Born into the public eye and said to be the Queen’s ‘favourite’ child, Prince Andrew has remained firmly out of public view for much of the last two years.
Plagued by questions over his long friendship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and claims of sexual involvement with underage girls, he was forced to step back from public duties ‘for the forseeable future’ in late 2019.
And yesterday’s news that Virginia Roberts, the prominent Epstein accuser, had filed a civil suit against him for alleged ‘sexual assault and battery’ while she was just 17 puts any return further out of reach.
But despite removing himself from social settings and letting the rest of the firm pick up his commitments, the accusations levelled against him refuse to go away.
Plagued by questions over his long friendship with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and claims of sexual involvement with underage girls, Prince Andrew has been forced to step back from public duties ‘for the forseeable future’. Pictured: Andrew out driving in Windsor in July
It was reported that as of May, 47 charities had pulled back from their association with the Duke or removed him as their patron.
His own [email protected] mentoring network has removed the 61-year-old’s name from its website while it ‘reassess its future direction’.
And there is pressure from the US for Andrew to speak to FBI investigators after his friend Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested on charges of sex trafficking.
Andrew has always strongly denied any wrongdoing and claimed he has never even met Roberts, now a mother-of-three living in Australia who goes by her married name, Virginia Giuffre.
His fall from grace came in the disastrous November 2019 Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis, in which Andrew believed he could set the record straight regarding his involvement with Epstein.
But as Maitlis probed his answers, the Duke made a string of stunning comments that left viewers shocked.
The Duke of York remains holed up on his mother’s Windsor estate, leaving the safety of Royal Lodge occasionally for horse rides or to go for a drive in his £200,000 Bentley
Asked about the claims made by Viriginia Roberts, Andrew claimed he could not have had sex with Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex slave Virginia Roberts in 2001 because he was out with his daughter at Pizza Express in Woking.
He also said a medical condition after being shot at during the Falklands War left him ‘unable to sweat’ because Miss Roberts, who was 17 at the time, claimed that they danced together and he had been ‘sweating profusely’.
Controversially he said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein because of ‘the opportunities I was given to learn’ from him about trade and business – and showed no sympathy for his victims.
He also revealed he believed he been acting ‘honourably’ in flying to New York to tell Epstein personally that he could no longer have anything to do with him, although admitted that ‘in hindsight’ this had been a mistake.
The Duke of York has always vehemently denied all charges made by Virginia Roberts
It was shortly after the interview aired that the Queen was effectively forced to sack Andrew from his senior royal duties to avoid causing more public backlash.
Recently however, the Prince did have a slight reprieve, which came when he spoke directly to television cameras following the announcement of his father Prince Philip’s death, his first time since the Newsnight interview.
Appearing mournful and also placable, he stood and discussed how the Queen had been ‘incredibly stoic’ following the Duke of Edinburgh’s death and was ‘feeling it more than anyone’.
It had been a rare opportunity for Andrew to show his empathetic side publicly, and it was reported that he was the first to rush to Windsor Castle to be at his mother’s side.
Days later Andrew was sat next to the Queen at his father’s funeral and has continued to make regular visits to see her since.
The Prince did have a slight reprieve, which came when he spoke directly to television cameras following the announcement of his father Prince Philip’s death, his first time since the Newsnight interview
His efforts to be there for his mother has prompted speculation Andrew is attempting to ‘rehabilitate’ himself after stepping down from royal duties following the Newsnight disaster.
Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told MailOnline that Andrew would ‘obviously like to be rehabilitated’, but must first face the daunting task of answering FBI questions on his links to Epstein.
While this could be the most isolated Andrew has been, he appears to have an unlikely companion to work through this ordeal.
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, who is a lodger at her ex-husband’s home, has said she is ‘100 per cent’ certain that Andrew is telling the truth about his part in the scandal surrounding convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
She told the Financial Times: ‘I want him [Andrew] to come through this. I want him to win.’
When asked why she was sure of his probity, she replied: ‘No question. I know everything about him. I think he is an extraordinary person.’
The Duchess said she and Andrew, who split in 1997, were ‘the happiest divorced couple in the world’, living under the same roof at Royal Lodge, Windsor, but with their own rooms.
‘We support each other like pillars of strengths,’ she added.