Friday, 22 November 2019

Prince Andrew has "withdrawn" from official duties

Prince Andrew is a royal family ‘nightmare’

Prince Andrew was last night forced to pull out of a work junket to Bahrain this weekend after being persuaded by his family that it was 'not a good idea' following this week's dramatic events.

He had planned to fly to the Middle East to attend an event connected with his Pitch@Palace initiative – less than 72 hours after being forced to retire from royal duties over the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

But hours after the Daily Mail contacted Buckingham Palace to say it was about to reveal details of Andrew's foreign jaunt, sources said he had decided to cancel it.

'He was persuaded by his family that it was not a good idea in light of this week's events,' they said. Despite the setback, he seemed upbeat yesterday. Dressed in a suit and tie, he gave a wave and a smile as he drove away from his family home in Windsor Great Park.

Later his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson was also all smiles as she was seen arriving at Buckingham Palace. Furore over Andrew's former friendship with paedophile Epstein continued yesterday as:

The duke walked away from some of his most beloved charities and organisations as he began the humiliating process of withdrawing from public life;

The Outward Bound Trust said he had stepped down as patron while the University of Huddersfield said he had resigned as Chancellor;

Lawyers for Epstein's victims said they planned to subpoena Andrew, raising the prospect he could be questioned under oath about what he knows.

The prince announced on Wednesday evening his intention to 'step back from public duties for the foreseeable future' after he was widely criticised for his comments during a BBC Newsnight interview.

He was accused of showing a lack of empathy for Epstein's victims and no remorse over his friendship with the financier. But yesterday's cancelled plans to go to Bahrain proved, however, that he still clearly plans to continue working on private initiatives.

A source close to Andrew put a positive spin on this week's dramatic events, saying: 'Despite everything the duke is getting a lot of support. The entrepreneurs he helps have been tremendously sweet and kind. This really feels like a witch-hunt. He'd been hounded about this since 2011 non stop. So he's very positive about it actually. He can concentrate on clearing his name.'

Losing his patronage of the Outward Bound Trust will be a major blow to the duke, who only took over the role earlier this year, succeeding his father, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The charity helps disadvantaged children through outdoor activities. The University of Huddersfield had earlier stood by the duke but announced he was stepping down last night following an outcry by students.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions also announced yesterday that the duke was no longer its president. Andrew is patron of around 200 charities and groups and more resignations are now likely to follow.

It has been made clear that Andrew is very keen to keep his Pitch@Palace initiative, a Dragon’s Den-style scheme which helps find funding and provides mentoring for tech start-ups and entrepreneurs which he founded in 2014.

The project is said to have created 6,000 jobs over give years and was, one courtier said, one of the ‘few’ real success stories of Andrew’s roller-coaster royal career.

He was fighting ‘tooth and nail’ to keep it – hence his defiance in initially planning to travel to Bahrain this weekend.

Royal officials confirmed yesterday that he would continue working on it but made clear that he would do so without the support of Buckingham Palace.

While Andrew’s decision to step back from public life means he will no longer be able to pick up the bill for expensive travel from taxpayers, he is still likely to pocket as much as £250,000 a year, the sum he is rumoured to receive privately from the Queen to run his office.

Unlike the Sovereign Grant, which is government money, Andrew’s annual upkeep is paid from the Privy Purse, which is provided by the Duchy of Lancaster – land and assets owned by the Queen.

But, as 'significant' controller of Pitch@Palace, he will be entitled to two per cent of any deals made through the scheme for three years, the Daily Telegraph reports.

It is also understood that he will be able to hold events at palaces on commercial bases, with one planned for Pitch@Palace at St James's next month.

More than half the public believe the prince did not tell the truth about his relationship with Epstein during his interview, a poll found. Just six per cent of the 1,600 adults surveyed thought he was being honest, according to the YouGov survey for The Times. Another 43 per cent said they did not know.

Prince Andrew's right-hand woman is to be switched to running his tech awards and business funding scheme, a source said last night.

Amanda Thirsk, who was instrumental in persuading the beleaguered royal to agree to his disastrous Newsnight interview, was told yesterday by Andrew that she will no longer be his private secretary.

Instead she will become chief executive of Pitch@Palace, the prince's Dragons' Den-style scheme for entrepreneurs, and the Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award (iDEA), which emulates the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Last night, mother-of-three Mrs Thirsk, who has loyally stood by Andrew for 15 years, was still at her desk and declining to comment.

Buckingham Palace also refused to comment on what it said were 'private staffing matters'.

But a royal source insisted: 'Amanda has been told in no uncertain terms today that she will lose her job [as Andrew's private secretary].'

A former banker, Mrs Thirsk was taken on in 2004 as the prince's 'office controller'.

In 2012 she was made his private secretary – and gatekeeper. It has been said of her: 'She is very, very loyal. It is hard to know where she begins and Andrew ends.'

How Duke of York's meetings with Jeffrey Epstein have brought him decades of trouble since 1990

- 1990s

Andrew first meets Epstein, reportedly introduced through his friendship with Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell. Andrew welcomes Epstein to the Queen's private Scottish retreat in Aberdeenshire. Andrew later says he sees Epstein 'infrequently', adding 'probably no more than only once or twice a year'.

- 2000

Andrew and Ms Maxwell are seen on holiday with Epstein at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Epstein and Ms Maxwell attend a party at Windsor Castle hosted by the Queen to mark Andrew's 40th birthday, the Princess Royal's 50th, the Queen Mother's 100th and Princess Margaret's 70th.

- 2001

Virginia Roberts claims to have had sex with Andrew 'three times, including one orgy', with the first encounter allegedly taking place in Ms Maxwell's London townhouse. Ms Roberts claims to have had sex with Andrew on two more occasions, at Epstein's New York home and at an 'orgy' on his private island in the Caribbean.

- 2008

Epstein admits prostituting minors and is sentenced to 18 months in prison.

- 2010

Epstein is released from jail. Andrew is photographed with the disgraced Epstein in New York's Central Park. Footage emerges years later, reportedly shot on December 6 2010, showing him inside Epstein's Manhattan mansion, from where he is seen looking out from a large door of the property waving a woman goodbye after Epstein leaves to get into a chauffeur-driven car.

- 2011

The duke quits his role as UK trade envoy after the fallout from the Central Park photos.

- 2015

Buckingham Palace denies Andrew has committed any impropriety after he is named in US court documents related to Epstein. A woman, later named in reports as Ms Roberts, alleges in papers filed in Florida that she was forced to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, which is under the age of consent in the state.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Andrew, in his first public engagement since he was embroiled in the allegations, responds, saying: 'Firstly I think I must, and want, for the record, to refer to the events that have taken place in the last few weeks.

'I just wish to reiterate, and to reaffirm, the statements that have already been made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace.' In April the claims against Andrew are struck from US civil court records following a federal judge's ruling.

Newly released legal documents show that Johanna Sjoberg, another alleged Epstein victim, claimed Andrew touched her breast while sitting on a couch inside the US billionaire's Manhattan apartment in 2001. Buckingham Palace said the allegations are 'categorically untrue'. Epstein is found dead in his jail cell on August 10, having killed himself after being charged with sex trafficking.

Later that month a pilot on Epstein's private jet claims Andrew was a passenger on past flights with the financier and Ms Roberts. The Sun newspaper reported that David Rodgers said in a testimony released in August that Epstein, Andrew and the-then 17-year-old travelled to the US Virgin Islands on April 11 2001. Buckingham Palace describes the evidence statement as having 'a number of inconsistencies' and said that Andrew was on a different continent in some cases.

Following Epstein's death, a statement from the palace says that Andrew is 'appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged crimes'. Breaking his silence on the issue for the first time since 2015, Andrew then releases a statement on August 24 saying: 'At no stage during the limited time I spent with him (Epstein) did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.'

On November 16, the prince gave a 'disastrous' BBC interview in which he spoke about his friendship with Epstein and addressed allegations of his own sexual conduct. He faced a barrage of criticism following his television appearance, with the royal accused of a lack of empathy with Epstein's victims.

During the interview, Andrew, questioned by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, twice stated his relationship with Epstein, who died in jail while facing sex trafficking charges, had some 'seriously beneficial outcomes', giving him the opportunity to meet people and prepare for a future role as a trade envoy. The duke denied he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage, saying one 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.

The same alleged sexual liaison, which the American said began with the royal sweating heavily as they danced at London nightclub Tramp, was factually wrong as the duke said he had a medical condition at the time which meant he did not sweat. He cast doubt on the authenticity of a picture that appears to show Andrew with his arm around the waist of Mrs Giuffre, when a teenager.

Former Epstein housekeeper says Prince Andrew was entertained by a 'beautiful young neurosurgeon' who she believes was 'given' to him by the pedophile during three-day visit his New Mexico ranch in 2001

A former housekeeper at Jeffrey Epstein's New Mexico has claimed Prince Andrew spent three days at the property where she said he was kept company by a 'beautiful young neurosurgeon' who she believes was being paid by Epstein.

Deidre Stratton worked at Zorro Ranch when she claims Andrew visited alone in 2001. Public records confirmed she was employed there.

It was after he and Epstein had been seen on a yacht with topless women in Thailand, and Epstein was not there but arranged for his royal friend to stay, she claimed.

She says that during the visit, Andrew was kept company by an unnamed female doctor who she described as a 'beautiful young neurosurgeon'.

Stratton says she believes the woman may have been 'on retainer' from Epstein and that it was 'her job' to 'entertain' his guests but that she was only 'guessing'.

There is no suggestion that Andrew knew she was possibly on Epstein's pay roll and Stratton said it was merely her belief that the woman was being paid and that she did not know it for a fact.

'At the time, Jeffrey had this, she supposedly was a neurosurgeon, quite young...beautiful, young and brilliant, and she stayed in the home with him,' she told the podcast Epstein: Devil in the Darkness.

'At one point we had all these different teas and you could pick the teas that you wanted and she asked me to find one that would make [Andrew] horny.

'I'm guessing she understood her job was to entertain him because I guess, the fear, I don't know - the fear would be that Andrew would say, "no I didn't really find her that attractive."

'I'm guessing she understood her job was to entertain him because I guess, the fear, I don't know - the fear would be that Andrew would say, "no I didn't really find her that attractive."

'He would tell Jeffrey that and then she would be on the ropes,' she said.

Stratton added: 'I'm guessing that, another theory is, that Jeffrey had her on retainer and she knew what her job would be, should be, to make these people happy.

'Sex was all they thought about.

'I mean, I know for sure that Jeffrey would ideally like three massages a day. Massages being in air quotes. I don't see how his guests wouldn't know that.'

She also gave an anecdote of the Duke insisting on making himself breakfast but burning his bacon and settling instead for 'croissants and green tea'.

'At that time, he was very, very pleasant... I offered to come up and fix his breakfast and he said, "no I want to try."

'When I got up there later to tidy up you could smell burnt bacon and he was like, "I didn't do so well."

'He had like a croissant and green teas or something. I remember him trying to cook his own breakfast. Isn't that cute? He couldn't even fry bacon.'

Stratton said Andrew stayed in a three bedroom lodge on the property and his bodyguard stayed in the main house.

'For him to just be out on his own, I am sure was very different for him

'We all felt like well what do we do, we're like fish out of water, do we curtsy to this man? We were told no because we were not British subjects,' she said.

She added that she 'does not remember how he passed his time' but that she does not recall him being 'very sporty'.

There is no suggestion that the woman Andrew allegedly spent time with was underage.

He has repeatedly denied having sex with Virginia Roberts, who claims she slept with him in London when she was 17 at Ghislaine Maxwell's house.

Maxwell also denies Roberts' claims.

Buckingham Palace did not offer any new statement specifically in response to the new allegation when contacted by on Thursday morning.

A spokesperson referred to Andrew's past comments on Epstein instead.
Andrew made the bombshell statement about stepping back yesterday after mounting pressure after his interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein

Andrew was this week stripped of his salary and stood down from royal duties following his disastrous BBC interview about his relationship with Epstein where he called the pedophile's behavior 'unbecoming'.

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