Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, has admitted that he “let the side down” by maintaining his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, even after the late financier was convicted of sex offences.
Speaking for the first time about his highly controversial relationship with Epstein, Queen Elizabeth’s second son told Newsnight, the BBC TV programme, that his behaviour had “not been something that was becoming of a member of the Royal Family”.
In a rare interview, recorded in Buckingham Palace and conducted by Emily Maitlis, the Duke was also pressed on allegations made by Virginia Giuffre, who has claimed that she was forced to have sex with the royal on three occasions while aged 17.
Asked by Ms Maitlis about Ms Giuffre’s account of dining, dancing and having sex with him in London in 2001, the Duke replied: “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.”
The Duke’s interview is a high-risk attempt to draw a line under a scandal that has weighed heavily on his reputation and shown little sign of abating since it first emerged. One picture shows the Duke standing with his arm around Ms Giuffre in the London home of Ghislaine Maxwell, a former lover of Epstein and friend of the Duke.
Epstein died in August in an apparent suicide while awaiting trial on charges that he sex-trafficked underage girls.
Prince Andrew has struggled to explain why he flew to New York in 2010 to see Epstein, in spite of the financier having been convicted of soliciting a minor for prostitution. The Mail on Sunday newspaper has also uncovered footage showing the royal waving goodbye to a young woman while staying in Mr Epstein’s mansion.
Referring to the decision to visit Epstein, the Duke said: “That’s the bit that . . . I kick myself for on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the Royal Family. We try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that.”
The Duke has in the past strongly denied allegations of abusing Ms Giuffre, and issued a statement in 2015 to stress that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” was “categorically untrue”.
In response to the Prince’s denials, Ms Giuffre has in the past said: “He knows the truth and I know the truth.”
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, tweeted after the interview that her ex-husband was a “true and real gentleman” who was “stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness and goodness”.