Prince Andrew was forced to quit royal duties last night after a dramatic intervention by the Queen and the Prince of Wales.
They took decisive action to contain the fall-out from the duke’s disastrous TV interview about his friendship with a paedophile billionaire.
The interview triggered days of catastrophic headlines and caused a string of businesses and charities to desert him.
Following lengthy discussions with Charles, who is touring New Zealand, the Queen summoned Andrew to Buckingham Palace and told him to step down.
The Queen (left, meeting David Attenborough on Tuesday) and Charles (right, with Andrew at St Paul’s Cathedral) decided the Duke of York should step down
Pictured: The Queen put a brave face on today as she met Sir David Attenborough and (right) Princess Eugenie is seen leaving the Elephant Family Charity dinner in London as her father faces the backlash
The devastated prince, who is eighth in line to the throne, was told he could write his own statement in an attempt to allow him to bow out gracefully.
A royal insider said: ‘When the Queen and the Prince of Wales stand firm together they are a pretty formidable combination in terms of getting things done.’
After informing the wider royal family first, Buckingham Palace put out a statement shortly before 6pm on the distraught prince’s behalf saying: ‘I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.’
Pictured, left: Andrew leaves Buckingham Palace after spending the afternoon there behind a desk on Tuesday – the first time he had been seen since his BBC interview. Pictured, right: The Queen puts a brave face on this afternoon as she meets Sir David Attenborough to present him with an award
It is unprecedented for a senior royal to be asked to stand down in this way and illustrates how damaging Andrew’s BBC Newsnight interview was for himself, and the monarchy. The dramatic announcement came just as Andrew was trying to insist that it was business as usual.
The Mail can reveal that he had even planned to fly to Bahrain this Saturday for a Pitch@Palace charity initiative, despite the furore over last Saturday’s television ordeal. In other developments:
- More than 20 major companies and charities – including Barclays, KPMG and the English National Ballet – distanced themselves from Andrew and the initiatives he has been backing;
- A Mail investigation called into question his alibi over a trip to New York during which Jeffrey Epstein victim Virginia Roberts claims they had sex;
- A letter from Buckingham Palace cast doubt on the Duke of York’s claims about when he first met the tycoon, who killed himself in jail in August;
- Lawyers for Epstein’s victims called for Andrew to sit down with FBI agents and give an in-depth interview under oath.
The 59-year-old prince and his team – led by private secretary Amanda Thirsk – knew speaking publically about the Epstein scandal was a huge gamble.
But they felt backed into a corner following the sex offender’s suicide and repeated claims by Miss Roberts that she was ‘trafficked’ by her abuser to have sex with the Queen’s son on three occasions, the first when she was just 17.
Prince Andrew (pictured during his interview with Emily Maitlis on the BBC’s Newsnight) is facing a furious backlash over his relationship with Epstein
Mrs Thirsk and her team hoped that by choosing such a formidable interviewer as Emily Maitlis the general public would be convinced of his innocence and honesty.
Instead, millions of viewers were left astonished by Andrew’s attempt to explain his relationship with Epstein, with his interview only adding to the doubts over his account of their time together.
The duke was lambasted for his decision to fly to the US and stay with Epstein for four days after his release from prison for sexual offences against children.
He said he had to tell the financier in person that he could no longer have anything to do with him – it was the ‘honourable’ thing to do.
The duke denies meeting Virginia (left, together in 2001) and suggested this photo could be fake in his extraordinary and explosive BBC interview (pictured, right, Andrew and Epstein in New York after Epstein had finished his prison sentence for sex offences)
He was also roundly criticised for failing to show any remorse for Epstein’s dozens of female victims.
How Duke of York’s annual meetings with Epstein brought decades of trouble
Andrew first meets Epstein, reportedly introduced through his friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell. Andrew welcomes Epstein to the Queen’s private Scottish retreat in Aberdeenshire. Andrew later says he sees Epstein ‘infrequently’, adding ‘probably no more than only once or twice a year’.
Andrew and Ms Maxwell are seen on holiday with Epstein at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Epstein and Ms Maxwell attend a party at Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen to mark Andrew’s 40th birthday, the Princess Royal’s 50th, the Queen Mother’s 100th and Princess Margaret’s 70th.
Virginia Roberts claims to have had sex with Andrew ‘three times, including one orgy’, with the first encounter allegedly taking place in Ms Maxwell’s London townhouse. Ms Roberts claims to have had sex with Andrew on two more occasions, at Epstein’s New York home and at an ‘orgy’ on his private island in the Caribbean.
Epstein admits prostituting minors and is sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Epstein is released from jail. Andrew is photographed with the disgraced Epstein in New York’s Central Park. Footage emerges years later, reportedly shot on December 6 2010, showing him inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion, from where he is seen looking out from a large door of the property waving a woman goodbye after Epstein leaves to get into a chauffeur-driven car.
The duke quits his role as UK trade envoy after the fallout from the Central Park photos.
Buckingham Palace denies Andrew has committed any impropriety after he is named in US court documents related to Epstein. A woman, later named in reports as Ms Roberts, alleges in papers filed in Florida that she was forced to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, which is under the age of consent in the state.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Andrew, in his first public engagement since he was embroiled in the allegations, responds, saying: ‘Firstly I think I must, and want, for the record, to refer to the events that have taken place in the last few weeks.
‘I just wish to reiterate, and to reaffirm, the statements that have already been made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace.’ In April the claims against Andrew are struck from US civil court records following a federal judge’s ruling.
Newly released legal documents show that Johanna Sjoberg, another alleged Epstein victim, claimed Andrew touched her breast while sitting on a couch inside the US billionaire’s Manhattan apartment in 2001. Buckingham Palace said the allegations are ‘categorically untrue’. Epstein is found dead in his jail cell on August 10, having killed himself after being charged with sex trafficking.
Later that month a pilot on Epstein’s private jet claims Andrew was a passenger on past flights with the financier and Ms Roberts. The Sun newspaper reported that David Rodgers said in a testimony released in August that Epstein, Andrew and the-then 17-year-old travelled to the US Virgin Islands on April 11 2001. Buckingham Palace describes the evidence statement as having ‘a number of inconsistencies’ and said that Andrew was on a different continent in some cases.
Following Epstein’s death, a statement from the palace says that Andrew is ‘appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes’. Breaking his silence on the issue for the first time since 2015, Andrew then releases a statement on August 24 saying: ‘At no stage during the limited time I spent with him (Epstein) did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.’
On November 16, the prince gave a ‘disastrous’ BBC interview in which he spoke about his friendship with Epstein and addressed allegations of his own sexual conduct. He faced a barrage of criticism following his television appearance, with the royal accused of a lack of empathy with Epstein’s victims.
During the interview, Andrew, questioned by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, twice stated his relationship with Epstein, who died in jail while facing sex trafficking charges, had some ‘seriously beneficial outcomes’, giving him the opportunity to meet people and prepare for a future role as a trade envoy. The duke denied he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage, saying one encounter in 2001 did not happen as he spent the day with his daughter Princess Beatrice, taking her to Pizza Express in Woking for a party.
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. He cast doubt on the authenticity of a picture that appears to show Andrew with his arm around the waist of Mrs Giuffre, when a teenager.
As the backlash grew, supporters of his key public initiatives – such as the entrepreneurial scheme, Pitch@Palace – began to openly withdraw their support.
Several charities of which he was patron also tried to distance themselves from him.
Desperate to move on, officials reiterated their hope that once the dust had settled, the public would see Andrew as an ‘honest, decent and honourable man’.
As revealed by the Mail earlier this week, he was back at his desk at Buckingham palace on Tuesday trying to get on with his work.
But that day he was forced to cancel a trip to South Yorkshire to visit flood-hit towns.
It was then that the Queen decided to take action.
She asked Andrew to come into the palace from his home, Royal Lodge, in Windsor, to see her in between official duties including audiences with ambassadors and a public event with Sir David Attenborough.
An insider told the Mail: ‘There was a very definite feeling that everyone needed to think cool, calm and sensibly. There’s been no sense of fury.
‘The Queen and the senior royals were very much looking at how the furore was impacting on the General Election and on the institution of the monarchy at a deeper level.
‘It’s difficult to think of another time when we have seen more decisive action.
‘The Queen has shown very decisive leadership and the difference is that she is energised by having the Prince of Wales with her.’
In his statement Andrew said he unequivocally regretted his association with Epstein, sympathised with his victims and would help any investigation.
A royal aide confirmed the prince would be temporarily stepping back from his duties. No time period was specified.
He will, however, continue to attend events as a member of the Royal Family such as the Christmas Day service at Sandringham and Trooping the Colour.
As he is not publically funded Andrew receives an undisclosed stipend from the Queen, believed to be in the region of £250,000.
His diminished role is expected to lead to redundancies in his private office.
It is likely that other members of the Royal Family will take on some of the prince’s patronages and charitable duties.
It comes after the Duke was today seen for the first time since his disastrous BBC Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis on Saturday about Epstein which caused a furious public backlash.
He was forced to cancel a visit to the flood-hit towns of Fishlake and Stainforth, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, yesterday. A source said his trip – which was not publicised in advance – was scrapped as a result of the fall-out.
The Duke had told Maitlis in his appearance that he did not have sex with Virginia Roberts, who says she slept with him when she was 17.
Ms Roberts, now Mrs Giuffre, was trafficked by Epstein and picture shows the prince stood with her in 2001.
Prince Andrew told Maitlis he had met Epstein through the since-disgraced financier’s girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, ‘back in 1999’, and it has been suggested that it is her London house in which he was pictured with Roberts.
But a letter written to The Times newspaper in March 2011 by the Duke’s then-private secretary Alastair Watson suggests he may have met Epstein years earlier.
Major Watson, who spent nine years in the role of Andrew’s private secretary, was writing to the newspaper countering claims the duke was friends with Saif Gaddafi.
But, in a now key passage, he wrote: ‘There has been widespread comment on the duke’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
‘The duke has known Mr Epstein since being introduced to him in the early 1990s.
‘The insinuations and innuendos that have been made in relation to the duke are without foundation.’
The duke denied he slept with Ms Roberts on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage, saying one encounter in 2001 did not happen as he spent the day with his daughter Princess Beatrice, taking her to Pizza Express in Woking for a party.
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.
He cast doubt on the authenticity of the picture that appears to show Andrew with his arm around the waist of Mrs Giuffre, when she was teenager.
Five multi-million pound businesses have cut ties with Prince Andrew’s Dragons’ Den-inspired charity and three more are now considering dumping the crisis-hit Royal since the interview aired.
The University of Huddersfield is the only organisation to vocally back their Chancellor – but this has sparked insurrection among students who are lobbying Andrew to resign with a ‘Not my Chancellor’ campaign on campus and a major vote later this week.
And London Metropolitan University told MailOnline this afternoon they will review whether to keep Andrew as a patron at its next Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday, November 26.