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Why Buckingham Palace chose to respond to the allegations facing Prince Andrew in Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal

  • ITV News Royal Editor explains the situation and what could come next

It is not unprecedented for Buckingham Palace to issue the kind of statement they put out Sunday night about The Duke of York, but it is highly unusual.

The claims which have been made about Prince Andrew could not have been more serious - and therefore Palace aides decided to override their default position: that is when claims are made about members of the Royal Family, say nothing at all.

The well-worn Victorian-era mantra ‘never complain, never explain’ was adopted by the Queen Mother and, by and large, it has served the Royal Family well over the ups and downs during many decades of claims and allegations and leaks.

But every so often, circumstances arise in which the Palace is compelled to either complain or explain.

Prince Harry criticised the media focus on Meghan Markle after their relationship became public.. Credit: PA

A recent example of complaining would be Prince Harry’s angry statement in 2016 about his then-girlfriend Meghan Markle after newspaper reports about their relationship.

An example of explaining would be the Palace being forced to describe and apologise for what happened when the Duke of Edinburgh crashed his car with another vehicle in Sandringham earlier this year.

And now, the circumstances surrounding the Duke of York, his one time friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, and the allegations of under-age sex, have all contributed to another moment when Buckingham Palace feels the need to make a statement.

They’ve been here before.

The Duke of Edinburgh surrendered his driving licence after crashing into another car. Credit: PA

The photographs from 2010 of the Prince and Epstein in New York's Central Park were taken after Epstein had been convicted of sex with a minor and was therefore on the sex offenders’ register.

At the time the Duke was the UK’s Special Representative for Trade - a position from which he then resigned.

The video released to the Mail on Sunday at the weekend of the Prince at the door of Epstein’s apartment is claimed to have been taken during the same visit.

At the time, the Prince admitted that his visit to see Epstein was "an error of judgement".

Since Epstein’s re-arrest by the US authorities, one of his alleged victims, Virginia Roberts, claimed in court papers in Florida that she was forced to have sex with the Duke at the age of 17, which is under the legal age for consent in the state of Florida.

Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York. Credit: AP

Last weekend, Epstein’s suicide in prison was followed by the first statement from Buckingham Palace in which they "emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts".

The palace added that "any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue".

Now the new video has triggered a second statement in which the Palace says Prince Andrew is "appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged crimes".

Buckingham Palace issued its latest statement after new video footage emerged. Credit: PA

The Duke’s aides also add a further few words on the sex slavery allegations made about Epstein: "His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent."

Epstein will not face trial for the appalling crimes he was accused of committing.

But his alleged victims can continue to seek some form of justice for the wrongs they claim were committed.

What they do - and say - next, will determine whether this matter continues to be a problem for Prince Andrew.

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