The last time we saw Prince Andrew, he was stepping off a flight to Malaga in the company of his former wife Sarah Ferguson before taking a limousine to the luxury resort of Sotogrande.
Business as usual, in other words.
Andrew will be glad of the chance to get away from it all, no doubt, as friends say he has been unusually stressed of late –and no wonder.
For the 59-year-old is once again in the spotlight over his close friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Prince Andrew, here with Virgina Roberts, then aged 17 (centre), and Ghislaine Maxwell (right), is once again in the spotlight over his close friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein
Only days before Epstein’s prison suicide, a number of legal documents had been unsealed by the US courts and one of these included lurid allegations about Prince Andrew’s conduct with a 17-year-old girl – something he has always denied.
Last week, his lawyers repeated the same brief formula they have stuck to all along: ‘It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.’
No doubt they are correct. Yet hiding behind lawyers is no longer enough for Prince Andrew, a father of two daughters and a man who holds a pivotal place in British national life.
Day by day, the evidence of Epstein’s nauseating crimes mounts up – and the true extent of Andrew’s friendship with Epstein grows ever clearer.
Footage has emerged of Prince Andrew peering around the door of Epstein’s Manhattan mansion in 2010
The shocking video evidence in today’s Mail on Sunday makes it all-too-plain the Prince remained on friendly terms with Epstein even when it was obvious just what sort of man he was.
This was no brief acquaintance.
They had known each other for some time, ever since Epstein’s former lover and alleged fixer Ghislaine Maxwell introduced them in the 1990s.
The Prince became a regular guest at Epstein’s celebrity-filled dinner parties in Manhattan and, as their friendship grew, the invitations were returned.
In June 2000, Epstein and Ghislaine attended the Dance of the Decades, a spectacular party at Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen to mark Andrew’s 40th, Princess Anne’s 50th, Princess Margaret’s 70th and Prince William’s 18th birthdays.
Jeffrey Epstein’s interest in very young women became clear when the shocking case of Virginia Roberts was revealed. She said she had been recruited to work as a 15-year-old masseuse for Epstein and had been treated as the billionaire’s ‘sex slave’
In the autumn of that year, Andrew flew to New York and attended a Halloween ‘hookers and bondage’ party in Manhattan, where Ghislaine dressed as a prostitute.
In December of the same year, Andrew threw a birthday bash for Ghislaine at Sandringham, which Epstein attended before all three went to Phuket in Thailand, to celebrate the New Year.
Andrew was snapped sunbathing on a yacht with topless young women.
The criminal nature of Epstein’s interest in very young women became clear when this newspaper revealed the shocking case of Virginia Roberts, who says she had been recruited to work as a 15-year-old masseuse for Epstein and had been treated as the billionaire’s ‘sex slave’.
There is an infamous photograph from early 2001, believed to have been taken in Ghislaine’s Belgravia home, which shows Andrew with his arm around the bare midriff of Ms Roberts, while Ghislaine is grinning in the background.
It is all the more worrying, then, that Ms Roberts – who is now a mother of three living in Australia – claims she witnessed Epstein having sex with underage girls on a daily basis.
Still worse, Ms Roberts has alleged Epstein ‘forced’ her to have sex with Andrew in London and on two other occasions when she was 17.
There has been no claim that Andrew was aware she had been acting under duress – and in any case he denies that any such incidents happened at all.
It is important to stress also that an American judge threw out the allegations against the Prince and ordered them to be struck from the record as ‘immaterial and impertinent’.
In another of the witness statements now open to the public, alleged Epstein victim Johanna Sjoberg claims Andrew touched her breast while sitting on a couch at Epstein’s New York apartment in 2001.
The Prince continues to vehemently deny all such claims, but what is beyond doubt is that shortly after Epstein was released from jail for child sex offences, his old friend came to stay.
A now familiar photo of the pair strolling through Central Park showed a level of misjudgment which we simply would never expect from our Royals.
The MoS’s exclusive clip of Andrew grinning as he waves goodbye to an unidentified brunette from behind Epstein’s oak door underlines just how close the pair were.
In the minutes before Andrew appears at the door, women are seen coming and going from the mansion – many of them questionably young in appearance.
Was Andrew aware? Did he ask no questions? Epstein had just been released from a prison sentence for abuse, after all.
It has been reported Epstein paraded his sexual perversions in his homes with naked photos of young girls and soaps in the shape of male and female genitals. Did Andrew see any of this? If so, why did he continue the friendship?
It is clear there are serious questions that need answers – and it’s high time we heard them. The Duke of York is not an ordinary citizen, but a senior Royal and father to two grown-up Princesses.
He was made Britain’s special trade representative on his retirement from the Royal Navy, a post he still held in 2011 when the MoS first exposed his friend. Andrew remains Commander and honorary Vice Admiral of the Royal Navy.
These enormous privileges bring great responsibility – but they don’t seem to have had much effect on his social behaviour.
Instead he has garnered a reputation for a self-indulgent lifestyle that includes meetings with unsavoury Middle Eastern tyrants and potentates. He seems to lack self-awareness and appears unconcerned that his actions risk grave damage to the Royal Family.
Sarah Ferguson has said: ‘We really believe in being good parents for our girls. In our every day [life], we really respect each other and honour each other.’
Yet her former husband seems unable to see any disconnect between standing proudly in morning dress for the wedding of his daughter Eugenie last October and the seedy friendship with a criminal abuser he would rather not discuss.
Why has he got such a high-handed and reckless attitude?
His childhood might help explain. Born in 1960, Andrew quickly became an adored second son, one who the Queen hoped would stabilise her marriage. It was said at the time Philip felt constrained by Royal life and that the relationship was tense.
But Andrew’s arrival did the trick. It also tied in with the Queen’s wish to be a more involved mother. She even wrote to her cousin Lady Mary Cambridge: ‘The baby is adorable. All in all, he’s going to be terribly spoilt by all of us I’m sure.’
Perhaps this was a sort of compensation for her earlier strictness with Charles. But the result has been unfortunate: Andrew behaves as though he is free to do exactly as he chooses.
Does he not know how shocking his friendship with Epstein appears? It is time for the Duke of York to accept the serious misjudgment he has made and co-operate with authorities to disclose everything he knows about Epstein’s lifestyle and actions.
Has he contacted the police in Britain or America to try to help shed light on what by any standards was a horrific series of crimes committed by his former friend? It’s impossible to know because Buckingham Palace refuses to say.
But if he hasn’t, he should. The alternative is to try yet again to bury it in soft sand, to hide away and, like a coward, hope his 93-year-old mother will make things better.
Angela Levin’s Harry – Conversations With The Prince is published by Bonnier.