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Prince Andrew's underage sex scandal: What you need to know

A celebrity gossip junky, Caroline Goddard has been writing entertainment news for longer than the world has known Kim Kardashian's name. Follow her on Twitter at @GoddardCaroline.

The Duke of York stands accused of sex with a minor — did he do it?

Prince Andrew is under the microscope after being accused of sleeping with a self-described underaged sex slave.

Virginia Roberts is a witness in a U.S. civil case against billionaire American businessman and convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, who happens to be a good pal of Prince Andrew, Duke of York. In her testimony — and reportedly in an upcoming book she has planned — Roberts claims Epstein kept her as a sex slave starting at age 15 and forced her to sleep with dozens of dignitaries, including the prince.

More: Prince Andrew accosted by cops on palace grounds

Roberts alleges Prince Andrew had sex with her on three separate occasions when she was just 17, in New York, London and the Caribbean — a charge Buckingham Palace has denied in two separate statements.

"This relates to long-standing and ongoing civil proceedings in the United States, to which the Duke of York is not a party," a palace spokesperson said in the first. "As such we would not comment on the detail. However, for the avoidance of doubt, any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue."

A second statement released Jan. 4 was more forceful. "It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. The allegations made are false and without any foundation."

More: Prince Andrew single again after split from George Clooney's ex

Epstein was jailed in 2008 for 13 months on a charge of soliciting sex with an underage girl, years after he and Andrew began partying together.

There is another tie between Epstein and the royals: He gave Andrew's ex-wife, Sarah, the Duchess of York, over $25,000 to pay off some of her debts 18 months after he was released from jail on his prostitution charges. Days prior to the cash exchange, Andrew was spotted visiting Epstein.

When the press got wind of it, Fergie contritely said she was terrified by her huge debt (in the millions of pounds at the time) and would pay Epstein back as soon as possible to avoid the appearance of owing a favor. It remains unclear if she ever did.

But regardless, Fergie is a staunch supporter of her ex, with whom she continues to vacation. Nabbed outside the family's holiday spot in Switzerland this week, the Duchess gave Andrew a glowing report.

"The York family is a tight unit. We've always been a tight unit," Fergie told the Daily Mail. "He is the greatest man there is. It was the finest moment of my life in 1986 when I married him. He is a great man, the best man in the world."

Andrew is fifth in line for the British throne, behind Princes Charles, William, George and Harry.

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