Prince Andrew has spoken for the first time in public about his friendship with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. What did he say to create such a media storm, and how did he get into this mess in the first place?
First thing’s first: who is Prince Andrew?
Prince Andrew, Duke of York, is the third child of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. He’s the father of Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, the ex-husband of Sarah Ferguson, and a friend of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in August in the New York cell where he was being held on new charges of sex trafficking.
So he’s not the one married to Camilla who’s in New Zealand currently?
No, that’s Prince Charles. Charles is the first in line to the throne and his list of scandals includes the time he said he wanted to be Camilla’s tampon and the very awkward first engagement interview when he proposed to Diana and wouldn’t confirm he was in love with her.
Glad that’s cleared up. So Prince Andrew was friends with a convicted sex offender?
Yep, and he made no secret of it. Prince Andrew and Epstein were friends since the 90s when they met through Epstein’s then-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell. It was a rollercoaster relationship between the two men, with Prince Andrew claiming he ended the friendship in 2010 after Epstein got out of prison for soliciting sex from an underage girl.
So why is this all coming back into the spotlight now?
On Saturday night in the UK, BBC’s Newsnight programme aired an extended interview with Andrew, in which the prince aimed to address his friendship with Epstein and the allegations made against him. He was asked by journalist Emily Maitlis why he continued to meet up with Epstein after he got out of prison for sexual offending in 2010.
He suggested that “my judgement was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable.”
He was asked whether he remembered meeting Virginia Roberts Guiffre, the woman who says Epstein forced her to have sex with the prince. He “categorically” denied having sex with her, said he couldn’t recall even meeting her, and raised doubts about the authenticity of a photo in which he is pictured with his arm around her.
How did the interview go?
Reviews are bad.
Very. Tabloid front pages called it a “car crash”. Doubts have been raised about Andrew’s accounts of many of the instances when he met Epstein. The prince reportedly regarded the interview as a “success”.
One of the biggest criticisms was that Andrew showed no apparent remorse for the women who have described their appalling treatment at the hands of Epstein. The Daily Mail reported the prince later told his friends that he “regretted” not expressing sympathy in the interview.
Did he seem to regret his friendship with Epstein?
At one point the prince actually said the opposite. He defended his friendship to Epstein, saying it “had some seriously beneficial outcomes in areas that have nothing to do with what I’m describing and what we’re talking about today”.
Did Prince Andrew know anything about the sex trafficking?
He says he didn’t. Prince Andrew actually said because of his patronage of the NSPCC’s “Full Stop” campaign (a charity preventing cruelty to children) he would have noticed if there was anything going on when he visited Epstein’s houses in the US.
“I was close up with what was going on at that time about getting rid of abuse to children… I knew what the things were to look for but I never saw them,” he explained.
Jaws dropped around the world at hearing the alibi Prince Andrew gave for one of the nights he was accused of taking part in sexual acts with then-17-year-old Roberts Guiffre: he was at a chain restaurant in a London commuter town.
“I’d taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose sort of four or five in the afternoon,” he explained. “Going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing for me to do. I’ve never been … I’ve only been to Woking a couple of times and I remember it weirdly distinctly. As soon as somebody reminded me of it, I went, ‘Oh yes, I remember that’.”
Not as extraordinary as his response to one of Roberts Guiffre’s recollections: that Prince Andrew was “sweating profusely” on the night they danced together in a nightclub before they allegedly had sex. Impossible, he said: he wasn’t able to produce sweat. According to the prince, a temporary medical condition brought on by an adrenaline overdose during the Falklands conflict meant he couldn’t perspire, so the allegation could not be true.
A medical expert told the UK Express that an overdose of adrenaline would likely make a person sweat more.
“I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenalin in the Falkland’s War when I was shot at.”
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) November 16, 2019
What has the reaction been to all of this?
The editor of the Royal Central website, Charlie Proctor, summed it up nicely when he tweeted: “I expected a train wreck. That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion-level bad.”