A royal source said Prince Andrew’s disastrous performance had made it “somewhat more likely” that he will be sidelined as a frontline member of the royal family once his brother accedes to the throne.
As the interview continued to generate headlines, the duke, who had hoped his Newsnight appearance would draw a line under the controversy about his decade-long friendship with Epstein, was said yesterday to have told friends that he regretted not expressing sympathy for the financier’s victims.
The widespread criticism of the duke’s “excruciating” attempted defence and the subsequent demands from US lawyers representing Epstein’s victims that he now give evidence under oath have given added impetus to suggestions that Prince Andrew will find himself with a lower profile in the coming years. The duke has in recent years sought to carve out a role as a champion of business with his [email protected] scheme to encourage young entrepreneurs.
But the enlivened controversy over Epstein now threatens to overshadow Prince Andrew’s projects.
It emerged last night that the accountancy giant KPMG has decided not to renew its sponsorship of the [email protected] scheme. Buckingham Palace said the contract had ended last month.
Prince Charles, who is said to have considered the BBC interview as “misguided”, is widely believed to have clashed in the past with his brother over the public role of his family and was already planning a wide-ranging review of the system of working royals.
One senior source said: “There is a feeling that the events of the weekend make it somewhat more likely that the Prince of Wales will decide that his plans for a slimmed down monarchy once he succeeds [to the throne] don’t encompass the Duke of York.
“It is not a move that the Queen would be likely to make. But it is no secret that the duke has wanted a higher profile for his family.
“The Newsnight interview has certainly put that process in reverse, perhaps terminally.”
The apparent desire of Prince Andrew to chart his own PR course, alongside the Duke of Sussex’s decision last month to publicly confront parts of the tabloid press over its coverage of his wife, prompted the BBC’s royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, to suggest that the Queen no longer has “strong central control” of the Windsor clan. Mr Witchell said: “The Queen was informed but she is 93 years old now, and she is not exercising the strong control she had, if she ever did. There is now a lack of strong central control. We have had two episodes within just a couple of months, of senior members of the royal family doing it their way.”
The extent to which Prince Andrew has failed in his desire for the Newsnight interview to draw a line under what one aide described as “the sniping and the commentary” was underlined yesterday when palace sources were forced to deny a claim from a former Downing Street adviser that the duke used a racially offensive term in a meeting he attended at Buckingham Palace in 2012.
Rohan Silva, a former aide to David Cameron, said the prince had responded to a question about whether the Whitehall department responsible for trade could be doing a better job by saying: “Well, If you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile.”
Palace sources have categorically denied Prince Andrew used the word, saying: “the duke did not say that”.