Prince Andrew will “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future” as the fallout from his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein deepens, he has announced.
In his first statement since Saturday’s BBC Newsnight interview, the Duke of York said it “has become clear” he could no longer carry on with his royal duties as the scandal had “become a major disruption to my family’s work”.
He added: “Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.”
There have been ongoing discussions within the family about the current situation with the prince talking to the Queen and Prince of Wales, it is understood.
The duke met with the Queen on Wednesday, visiting her at Buckingham Palace before his decision was announced.
The interview on Saturday, which saw Prince Andrew widely condemned for a lack of sympathy to Epstein’s victims, has prompted a number of multimillion-pound businesses, universities and charities to distance themselves from him.
Wednesday saw organisations from banks to universities lining up to disassociate themselves from Prince Andrew, who had been a patron of more than 180 establishments, while others have withdrawn sponsorship for his Pitch@Palace youth enterprise programme.
Speaking to Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, he said that he “let the side down” and described his relationship with the convicted paedophile as “not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family” – but did not say he regretted it.
He also said it was “convenient” to stay at Epstein’s property and felt like the “honourable” thing to do at the time and claimed knowing him had “some seriously beneficial outcomes”.
But in Wednesday’s statement, Prince Andrew said: “I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.
“I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
Royal author Penny Junor branded the move “absolutely unprecedented”.
She said the decision was inevitable and had probably averted a crisis, but the monarchy was going through very difficult times.
“This is absolutely unprecedented that a fairly senior member of the royal family should be forced to retire from public life,” she said.
The royal writer told the PA news agency: “With all the events of the last year put together, I think the monarchy is going through very difficult times… I think it’s been a disastrous year.”
In the Newsnight interview, the duke denied claims that he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage.
He said the alleged encounter in 2001 did not happen as he spent the day with his daughter, Princess Beatrice, taking her to Pizza Express in Woking for a party.
Giuffre said the same alleged sexual liaison began with the duke sweating heavily as they danced at London nightclub Tramp.
But the duke said he had a medical condition at the time which meant he did not sweat.