Prince Andrew will be sidelined from royal duties and kept away from the public eye “for the foreseeable future” amid the growing scrutiny over his friendship with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The Duke of York issued a statement early Thursday morning (Australian time) confirming the palace decision in the face of what he described as “a major disruption” to the royal family and his charity work.
The prince has been heavily criticised over his performance in a BBC interview last weekend in which he failed to convey any sympathy for Epstein’s victims.
In his new comments, Andrew says he “deeply sympathises” with alleged victims and hopes they can “rebuild their lives”.
“His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure,” his statement reads.
He confirmed he would “of course” help authorities with their ongoing probe into the convicted sex offender.
There had been speculation over the future of Prince Andrew’s public responsibilities, amid revelations on Wednesday that his official diary appeared unusually empty.
But the Queen, who celebrated 72 years of marriage to Prince Philip on Wednesday, was calling for the family to display a united front despite the ructions.
“It’s the Queen’s modus operandi to stick together in times of trouble,” the monarch’s biographer Sarah Gristwood told Vanity Fair.
“She won’t have any breaking of the ranks.
“That said, this must be stretching it, because what he’s done is the least welcome thing anyone could do to their mother, especially at the age of 93.”
Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson fulsomely supported the “giant of a principled man” on Instagram, and his princess daughters Beatrice and Eugenie are said to be standing behind their father.
There are questions about how Andrew’s Epstein links will affect Beatrice’s wedding next year, and Eugenie is said privately to be “very worried” the reputation of her anti-slavery charity could be damaged.
The British media had this week called for Andrew to withdraw from official duties as the FBI investigation into Epstein’s activities continues.
“The public doesn’t want to fund the friend of a pedophile,” said The Telegraph.
Veteran Daily Mail royals reporter Andrew Kay says the Duke of York’s situation is “far worse” than past royal scandals because it involves criminal behaviour.
“I’ve never seen any royal shoot themselves in the foot as spectacularly as Andrew,” Kay said.
The family is still out on the hustings – Charles and Camilla meeting NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Harry presenting awards – but has said nothing about calls for one of its senior members to face FBI questioning.
The Queen would have signed off on Andrew doing the 49-minute Newsnight sitdown, and mother and son were reportedly together at Balmoral when news broke of Epstein’s suicide in a New York prison in August.
He spoke with the Queen then, denying allegations he had sex three ties with then 17-year-old Virginia Roberts, now Giuffre, in 2001.
“As his mother, she believed him, and she still does,” said a source close to the Queen.
In the face of the Andrew controversy, the Windsors are displaying their “herd instinct”, said Kay: “When their credibility is called into question, their first strategy is to stand by the family, and their natural instinct is to believe each other.”
Despite or because of his dreadful BBC showing, Andrew “hasn’t drawn a line” under rumours he may do another interview.
“He wants the chance to put right the things he didn’t say,” a source said.
Meanwhile, a source who was with the duke in New York when he was accused of sleeping with Ms Giuffre in April 2001 has told the Telegraph there were possible gaps in his itinerary.
Andrew told the BBC his busy schedule would have meant a sexual encounter with Ms Giuffre could not have happened, but the source said he had “hours unaccompanied”.
He flew to New York on April 9, with the court circular listing no official engagements for that day.
On the same day, Epstein’s private jet carrying a party including Ms Giuffre landed at a small airport 30 minutes’ drive from Epstein’s Manhattan home.
That information came from flight logs contained in US court documents made public this year.
After a three-day tour that ended in Boston, Andrew’s entourage flew to London while the duke headed back to New York with his security detail, according to the Telegraph.
The newspaper’s source could not confirm the duke’s whereabouts for the full three days.
“I’ve no idea,” said the source when asked if the duke might have visited Epstein.
The source said while it was impossible to account for the Duke’s activities in New York, it was “inconceivable” he was involved in sexual relations with Ms Giuffre.