LONDON — Britain’s Prince Andrew insisted he has “no recollection” of meeting a woman who has accused him of having sexual encounters with her when she was 17 at the behest of the now deceased, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
In an interview conducted at Buckingham Palace with the BBC Newsnight, to be aired Saturday evening, the third child of Queen Elizabeth II said he had “no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever,” when asked about Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre.
Andrew’s close relationship with Epstein, who committed suicide in a New York jail cell in August, has deeply embarrassed Britain’s royal family. Until now, Andrew — the Duke of York — and the royal family have only reluctantly addressed the charges in terse statements issued from the palace.
Short excerpts of the prince’s full one-hour interview with the BBC were released early.
Emily Maitlis, the presenter who did the interview, said that the BBC was in talks with the palace for almost a year trying to secure the interview. She said that nothing was off limits. The duke, she said, had to get “approval from the highest levels — we now understand that was the queen. She gave sign off either late Monday or very early on Tuesday,” she said.
Andrew told the broadcaster he failed to live up to the high standards of the royal family by staying at Epstein’s mansion in New York City in 2010, when Epstein was already a registered sex offender.
The senior royal’s friendship with Epstein was thrown back into the spotlight this summer after court documents were released in a related defamation case.
In those documents, Giuffre accused Andrew of having sex with her three times, in London, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She said she was paid by Epstein for those encounters.
Giuffre claimed that in 2001, she dined with the prince, danced with him at a nightclub and had sex with him at the home of a friend of the prince, in the Belgravia neighborhood in London.
Giuffre has produced a photograph of Prince Andrew, who is smiling with his arm around her bare waist.
In the background is Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend who accusers say served as his enabler, procuring teens and young women to give massages to Epstein that became sexual. It was unclear if the photograph was discussed during the interview.
Andrew, the brother of Prince Charles and eighth in line to the British throne, told the BBC that he regrets staying at Epstein’s New York mansion after the financier had been convicted in Florida for two charges of felony prostitution.
Remaining friends with Epstein and staying at his home after his release from prison was something “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.”
Saturday’s newspaper front pages in Britain were blazing with headlines about the scandal. “ANDREW: I LET QUEEN DOWN,” was from the Daily Mail.
This summer, British newspapers published video footage taken in 2010 of Andrew peering out from behind a large door at Epstein’s house in New York City and waving goodbye to a woman. Epstein had been convicted in 2008 for child sex offenses.
When pressed on why he was at Epstein’s mansion, Andrew 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 honorable and right thing to do, and I admit fully that my judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable, but that’s just the way it is,” he said.
In a previous statement, Andrew said he met Epstein in 1999 and saw him “infrequently,” saying that meant “probably no more than only once or twice a year.”
A private investigator has told the press that Epstein had an address book that contained more than a dozen telephone numbers for Prince Andrew.
Sarah Ferguson, Andrew’s ex-wife with whom he remains on good terms, came to his defense before the broadcast. She tweeted: “Andrew is a true+real gentleman and is stoically steadfast to not only his duty but also his kindness + goodness.” She, too, has been criticized for her links to Epstein, who gave her nearly $19,000 to help pay her debts.
BBC’s royal correspondent, Jonny Dymond, wrote on Saturday, “There is of course a lot more to come — so far we’ve had two short excerpts from an hour-long interview. But on the biggest question facing the prince — the allegation that he had sex with the 17-year-old Virginia Roberts, now Giuffre — the categorical denial that some might have expected or hoped for simply isn’t there.”