In the latest shock to come out of the royal family, Prince Andrew is withdrawing from his official responsibilities. The news came via a statement on Wednesday from the Duke of York, in which he announced his decision to “step back from public duties” for an indefinite spell in the wake of his controversial interview on BBC about Jeffrey Epstein.
Prior to the swift backlash over his comments on the disgraced financier, Andrew reportedly thought the interview was a success. However, his statement suggests the public outcry shifted his perspective. “It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein have become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organizations and charities that I am proud to support,” Andrew said in the statement, revealing, “Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.”
Andrew also backpedaled on his relationship with Epstein, saying, “I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure. I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
A statement by His Royal Highness The Duke of York KG. pic.twitter.com/solPHzEzzp
— The Duke of York (@TheDukeOfYork) November 20, 2019
The interview, which aired on BBC in the U.K. on Saturday, saw Andrew speak openly about his ties to Epstein. The royal addressed the sharp criticism he’s received for having stayed in touch with Epstein, who died in jail in New York City in August. Despite Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting prostitution from a minor, Andrew was photographed with the financier numerous times — including when he stayed with him in New York at his home.
According to Andrew, who is the third child of Queen Elizabeth II, there was “no indication” to him that Epstein was involved in any sort of ongoing sexual predation. And, in his words, he regrets remaining friends. “It was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time, I felt it was the honorable and right thing to do,” he said.
The duke proved a bit more slippery when the interview turned to the allegations of Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts), who alleges she was forced by Epstein while underaged to have sex with Andrew three times between 1999 and 2002. When shown an image of himself appearing to have an arm around Giuffre’s waist, he told Newsnight anchor Emily Maitlis, “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever… it just never happened.”
During the interview, Andrew said he didn’t believe his ties to Epstein or the allegations against him had been “damaging to the Queen at all.” However, judging by his announcement on Wednesday to step down, it seems as though he has decided otherwise.