Prince Andrew 'stands by his decision to give BBC interview' and wanted to address Jeffrey Epstein scandal 'with honesty and humility' Palace sources insist - despite 'car crash' TV chat being slammed as 'desperate, toe-curling bulls***' in huge backlash

  • 'Forensic' BBC Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew, 59, aired on Saturday  
  • Maintains he never met Virginia Roberts, despite a photograph of them together 
  • Eighth in line to throne has been heavily criticised over relationship with Epstein 
  • 'Sex slave' Virginia Roberts has claimed she spent time with Duke in March, 2001
  • Sources close to him insist he 'stands by his decision' to give the BBC interview

Prince Andrew 'stands by his decision' to give a BBC interview addressing the Jeffrey Epstein scandal sources insisted today.

The defiant message comes 24 hours after his TV chat with Emily Maitlis backfired spectacularly and was described as a 'PR disaster' and 'desperate, toe-curling bulls***.'

Sources close to the Duke of York said he wanted to address the issues head-on and did so with 'honesty and humility'. But his increasingly egregious remarks led to a fierce online backlash blasting the eighth in line to the throne.

The prince was lambasted for insisting he doesn't recall meeting Epstein 'sex slave' Virginia Roberts, and claimed to not have spent time with her at Tramp Nightclub in London on March 10, 2001, after which she claimed the pair first had sex. 

Prince Andrew 'stands by his decision' to give a BBC interview addressing the Jeffrey Epstein scandal sources insisted today. The defiant message comes 24 hours after he was slammed for the 'car crash' TV chat with Emily Maitlis (pictured left), described as a 'PR disaster'

Prince Andrew 'stands by his decision' to give a BBC interview addressing the Jeffrey Epstein scandal sources insisted today. The defiant message comes 24 hours after he was slammed for the 'car crash' TV chat with Emily Maitlis (pictured left), described as a 'PR disaster'

The infamous photograph of Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts has dogged him for years. It is alleged to have been taken in early 2001

The infamous photograph of Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts has dogged him for years. It is alleged to have been taken in early 2001

Morgan tweeted: 'This is one of the most astonishing interviews I've ever watched. Brilliant forensic dissection by @maitlis - desperate, toe-curling bulls*** from Prince Andrew. Why on earth did he do this? Insane'

Morgan tweeted: 'This is one of the most astonishing interviews I've ever watched. Brilliant forensic dissection by @maitlis - desperate, toe-curling bulls*** from Prince Andrew. Why on earth did he do this? Insane'

He denied he slept with her on three separate occasions, saying the alleged encounter in 2001 did not happen because he had taken daughter Princess Beatrice to Pizza Express in Woking for a party, and they spent the rest of the day together.    

The muddled explanations were widely condemned online, with Piers Morgan leading a barrage of comments branding the interview 'astonishing.'

The Good Morning Britain presenter, 54, heaped praise on Newsnight interrogator Maitlis's 'brilliant forensic dissection', but questioned why the Duke agreed to be grilled for an hour on his friendship with the paedophile billionaire, Epstein.

He tweeted: 'This is one of the most astonishing interviews I've ever watched. Brilliant forensic dissection by @maitlis - desperate, toe-curling bulls*** from Prince Andrew. Why on earth did he do this? Insane.' 

Others piled in on social media, with TV presenter Carol Vorderman tweeting: '#PrinceAndrew So I didn't speak to him for 4 years because it wasn't appropriate, but when he was released from prison for sex offences I didn't ring him..no.., I flew to America to tell him in person that I STILL wasn't going to talk to him...RUN THAT BY ME AGAIN.'

Rose McGowan, an actress and #MeToo movement figurehead, posted: 'Can Prince Andrew not remember Virginia Roberts, his accuser, because there were so many young girls? Am I hearing this right?'

BBC presenter Jeremy Vine said he was 'struggling with the Woking angle?'

The 'no holds barred' interview saw the Prince quizzed on his relationship with Epstein - and he again denied ever having sex with the financier's 'sex slave' Virginia Roberts.

The Duke, 59, faced a flurry of questions about his links to the paedophile, who was found dead aged 66 earlier this year in a New York prison cell while being held on sex trafficking charges.

Andrew maintained he does not recall meeting Miss Roberts and did not spend time with her at Tramp Nightclub in London on March 10, 2001, after which she claims the pair first had sex.

He denied he slept with her on three separate occasions, saying the encounter in 2001 did not happen because he had taken his daughter Princess Beatrice to Pizza Express in Woking for a party, and they spent the rest of the day together. 

But social media users were sceptical following the 9pm show on Saturday.

Women's Equality Party founder Catherine Mayer asked online if the Prince was 'too stupid to even pretend concern for Epstein's victims'.

Even some of those in favour of the royal family, such as Royal Central website editor Charlie Proctor, were not impressed.

'I expected a train wreck. That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad,' Mr Proctor tweeted.

Comedian Dom Joly also tweeted with a crashing theme, describing the interview as 'a worse car crash than getting a lift home from Prince Philip'.

Former diplomat Craig Murray, who was the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, was slightly less than diplomatic in his response to the royal's interview, saying he suspected the only grain of truth it contained was the comment that Andrew never pays for drinks.

Many social media users (pictured, their tweets) were sceptical following the 9pm show on Saturday

Many social media users (pictured, their tweets) were sceptical following the 9pm show on Saturday

Others on Twitter also weighed in, with one user writing: 'How about ''I'm sorry'' for associating with Epstein in the first place?

Craig Meighan wrote: 'The Prince Andrew excuse: ''I couldn't have done the sweaty molesting because I wasn't sweating that year'' is absolutely astonishingly bad for an adult human.' 

''I'm sorry for having an ongoing friendship with him knowing he is a convicted sex offender and now proven human trafficker?''

'How about EMPATHY for the victims? No remorse, compassion or reaction.' 

Another put: '#PrinceAndrew I am staggered that not once did he say he had empathy for Epstein's victims! Who advised him!!?'

A man wrote: 'As much as we're laughing at the Prince Andrew interview for the car crash it was, he should be answering these questions in court under oath!'

Another added: 'Who advised Prince Andrew to do this interview? Surely he's just better to give a statement under oath and be done with it. Until then it will never go away..'

One person agreed, writing: 'The court of public opinion is a noisy and disparate place, where Prince Andrew can and will be forgotten in less than a week. 

'A grilling by @maitlis should be the start, not the end. If HRH really has broken the law, he should be brought to real justice.'

A photograph apparently showing Andrew with his arm around then 17-year-old Miss Roberts, now Giuffre, in 2001 and with Epstein's friend Ghislaine Maxwell standing in the background, has been widely published.

Supporters of Andrew, however, have disputed its authenticity.

Jeffrey Epstein's police mugshot
In an image released by Newsnight yesterday Andrew looked terse and sombre as he spoke for the first time in a TV interview about his relationship with Epstein, who was seen with after he was jailed in the US for prostituting minors

Andrew (right) also again rejects the claim by one of Epstein's (left) victims, Virginia Roberts, that he had sex with her when she was 17 

Virginia Roberts (pictured in September) alleges she was coerced by paedophile US businessman Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the Duke, into having sex with Andrew on three occasions

Virginia Roberts (pictured in September) alleges she was coerced by paedophile US businessman Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the Duke, into having sex with Andrew on three occasions

The Duke of York said: 'I was with the children and I'd taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose sort of 4 or 5 in the afternoon.

'And then because the Duchess was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away the other one is there.

'I was on terminal leave at the time from the Royal Navy so therefore I was at home.'

Questioned why he remembers the evening so distinctly, Andrew said: 'Because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing for me to do.

'I've only been to Woking a couple of times and I remember it weirdly distinctly.'

Andrew insisted he was ‘at home with the children’ on the night Miss Roberts alleged she was nightclubbing and later having sex with him. Exploring this alibi, Maitliss pressed further and Andrew volunteered that he could remember taking his daughter Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking, Surrey, (pictured) at between 4pm and 5pm that afternoon

Andrew insisted he was 'at home with the children' on the night Miss Roberts alleged she was nightclubbing and later having sex with him. Exploring this alibi, Maitliss pressed further and Andrew volunteered that he could remember taking his daughter Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking, Surrey, (pictured) at between 4pm and 5pm that afternoon

Some on social media took a more jokey stance on the interview.

TV presenter Giles Coren wrote: 'Ask him what he ordered [from Woking Pizza Express].

'If he says 'a sloppy Giuseppe' you've got him. Because they didn't introduce that 'till 2006.'

Comedy writer Simon Blackwell, on the other hand, seemed convinced, saying - perhaps with his tongue in his cheek - that the Prince had 'drawn a line under the whole thing'. Given that Blackwell is best known for his work on The Thick Of It, he should know what spin lines do or don't work.

Comedian David Baddiel used some expressive language in his response to Andrew's interview, but also questioned his grammar when saying: 'That is what I would describe as me in that photo.'

Some Twitter users took a more jokey stance on the car crash interview aired on Saturday

Some Twitter users took a more jokey stance on the car crash interview aired on Saturday

Tweet of the night, though, might go to the Pizza Express account, about the chain suddenly going viral and being bombarded by messages to 'check Twitter now'.

Prince Andrew's revelation of having eaten at the pizza restaurant on a fateful night 18 years ago led to a spate of new online reviews for the eatery.

One reviewer wrote: 'Love this place. I had a cracking pizza here in 2001. I remember it was 2001 because it was very strange the guy next to me had an American Hot pizza with extra chillies... not a drop of sweat came off him. Very odd.' 

The sweating reference was a nod to Prince Andrew saying in his BBC interview that a claim he was perspiring heavily at a London nightclub was wrong as he had a medical condition at the time which meant he did not sweat.

Andrew said: 'There's a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don't sweat or I didn't sweat at the time.

'I didn't sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenalin in the Falkland's War when I was shot at and it was almost impossible for me to sweat.

'And it's only because I have done a number of things in the recent past that I am starting to be able to do that again. So I'm afraid to say that there's a medical condition that says that I didn't do it.'

He added: 'I've no recollection of ever meeting her, I'm almost, in fact I'm convinced that I was never in Tramps with her.

'There are a number of things that are wrong with that story, one of which is that I don't know where the bar is in Tramps. 

'I don't drink, I don't think I've ever bought a drink in Tramps whenever I was there.'

Prince Andrew did have some defenders.

Former wife Sarah Ferguson said before the show went to air: 'It is so rare to meet people that are able to speak from their hearts with honesty and pure real truth, that remain steadfast and strong to their beliefs.

'Andrew is a true and real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness and goodness.'

Sarah Ferguson tweeted out a series of pictures of the duke, defending him ahead of the bombshell interview

Sarah Ferguson tweeted out a series of pictures of the duke, defending him ahead of the bombshell interview

 

'I don't drink... or sweat': Prince Andrew denies ever having sex with Epstein 'sex slave' Virginia Roberts as he dismisses her description of night THAT photo 'was taken' because he was home after taking daughter Beatrice to a Pizza Express party

  • Duke of York answered questions from Emily Maitlis, 49, during hour long show
  • Eighth in line to throne has been heavily criticised over relationship with Epstein
  • 'Sex slave' Virginia Roberts has claimed she spent time with Duke in March, 2001 
  • But he denied the claims saying he went to Pizza Express with daughter Beatrice
  • He said sweating claims are wrong as 'it was almost impossible' for him to sweat 
  • Also refused to comment on whether he thought Roberts photograph was fake

by James Wood For Mailonlineand Ian Gallagherand Caroline Grahamand Charlotte Wace For The Mail On Sunday

Prince Andrew last night spoke publicly for the first time in a 'no holds barred' interview about his relationship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein - denying he ever had sex with the financier's 'sex slave' Virginia Roberts. 

Andrew maintained he does not recall meeting Miss Roberts and did not spend time with her at Tramp Nightclub in London on March 10 in 2001 after which she claims the pair first had sex.

The duke denied he slept with her on three separate occasions, saying the encounter in 2001 did not happen as he had taken his daughter Princess Beatrice to Pizza Express in Woking for a party, and they spent the rest of the day together. 

A photograph apparently showing Andrew with his arm around then 17-year-old Roberts, now Giuffre, that evening and with Epstein's friend Ghislaine Maxwell standing in the background, has been widely published. Supporters of Andrew, however, have disputed its authenticity. 

The Duke of York said: 'I was with the children and I'd taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose sort of 4 or 5 in the afternoon.

'And then because the Duchess was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away the other one is there.

'I was on terminal leave at the time from the Royal Navy so therefore I was at home.'

Questioned why he remembers the evening so distinctly, Andrew said: 'Because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing for me to do. 

'I've only been to Woking a couple of times and I remember it weirdly distinctly.'

Prince Andrew tonight told the BBC that when Epstein was a guest at Windsor Castle and at Sandringham in 2000 there was 'no indication' of wrongdoing

Prince Andrew tonight told the BBC that when Epstein was a guest at Windsor Castle and at Sandringham in 2000 there was 'no indication' of wrongdoing 

Speaking during the interview, he said the appeal of Epstein was that 'he had the most extraordinary ability to bring extraordinary people together'

Speaking during the interview, he said the appeal of Epstein was that 'he had the most extraordinary ability to bring extraordinary people together'

The Duke of York , speaking for the first time about his links to Jeffrey Epstein in an interview with BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis

The Duke of York , speaking for the first time about his links to Jeffrey Epstein in an interview with BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis 

Prince Andrew reveals he last met socialite Ghislaine Maxwell just months ago - despite 'cutting off all contact' with Jeffrey Epstein in 2010... but where IS she now? 

Maxwell has not been seen in public since a photograph emerged of her sitting outside an In’N’Out Burger restaurant in Los Angeles

Maxwell has not been seen in public since a photograph emerged of her sitting outside an In'N'Out Burger restaurant in Los Angeles

By Caroline Graham in Los Angeles for the Mail On Sunday and Henry Martin For MailOnline 

She has seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. But the importance of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell in unravelling the 'truth' about Prince Andrew's relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and her role in the whole sordid saga became even more apparent after last night's interview.

Time and again, the Prince invoked his friendship with Maxwell, 57, daughter of disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell, as the reason he came into paedophile Epstein's orbit.

Asked when he last saw Maxwell, Andrew said his last contact was 'earlier this year, funnily enough', when she 'was here doing some rally'.     

The BBC's Emily Maitlis said: 'So even though he had by then been arrested and was facing charges of sex trafficking?'

The Duke said no, clarifying that 'this was early spring', before Epstein's arrest in July. 

When asked if they discussed Epstein at all, Andrew said: 'No, actually funnily enough no not at all, there wasn't anything to discuss about him because he wasn't in the news, you know, it was just…we had moved on.'

He added: 'If there are questions that Ghislaine has to answer, that's her problem I'm afraid, I'm not in a position to be able to comment one way or the other.'

Andrew also told Maitlis he went to visit Epstein in 2010 at his New York mansion to tell him it 'was inappropriate for us to be seen together' and cut off their relationship following his conviction.  

He said his friendship with Maxwell began when she was at Oxford University – and it was she who introduced him to her then-boyfriend Epstein in 1999.

Maxwell fled to New York, some say virtually penniless, after the 1991 death of her father and friends say she widely credited Epstein with helping her cope with her 'overwhelming' grief.

But the relationship was more complicated. She used her impeccable social contacts, like her friendship with the Prince, to introduce Epstein, a gardener's son, to society. In return, she used the financier's millions to support a lavish lifestyle which included a home on Manhattan's Upper East Side, a wardrobe of designer clothes and helicopter lessons.

Andrew blamed Maxwell for bringing Epstein to Windsor Castle and Sandringham in 2000. 'Remember that it was his girlfriend (Maxwell) that was the key element in this,' the Prince told Maitlis. 'He was the… plus one.'

The Prince corrected previous reports that he threw a birthday party for Maxwell at Sandringham at which Epstein is believed to have met other members of the Royal Family including Prince Charles: 'It was a shooting weekend,' he said.

Of course, it was at Maxwell's Belgravia Mews house that Virginia Roberts Giuffre alleges Epstein first 'sex trafficked' her to the Prince when she was just 17. It is a charge the Prince has continuously and vehemently denied.

Last night, a source said: 'Ghislaine is the key to everything. She's the Queen Bee around which everything unfolded. She's pivotal to determining the truth.'

Maxwell, who has been accused of being Epstein's 'madam' – a charge she has denied – has not been seen in public since a photograph emerged of her sitting outside an In'N'Out Burger restaurant in Los Angeles in August. Reports soon emerged those images may have been 'faked' by her lawyer to disguise her whereabouts.

The ex-socialite has not been seen since although rumours have placed her in Brazil, France, the American mid-West and even the UK. 'No one knows where she is,' a lawyer for one of Epstein's victims said last night. 'She's done the greatest disappearing act known to man – or woman.'

Roberts has previously described their alleged time together in London in vivid detail, claiming that Andrew had been 'sweating' as they danced together in the London nightclub.  

But Andrew said: 'There's a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don't sweat or I didn't sweat at the time.

'I didn't sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenalin in the Falkland's War when I was shot at and it was almost impossible for me to sweat.

'And it's only because I have done a number of things in the recent past that I am starting to be able to do that again. So I'm afraid to say that there's a medical condition that says that I didn't do it.'

He added: 'I've no recollection of ever meeting her, I'm almost, in fact I'm convinced that I was never in Tramps with her.

'There are a number of things that are wrong with that story, one of which is that I don't know where the bar is in Tramps. 

'I don't drink, I don't think I've ever bought a drink in Tramps whenever I was there.'

Questioned about the photograph of him and Ms Roberts together, which friends of the Duke of York have said could have been faked, he said that public displays of affection are 'not something he would do' but refused to reveal whether he thought the image was doctored.

He said: 'Oh it's definitely me, I mean that's a picture of me. I don't believe it's a picture of me in London because when I go out in London I wear a suit and a tie. 

'That's what I would describe as my travelling clothes if I'm going to go overseas. There's plenty of photographs of me dressed in that sort of kit but not there.'

Sources close to Andrew have said there are questions over the veracity of the photo, amid claims the hand round his accuser's waist does 'not look right.' 

Again asked about the photograph, the Duke of York said: 'I'm terribly sorry but if I, as a member of the royal family, and I have a photograph taken and I take very, very few photographs, I am not one to, as it were, hug and public displays of affection are not something that I do. 

'So that's the best explanation I can give you and I'm afraid to say that I don't believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested.'

He added that the photograph appeared as though it had been taken upstairs in Ghislaine Maxwell's house, and said that was somewhere he never went - in another questioning remark about the image.

'Listen, I don't remember, I don't remember that photograph ever being taken,' he said.

'I don't remember going upstairs in the house because that photograph was taken upstairs.'

And referring to his hand in the photograph, he said: 'From the investigations that we've done, you can't prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph. 

'So it's very difficult to be able to prove it but I don't remember that photograph ever being taken.' 

Last night Virginia Roberts Giuffre – who claims she was forced to have sex with Andrew three times between 1999 and 2002 – was said to be 'furious' over the interview.

A source close to the now mother-of-three told The Mail on Sunday: 'The interview was totally lacking in empathy and he did not utter a word of remorse for any of Epstein's multitude of victims. How do you think that makes them feel? It is telling that the Prince is so out of touch that he tries to make the interview all about him.'   

Ms Roberts outlined her claims against Andrew in a world exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday in 2011. And it was these alleged encounters – fiercely and repeatedly denied by Andrew and ruled inadmissible by a US court in 2015 – that produced some of the most fierce questioning from Maitlis last night,

Asked if they had sex in 2001 at the London home of Ghislaine Mawell, then Epstein's girlfriend, the Prince replied: 'It didn't happen.' She went on to press him four more times on whether they had sex - or 'any kind of sexual contact.'

Andrew replied: 'I can absolutely categorically tell you that it never happened.' Elsewhere he is asked if he could have had sex with 'any young woman trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein in any of his residences' and issues a rambling response: 'If you're a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody. You have to... take some sort of positive action and therefore if you try to forget it's very difficult to try and forget a positive action and I do not remember anything.'

Virginia Giuffre did not immediately comment with sources saying she was 'taking her time to consult with her legal team' before making a public statement.

Prince Andrew is pictured with Epstein in Central Park in New York in February 2011

Prince Andrew is pictured with Epstein in Central Park in New York in February 2011

'One of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Roberts has made accusations against you,' Mrs Maitlis says, outlining the claims she had sex with the prince. Andrew said he had no recollection of meeting her

'One of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Roberts has made accusations against you,' Mrs Maitlis says, outlining the claims she had sex with the prince. Andrew said he had no recollection of meeting her 

The Duke of York answered questions from Emily Maitlis, 49, during the hour-long show

The Duke of York answered questions from Emily Maitlis, 49, during the hour-long show

The duke denied he slept with Mrs Giuffre on three separate occasions when questioned by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, saying one encounter in 2001 did not happen as he had taken his daughter Princess Beatrice (pictured in 2001) to Pizza Express in Woking for a party, and they spent the rest of the day together

The duke denied he slept with Mrs Giuffre on three separate occasions when questioned by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, saying one encounter in 2001 did not happen as he had taken his daughter Princess Beatrice (pictured in 2001) to Pizza Express in Woking for a party, and they spent the rest of the day together

Andrew insisted he was ‘at home with the children’ on the night Miss Roberts alleged she was nightclubbing and later having sex with him. Exploring this alibi, Maitliss pressed further and Andrew volunteered that he could remember taking his daughter Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking, Surrey, (pictured) at between 4pm and 5pm that afternoon

Andrew insisted he was 'at home with the children' on the night Miss Roberts alleged she was nightclubbing and later having sex with him. Exploring this alibi, Maitliss pressed further and Andrew volunteered that he could remember taking his daughter Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking, Surrey, (pictured) at between 4pm and 5pm that afternoon

During one exchange with the BBC's Emily Maitlis, the Queen's second son was asked if he felt any sense of guilt or shame over his friendship with the US financier, jailed for procuring an under-age girl for prostitution.

He replied: 'Do I regret that fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.'

The Newsnight presenter immediately challenged his use of the word 'unbecoming' to describe the actions of a child sex offender and the Duke apologised, saying: 'I'm being polite, I mean in the sense that he was a sex offender. 

'But no, was I right in having him as a friend? At the time, bearing in mind this was some years before he was accused of being a sex offender. 

The women who made bombshell Prince Andrew interview happen: How Newsnight producers including former barrister convinced the royal to talk 

When Newsnight producers first made overtures to the Palace about a possible interview almost a year ago, Andrew's knee-jerk response was that he didn't want 'to be shouted at for half an hour'.

One aide meanwhile thought he risked coming across as 'an entitled idiot'.

So it surprised many when, on Thursday, Andrew finally went toe-to-toe with Emily Maitlis in the middle of Buckingham Palace's South Drawing Room for an interview about his friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and the claims – which he has long denied – that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl.

Andrew voiced concerns but private secretary Amanda Thirsk talked him round

Andrew voiced concerns but private secretary Amanda Thirsk talked him round

It was his first public grilling on the subject, the interview of his life in fact, but he was on home turf at least, not in some harshly lit BBC studio.

This was the room that Queen Victoria commandeered the day after her coronation in 1838 for the Palace's first ball.

It was perhaps not the best setting for someone seeking to convey humility rather than entitlement, but in the end it was the cross-examination itself that would focus minds.

The Mail on Sunday has been told a similar voluntary sit-down with the FBI is highly unlikely, so after last night's broadcast – at least as far as Andrew is concerned – the matter is closed.

Credit is due to Newsnight for landing the interview, but in particular to Samantha McAlister, a former barrister turned TV producer. She is a former European debating champion and her silky persuasive skills were invaluable in negotiations with the Palace. While Andrew initially voiced concerns – at one point he said emphatically: 'No, we shouldn't do Newsnight' – his influential private secretary Amanda Thirsk was enthusiastic and, over time, talked him round.

One crucial factor was his charity work. As one senior aide put it: 'As a senior member of the Royal Family, the Duke of York supports a great many charities and initiatives. HRH does not wish unfounded allegations, nor a former association, to distract from his important work to support so many organisations.'

I don't there was anything wrong then, the problem was the fact that once he had been convicted I stayed with him and that's the bit that, as it were, 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.'

Andrew, 59, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and eighth in line to the throne, has been heavily criticised over his links to multimillionaire Epstein, who died in custody in the US in August. 

Speaking during the interview, he defended spending four days with Epstein after his release from jail in 2010 for soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution.

And said he did not regret his relationship with Epstein, saying: 'Now, still not and the reason being is that the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful. 

'He himself not, as it were, as close as you might think, we weren't that close. So therefore I mean yes I would go and stay in his house but that was because of his girlfriend, not because of him.'  

Defending his decision to stay with Epstein after his release from jail, he said: 'I went there with the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted, it was inappropriate for us to be seen together. 

'And I had a number of people counsel me in both directions, either to go and see him or not to go and see him and I took the judgement call that because this was serious and I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken's way of doing it.'

But asked why he decided to continue staying with a convicted sex offender, he said: 'It was a convenient place to stay. I mean I've gone through this in my mind so many times. 

'At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do. 

'But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgement was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that's just the way it is.' 

During his stay, Andrew was photographed with Epstein in Central Park in New York in February 2011. He denied the photograph was set up by Epstein to help with his public image.   

'Again, new information is coming out since his suicide has made us reappraise that walk in the park. We can't find any evidence or my staff and my people and I can't find any evidence to suggest that that was what he was doing,' he said.

'I mean you can look at it in so many different ways. The fact of the matter is that somebody very cleverly took that photograph, it wasn't as far as I remember nor do my security people remember, anybody being present or close because there were enough security around.'

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a girl under the age of 18 for prostitution and served 13 months in a US prison before being released on probation.

He was arrested in July on new federal charges that he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex, but was found dead in New York's high-security Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10 as he awaited trial.

He denied claims he was a 'party prince' and that that was the reason he hung around with Epstein, saying he's 'never really partied' and that after he got married he was 'very happy' and 'never really felt the need to go out and party.' 

The duke (pictured) said during the interview: 'I’m an engaging person, I want to be able to engage, I want to find out, I want to learn'

The duke (pictured) said during the interview: 'I'm an engaging person, I want to be able to engage, I want to find out, I want to learn'

Mrs Maitlis (pictured) asked Andrew about on occasion where he was invited as the 'guest of honour' to one of Epstein's parties

Mrs Maitlis (pictured) asked Andrew about on occasion where he was invited as the 'guest of honour' to one of Epstein's parties 

Virginia Roberts (pictured in September) alleges she was coerced by paedophile US businessman Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the Duke, into having sex with Andrew on three occasions

Virginia Roberts (pictured in September) alleges she was coerced by paedophile US businessman Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the Duke, into having sex with Andrew on three occasions

Jack Scarola, a leading member of Virginia Roberts’ legal team, told Mail Online he would like the duke to submit to an interview 'under oath' instead of giving statements to the media that carry 'little weight'

Jack Scarola, a leading member of Virginia Roberts' legal team, told Mail Online he would like the duke to submit to an interview 'under oath' instead of giving statements to the media that carry 'little weight'

Maitlis questioned how The Duke of York might not have noticed what was going on at Epstein's house, citing Virginia Roberts' legal team who have said: 'You could not spend time around Epstein and not know what was going on.'

But the Duke of York said: 'I live in an institution at Buckingham Palace which has members of staff walking around all the time and I don't wish to appear grand but there were a lot of people who were walking around Jeffrey Epstein's house. 

Prince Andrew admits spending FOUR DAYS at Jeffrey Epstein's House of Depravity in 2010 because it was a 'convenient place' to stay

Prince Andrew last night dismissed his four-day visit to paedophile Jeffrey Epstein's New York 'house of depravity' by describing it as a 'convenient' place to stay while he broke off their friendship in an 'honourable' way.

Speaking for the first time about the 2010 visit to the £60 million Manhattan home – just five months after the financier left jail following his conviction for child sex charges – the Duke of York confirmed he attended a dinner party there on December 2 before his infamous 'walk in the park' with the shamed US financier three days later.

He revealed that it was during that stroll through Central Park – captured in a picture that went around the world, haunting him ever since – that he finally broke off their 11-year friendship.

When asked by Emily Maitlis why he stayed with a convicted sex offender, Andrew replied: 'Ever since this has happened and since this has become, as it were, public knowledge that I was there, I've questioned myself as to why did I go and what was I doing and was it the right thing to do?

'I went there with the sole purpose of saying to him that because he had been convicted it was inappropriate for us to be seen together.

'I had a number of people counsel me in both directions, either to go and see him or not to go and see him and I took the judgment call that because this was serious and I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken's way of doing it I had to go and see him and talk to him.'

He said the photograph in the park was taken when he broke the news to Epstein they could no longer be friends.

'We had an opportunity to go for a walk in the park and that was the conversation coincidentally that was photographed, which was when I said to him, I said, 'Look, because of what has happened I don't think it is appropriate that we should remain in contact' and by mutual agreement during that walk in the park we decided that we would part company and I left, I think it was the next day [in fact it was two days later] and I never had any contact with him from that day forward.'

Incredibly, the Prince cited the reason for breaking off the friendship as the 'attendant scrutiny' he was under – rather than the fact Epstein had pleaded guilty and served time for child sex offences.

Andrew said Epstein's reaction to his decision was 'understanding', adding: 'He didn't go into any great depth in the conversation… except to say that he'd accepted… a plea bargain, he'd served his time and he was carrying on with his life, if you see what I mean.' 

'And I said, 'Yes but I'm afraid to say that's as maybe but with all the attendant scrutiny on me then I don't think it's a wise thing to do.' ' 

'As far as I was aware, they were staff, they were people that were working for him, doing things.'

Probed on whether he saw underage girls at Epstein's house, he said: 'You would notice if there were hundreds of underage girls in Jeffrey's house, wasn't there, not when I was there. 

'Now he may have changed his behaviour patterns in order for that not to be obvious to me. You're asking me to speculate on things that I just don't know about.'

Asked why he first became friends with Epstein, Andrew said the appeal of Epstein was that 'he had the most extraordinary ability to bring extraordinary people together'.

He said: 'I mean I don't go into a friendship looking for the wrong thing, if you understand what I mean. 

'I'm an engaging person, I want to be able to engage, I want to find out, I want to learn.

'You have to remember that I was transitioning out of the Navy at the time and in the transition I wanted to find out more about what was going on because in the Navy it's a pretty isolated business because you're out at sea the whole time and I was going to become the special representative for international trade and investment.'

Andrew's friendship with Epstein goes back to at least 1999. In 2000 the financier and his ex-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, were invited by Andrew to a party at Windsor Castle thrown by the Queen.

Miss Maxwell, also a friend of Andrew, has been accused by some of Epstein's victims of being his 'procurer', a charge she denies.

Questioned why Epstein was a guest at Windsor Castle and at Sandringham in 2000, Mailtlis probed: 'He was brought right into the heart of the royal family at your invitation.'

But Andrew responded: 'But certainly at my invitation, not at the royal family's invitation but remember that it was his girlfriend that was the key element in this. 

'He was the, as it were, plus one, to some extent in that aspect.'

Asked when his last contact was with Ghislaine Maxwell, he revealed the two had met earlier this year, but added that it was before Epstein was arrested on new federal charges that he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex.

He revealed the two didn't discuss Epstein at all, saying: 'No, actually funnily enough no not at all, there wasn't anything to discuss about him because he wasn't in the news, you know, it was just... we had moved on.'

Towards the end of the interview, Maitlis asked the Duke of York whether he would be prepared to testify or give a statement under oath about Epstein and the accusations levelled against him. 

But he was non-committal on the issue, saying: 'Well I'm like everybody else and I will have to take all the legal advice that there was before I was to do that sort of thing.

'But if push came to shove and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty bound to do so.'

Told it could help provide closure, he said: 'If there was in the right circumstances, yes I would because I think there's just as much closure for me as there is for everybody else and undoubtedly some very strange and unpleasant activities have been going on.

'I'm afraid to say that I'm not the person who can shed light on it for a number of reasons, one of which is that I wasn't there long enough.'

Prince Andrew 'stands by his decision to give BBC interview'

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