In an unprecedented and considerably ill-advised interview, on Sunday 16thNovember, Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, attempted to explain his connection with the convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. The duke’s appearance in the News Night’s special has since been widely criticised and has cost the Duke the final remains of his reputation.
Epstein was first investigated for several allegations of sexual misconduct in 2005. In 2008, Epstein accepted a plea deal, admitting to soliciting underaged girls, receiving an 18-month sentence. In the historic interview, Prince Andrew attempted to distance himself from Epstein, claiming that it was a ‘considerable stretch’ to say they were close friends. He accredited his acquaintance with Epstein’ to his friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s girlfriend at the time, who he had been friends with since University. Despite claiming not to be close, the Duke then contradicted himself, claiming throughout the interview that he had stayed in many of Epstein’s residences, including his private island and saw him a few times a year. Appearing to almost relish in his account of the past, Prince Andrew recalled the usefulness of his relationship with the convicted sex offender, as he had an ability to bring extraordinary people together.
The predominant excuse of this relationship during the interview was an unrealistic claim to ignorance of Epstein’s actions. In July 2006, Epstein and Maxwell were invited to Windsor to attend the 18th birthday party of Princess Beatrice, in spite of an existing arrest warrant for Epstein from May that year. The Duke unconvincingly claimed ignorance of this warrant. Considering the connections, security and preparation the monarchy, it is inconceivable that the arrest warrant for such a well-known figure such as Epstein was not brought to the Duke’s attention.
Despite this attempt at undermining their close relationship, it was only a few months after Epstein’s release that the Duke decided to visit Epstein in New York in December 2010. He claimed that the sole purpose of this visit was to inform Epstein that it was inappropriate for them to be seen together. However, Prince Andrew stayed in Epstein’s house for four days as it was a “convenient place to stay”. This reproachable excuse of a reason to stay at a convicted sex offender’s house, the Duke put down to his “tendency to be too honourable”. It seems that for the entirety of this interview the Duke failed to grasp the abhorrent nature of his continued relationship with Epstein, refusing to show any regret, instead suggesting that Epstein was a valuable connection.
Recently, Prince Andrew has also had sexual allegations put against him. One of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Roberts, claimed under oath that she was forced into sexual relations with the Prince on three separate occasions: once whilst she was underage. Prince Andrew continued to deny these allegations unconvincingly in his interview with Emily Maitlis. In support of her claims, Roberts released a photograph of her and Prince Andrew in an embrace.
The Duke denied ever meeting Roberts and used several excuses to convey the reasons why he could never have danced with her in a club, including the fact he doesn’t drink, sweat, or hug. The excuse that has been the source of the most ridicule been the account of his memorable visit to Pizza Express, that he can remember acutely almost twenty-years after the event. The implausible excuses continued with the claim that although the photograph was obviously him, it may have not been his hand on Robert’s waist.
The interview has created a media storm that the Duke has been unable to escape. Several of the businesses associated with the Duke have threatened to remove charitable funding. This, amongst increasing pressure from Epstein’s victims to provide a statement to the US authorities, has meant that Prince Andrew is stepping back from public duties for the foreseeable future.
Prince Andrew’s lack of empathy towards Epstein’s victims, failing to even sympathise, shows his lack of understanding of the significance of this situation outside of his own reputation. His suggestion that Epstein’s actions were merely unbecoming is an insult to the suffering of his victims and ultimately conveys Prince Andrew’s privileged outlook on the situation.