Prince Andrew, eighth in line to the British throne, made startling claims in a sensational interview broadcast on BBC on Saturday. The tallest of the claims that Andrew made was not that he did not have sex with Virginia Roberts, but that he did not meet her in London in 2001 and that the photo of them together wasn't real.
When Prince Andrew, who is described as the favourite child of Queen Elizabeth, sat down with Emily Maitlis for BBC's Newsnight, big revelations were expected. The decorated Falklands war hero appeared on TV for a full length grilling after he was caught in the damaging sex scandal surrounding Jeffrey Epstein.
US financier Epstein died in prison in August after he was exposed as a pedophile. Andrew was one of the most high-profile people in Epstein's inner circle. The UK royal playboy, whose marriage with Sarah Ferguson in the 1980s had hogged international limelight, soon found himself sinking in the mess surrounding Epstein.
'Did not have sex with Virginia Roberts'
However, on Saturday, Andrew made categorical claims that he did not have sex with the underage girls Epstein had snared and offered up for his inner circle. Andrew emphatically claimed that he did not sleep with Virginia Roberts when she was only 17. Roberts had claimed that he met Andrew at Tramp nightclub in London on 10 March 2001 and that they had sex at British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell's Belgravia house that night.
Andrew denied the claim, saying he was with children at that time. "I was with the children and I'd taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose four or five in the afternoon. And then because the duchess [Sarah Ferguson] was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away the other is there," the prince said.
Andrew, whose royal title is Duke of York, said he regretted the deep friendship he had with Epstein but said he did not sleep with any of the women in the disgraced financier's network. However, Andrew confirmed that he had stayed at multiple luxury properties owned by Epstein and flown on Epstein's notorious 'Lolita Express' jetliner. He said the Epstein residences he stayed in included the financier's private island, his home in Palm Beach and the New York mansion.
Party after Epstein's release from jail
In a disastrous, yet brave admission of his deep linkages with Epstein, Andrew said he had attended a dinner party held to celebrate the release of the pedophile sex offender from the Florida jail. Epstein had been imprisoned for 13 months on charges of procuring an underage girl for prostitution.
"Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes," the prince said. But he also admitted that Epstein had been a guest at Windsor and Sandringham palaces. He also admitted that he had stayed at Epstein's New York mansion after the financier had been convicted as a sex offender.
"It was a convenient place to stay... At the end of the day, with the benefit of all the hindsight 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 judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that is just the way it is," Andew said.