs Giuffre has alleged in court documents she ‘was forced to have sexual relations with this prince when she was a minor’ in London and New York.
Later, when aged 18, she alleges they had sex again on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein where an orgy took place.
Her allegations were struck from US civil court records in 2015 after a judge said they were ‘immaterial and impertinent’.
Maitlis quizzed the duke about the claims: ‘Are you saying you don’t believe her, she’s lying?’
The duke replied: ‘That’s a very difficult thing to answer because I’m not in a position to know what she’s trying to achieve, but I can tell you categorically I don’t remember meeting her at all.
‘I do not remember a photograph being taken and I’ve said consistently and frequently that we never had any sort of sexual contact whatever.’