Advertisement

Was Prince Andrew right to face the cameras?

The reaction to Prince Andrew's interview has been negative. Credit: BBC Newsnight

If you were to look at the reaction to Saturday’s hour-long Prince Andrew programme, you’d discover it is almost universally negative.

But I’m struggling to imagine a version of the Duke of York’s interview that would have been well-received.

He sat down with an experienced television interviewer for 45 minutes and gave her permission to ask him about his sex life, about his former friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and allegations from one of Epstein’s victims that she was trafficked to Prince Andrew for sex.

Would it ever have been a comfortable watch?

Of course not.

But the Palace insists they had no choice.

The claims made by Virginia Roberts-Giuffre were not going away and the previous written statements from the Prince had failed to put a lid on the story.

The purpose of inviting the Newsnight team into Buckingham Palace was to counter the allegations on camera in an unscripted interview where no question was off-limits.

To that end, Prince Andrew has now made his categorical denials on television and spoken of not being at the house on the night in question, being at Pizza Express with one of his daughters, suggested the photograph of him and Virginia Roberts could have been doctored, said he never went upstairs in the house where it’s alleged he had sex, and so on.

If, however, the purpose of the interview was to make the story go away, it’s clearly failed.

There are now more questions for the Prince.

Prince Andrew did not say he regretted his friendship with Epstein (right). Credit: PA

Because he had the opportunity in this interview to express his regret for his friendship with Epstein, to say he wishes he’d never met him, to describe him in the kind of language that is befitting of a sex offender who is accused of trafficking many young women and girls.

But prince Andrew chose not to.

Instead, Prince Andrew said that Epstein was “useful” to him as a business leader at a time when the royal was transitioning out of the Navy – so he didn’t regret their friendship.

That’s been widely interpreted as a mistake.

And what of the victims?

There are many women who claimed they were abused and trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein, only one has made allegations about Prince Andrew.

But there was no significant expression of sympathy for their plight during the extended interview.

OK, the Prince was never asked directly for his thoughts on the victims, perhaps he should have been, but nor did Andrew work it into any of his answers.

Given the Duke of York is not considered to be the most well-liked and relatable members of the Royal Family, the negative reaction in the newspapers and on social media should not come as a surprise.

But whatever the fallout, Buckingham Palace insists they had no option.

At some point they were going to have to do an interview on camera given everything that has been claimed by the Prince’s accuser.

It was always going to be a high-risk roll of the dice – and the dice, on first contact, has landed in an unfavourable way for the Prince – but the dice has not yet settled.