Prince Andrew answered questions for the first time about his links to the disgraced financier in a special Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis, conducted at Buckingham Palace, which will be broadcast on BBC2 tonight.
Maitlis asked the Duke why he continued his relationship with Epstein, who took his own life while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, after the businessman’s conviction for soliciting underage sex.
Stumbling, the Duke replied: “I stayed with him and that’s … the bit 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.”
Epstein was found hanged in his cell on 10 August in New York. One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts – now Virginia Giuffre – said she was forced to have sex with the duke three times between 1999 and 2002, in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein, when she was 17. At that time she was underage according to Florida state’s law.
Asked directly about the claim that he had sex with Ms Giuffre in a Belgravia house belonging to the socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, the Duke said: “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.” Pressed by Maitlis, who asks “you don’t remember meeting her?”, the Duke says: “No.”
The Prince has been embarrassed by a widely reproduced photograph of him with his arm wrapped around the waist of Ms Giuffre. At one point his friends suggested the image had been doctored.
Prince Andrew, named in 2015 court papers as part of a US civil case against Epstein, has denied claims of sexual impropriety with underage girls. He maintained that he had no prior knowledge of the financier’s behaviour.
However, further claims that he was present during orgies on Epstein’s private island, along with Ms Giuffre’s public accusations against the Prince, further damaged the duke’s reputation.
The interview, which was recorded at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, represents a high-stakes strategy for the duke, who has come under increasing pressure to explain his association with Epstein. The Prince was not permitted to vet the questions, the BBC indicated, in the latest in a series of TV interviews delivered by embattled royals seeking to burnish their image.
More than 20 million viewers watched Diana, Princess of Wales, give her explosive Panorama interview to BBC journalist Martin Bashir in 1995.
Diana’s interview was said to be the model for the Duchess of Sussex’s emotional heart-to-heart with ITV’s Tom Bradby last month about the impact of press intrusion on her life with Prince Harry and their son, Archie.
‘Prince Andrew and the Epstein Scandal, The Newsnight Interview’ will air at 9pm on BBC2 tonight.