Prince Andrew was very humble and candid when he spoke about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein in a new ”no holds barred” television interview.
The allegations surrounding Prince Andrew and his relationship with the convicted sex offender have been swirling for years but they have become more acute in the months since Epstein’s death in the summer.
The Queen’s second son has issued statements this year denying accusations that he’d had sex with underage girls, but now the Duke of York has decided to sit down and talk about all of it in front of TV cameras.
The decision to speak about something so personal and so controversial is highly unusual for a member of the Royal Family. But it was conducted with the knowledge and the approval of his mother, the Queen.
The duke sat down with the TV crew on Thursday at Buckingham Palace; the interview with the BBC’s Newsnight will air this weekend.
In the interview, which those in the room say is moving, honest and captivating, Andrew says he has "no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever" when asked about one of his accusers.
He also shows regret for not ending his friendship with Epstein sooner: "I kick myself for on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family and we try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that."
The duke felt it was time for people to hear his side of the story: the extent of his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein; the decision to see Epstein in New York after he’d been convicted of procuring for prostitution an underage girl; the allegations from his accuser, Virginia Roberts-Giuffre, that she had been forced to sleep with him; whether her claims are consistent and believable; and what the Prince knew or didn’t know about Jeffrey Epstein and his criminal behaviour towards young women and girls.
That’s a lot of sensitive ground to cover, and the interviewer, Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, didn’t hold back.
The questions were not agreed in advance and no part of the story was off limits.
- ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship says the move is surprising given the royals' usual "never explain, never complain" stance
I understand Prince Andrew will say that he went to New York in 2010 to tell Epstein to his face that he was ending their friendship.
He also talks about the effect the allegations have had on his work and his family.
The Duke of York believes Epstein had used him as a “trophy friend”.
This interview is what the Prince has needed to do for some time because his previously written statements – which called the allegations "false and without any foundation" and “categorically untrue” - failed to silence his accusers or to put an end to the story.
How Ms Roberts Giuffre responds will shape where this story goes next.
She is one of 16 women who say they were abused by Epstein, and she has previously claimed in court papers that she was forced to have sex with Andrew as a 17-year-old.
But those allegations, which Andrew has strenuously denied, were previously thrown out of court by a judge who said they were "immaterial and impertinent".
Epstein was found dead in his prison cell in New York in August where he was being held on sex trafficking charges.
“I have never seen a member of the Royal Family speak like that before” says a Palace source.
This interview will be as fascinating as it is groundbreaking.