There were three big questions and a whole pile of smaller ones that needed answering in this interview.
On the big three, the Duke of York was pressed time and time again – did he have sex with Virginia Giuffre (then called Virginia Roberts), as she claims? Why did he go back to see (and stay with) Jeffrey Epstein two years after the businessman’s conviction and imprisonment for child sex offences? And how did he explain the photograph of him with his arm round the waist of the 17-year-old Virginia Giuffre.
About his visit to New York in 2010 when he stayed at Epstein’s house, Prince Andrew was, if not remorseful, then clear that (with hindsight) he had done the wrong thing. He had gone there to tell Epstein that their friendship was over, he said.
He said he did not speak to Epstein once he knew about the 2006 Palm Beach Police investigation into possible child sex offences. Nor did he speak to him or contact him when he was in prison. Then in 2010 he flew to New York and stayed with him – it was more “convenient”, he said – for the sole purpose of telling him they could no longer be friends. By this point they had not seen each other for four years.
To have done it by phone would have been “chicken” and he is “too honourable” at times, he said. So, he says, he did the wrong thing for the right reasons. It was pretty much the only time in the interview that he admitted having made any kind of mistake over his 11-year relationship with Epstein.
About the claim by Virginia Giuffre that she slept with the prince three times, there was a categorical denial, alongside a string of reasons why her story did not add up.
She says he bought her a drink in a nightclub; he said he doesn’t know where the bar is in that club. She says he was sweating heavily as he danced with her; he says he didn’t sweat at all back then because of an obscure medical condition that’s now gone away. She says he slept with her; he said he was at home after taking one of his daughters to a party in a pizza restaurant.
He said he didn’t remember her, he didn’t recollect her and again he absolutely categorically denied sleeping with her.
And the photo of the prince with his arm slipped around Virginia Giuffre’s naked midriff? It has plagued Prince Andrew and the palace, undercutting their blunt denials. No recollection, said the prince. No explanation.
Over the past few months, so-called “friends” of the prince have mounted a whispering campaign about the photo trying to undercut its authenticity.
He wouldn’t go so far but instead suggested he never wore the kinds of clothes he was wearing in the photo – travelling clothes – when in London, preferring a suit and tie, and that he never went to the upper floor of the house where the photo was taken. He just couldn’t remember the photo, he said, and was at a loss to explain where it came from.
There was notably little in the way of apology or remorse in the interview. Aside from that visit to Epstein’s house in 2010, Prince Andrew does not think he has done anything wrong.
He does not regret the friendship with Epstein, a man who by many accounts used and abused young girls for many years. It had, he said, “some seriously beneficial outcomes”.
In one horrible moment he described Epstein as having behaved “in a manner unbecoming”, as if the convicted sex offender had simply passed the port round the wrong way in the regimental mess. He was picked up on that quickly, and apologised. “I’m being polite,” Prince Andrew said.
Nothing struck him as suspicious in the various Epstein households that he visited. The Miami Herald has painstakingly put together a picture in Palm Beach of a place where three or four young (14 and 15-year-old) girls might visit a day to give Epstein massages, during which he would sexually abuse many of them.
But the prince was at pains to point out that he didn’t know Epstein that well really, he might drop in a few times a year, and he said that Epstein “may have changed his behaviour patterns” so as to cover up his behaviour.
Prince Andrew met Epstein through the businessman’s girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell back in 1999. He said he had seen Ms Maxwell in late spring this year.
Did they talk about their one-time friend, Jeffrey Epstein, who had accompanied Ms Maxwell to Windsor Castle and to Sandringham, who had laid his personal jet and houses and holiday island at Prince Andrew’s disposal?
No, the prince replied, there was nothing to discuss: “He wasn’t in the news. We’d moved on.”