Prince Andrew forced to sack most senior member of staff after withdrawal from public duties

Prince Andrew has been forced to sack his most senior member of staff as his withdrawal from royal life affects those close to him at Buckingham Palace.

His Private Secretary, Amanda Thirsk, who was fiercely loyal to the Duke of York for many years, will leave the Royal Household.

She was in charge of his office and Ms Thirsk was also the Prince's closest adviser and confidante.

But she was the member of his team who organised the BBC Newsnight interview which ultimately cost Prince Andrew's his royal role.

Amanda Thirsk chose Newsnight because she didn’t want to be accused of trying to hide behind a 'soft' broadcast interview.

She told the BBC producers that there would be no 'no-go' areas for the interviewer so the Prince would face a full and frank exchange.

Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Credit: PA

Ms Thirsk had hoped that viewers would be left with a clear and unambiguous denial from the duke that he'd known anything about Jeffrey Epstein's activities - and a similarly clear and unambiguous denial of the claims by Ms Roberts that she had been trafficked to the prince by Jeffrey Epstein for sex.

But in focusing so heavily on his version of events, Prince Andrew forgot to express sympathy for Epstein's victims and also made the serious error of saying that he did not regret his one-time friendship with Epstein (instead he said it had be 'useful').

Thirsk, a Cambridge graduate previously had experienced a career in the City before she joined the Duke of York's office.

She was part of the successful team behind the duke's Pitch at Palace initiative - which connects entrepreneurs with investors at events hosted by the Duke of York in St James' Palace.

Prince Andrew pictured on Thursday for the first time since his BBC interview. Credit: PA

Despite the widespread criticism of recent days, the Pitch project has created six thousand jobs and generated a billion pounds worth of economic investment.

And its sponsors want it to continue.

Buckingham Palace confirmed this week that Prince Andrew will continue to have some involvement with his Pitch at Palace project but courtiers insisted it would be carried out in a 'private capacity' and outside the remit of the Royal Family.

Quite what to do about the name, Pitch at 'Palace', will be among the many decisions the duke will now have to make.

It's thought Ms Thirsk might work on the scheme with the duke and it will be funded from the Queen's private income rather than from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant.

The prince will not return to royal duties until the victims of Jeffrey Epstein have reached a legal conclusion and until he has been cleared of any wrongdoing.