Duke back at work trying to save name
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