Duke back at work try­ing to save name

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

PRINCE An­drew has gone back to work, his lat­est at­tempt to bluff through the scan­dal that threat­ens to de­stroy him over his friend­ship with bil­lion­aire pae­dophile Jef­frey Ep­stein.

The Duke of York, 59, was all smiles as he re­turned to of­fi­cial du­ties by join­ing cel­e­bra­tions at the Dart­mouth Royal Re­gatta in Devon.

It is the first time he has been seen in an of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity since Ep­stein’s sui­cide in jail on Au­gust 10 rekin­dled al­le­ga­tions the prince had sex with then 17year-old Ep­stein sex slave Vir­ginia Roberts.

It is part of a care­fully con­structed PR op­er­a­tion to try and help the prince — who stren­u­ously de­nies any wrong­do­ing — save his rep­u­ta­tion.

While the prince has been hid­ing out in So­togrande, his lav­ish Span­ish golf­ing bolt­hole, his PR team has tried to muddy the wa­ters by re­leas­ing sto­ries to the UK me­dia claim­ing the in­fa­mous photo of the duke with his arm around Roberts may have been doc­tored.

Sym­pa­thetic sto­ries have also been re­leased by “friends” claim­ing An­drew has been in “to­tal de­spair” and has only held back from at­tack­ing Roberts out of re­spect for what she has gone through at the hands of Ep­stein.

This is not the work of Buck­ing­ham Palace’s press ma­chine but in­stead the prince has ap­par­ently gone to public re­la­tions guru James Hen­der­son, a long­stand­ing friend of his ex-wife Sarah Fer­gu­son and a guest at Eu­ge­nie’s wed­ding.

Lon­don’s The Sun re­ported a “royal source close to An­drew” said: “The duke is a proud man but this has brought him very low. The Ep­stein story has had a pro­found ef­fect on him.

“He has been sit­ting at his desk ev­ery day won­der­ing how this is hap­pen­ing to him.

“He knows he has done noth­ing wrong and yet un­til re­cently has felt un­able to re­ally speak out. The duke knows that Vir­ginia Roberts is a vul­ner­a­ble woman who has been a vic­tim of sex­ual abuse by Jef­frey Ep­stein.

“As a re­sult he doesn’t feel able to pub­licly at­tack her ev­i­dence. He feels he is in an im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion and not able to de­fend him­self prop­erly.”

The “friends” are also play­ing up the prince’s char­ity work, par­tic­u­larly Key To Free­dom, founded after An­drew vis­ited the Women’s In­ter­link Foun­da­tion in Kolkata, In­dia, in 2012.

One of WIF’s aims is to help sex-traf­ficked victims re­cover by teach­ing them new skills. Aides claim his work, sup­ported by Sarah Fer­gu­son and daugh­ters Beatrice and Eu­ge­nie, has helped more than 100 women.

In a 2015 law­suit, Vir­ginia claimed she had sex with An­drew at age 17 dur­ing a visit to Lon­don with Ep­stein and so­cialite Ghis­laine Maxwell.

She also al­leged she slept with the duke in New York and the Caribbean while be­ing kept as a sex slave by the US fi­nancier. This week Roberts, now 36, raised the stakes in an emo­tional state­ment.

She said the duke knew “ex­actly what he has done” and urged him to “come clean”.

Within hours, friends of the duke had con­demned Vir­ginia’s claims as “cat­e­gor­i­cally un­true”, in­sist­ing they were rid­dled with “so many in­con­sis­ten­cies”.

It was a dra­matic change from Buck­ing­ham Palace’s longheld mantra of “never com­plain, never ex­plain” and again has the mark of Hen­der­son’s ad­vice.

Less than 11 months ago, An­drew’s scan­dals seemed firmly be­hind him. Hav­ing quit his role as UK trade en­voy in 2011 over the orig­i­nal Ep­stein scan­dal, he was asked to head a trade del­e­ga­tion to China in Novem­ber 2018.

Weeks ear­lier, the world had watched his youngest daugh­ter, Eu­ge­nie, wed to a global fan­fare. But the lat­est Ep­stein scan­dal has seen all this good­will de­stroyed — and has left many ques­tion­ing how the prince can still rep­re­sent the Royal Fam­ily.

Prince An­drew is wel­comed by chil­dren dur­ing his 2012 visit to In­dia, where he agreed to sup­port a char­ity help­ing the victims of sex traf­fick­ing. Pic­ture: Getty

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