Britain’s embattled Prince Andrew revealed Wednesday that he will step back from his public royal duties “for the foreseeable future” in the midst of a scandal over his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
“It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein has become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organizations and charities that I am proud to support,” the Duke of York wrote in a statement.
“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission. I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein.”
Prince Andrew’s reputation, and his position within the royal family itself, is now in tatters. His announcement suggests that the royal family, including the monarch, are mortified at the disastrous interview he gave over the weekend to Emily Maitlis of the BBC’s Newsnight, and now want him—urgently—to disappear from public view.
But this will not solve Andrew’s bigger problem: The interview opened up many more questions than it did answer them. And he has yet to do so. Simply disappearing from the royal frontline will not make the questions go away.
For his family, Prince Andrew has become toxic, dangerously so, to the royal brand—especially as the full nature and depth of his relationship to Epstein remains unknown.
Andrew’s denials that he knew Virginia Roberts Giuffre, and his insistence that the photograph of them together was not real, has yet to be fully established as fact or fiction. She claims that she was sex trafficked by Epstein, and forced to have sex with Andrew as a 17-year-old.
“I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein,” Andrew wrote in his Wednesday statement. “His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize 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.”
David Boies—an attorney representing several Epstein victims, including Giuffre—said Andrew’s decision is a step in the right direction.
“My initial reaction is that this is a positive step towards him taking responsibility,” Boies told The Daily Beast. “Obviously there’s a lot of things that are left unsaid and a lot of unanswered questions but this appears a step forward. It would be a very positive next step if he would respond to our request for him to talk to Virginia.”
Royal observers also welcomed the announcement.
British PR and crisis management expert Mark Borkowski told The Daily Beast: “The elephant in the room has been shot. This was always going to be the unanswered question for the royals: ‘What are you going to do about Andrew? What do you think about Andrew?’ and now Andrew has made that question go away. He has, finally, done the right thing and the decent thing—but it was also the only thing that he could do. He needs to disappear for a while, lick his wounds. It’s the first proper PR move in the right direction since this crisis broke.”
Penny Junor, a royal biographer who has worked closely with Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, said she suspects Andrew’s older brother pressured him to step back.
“He had no alternative. He couldn’t brazen this one out,” she added. “But everyone can be rehabilitated, even politicians who have gone to jail, there is forgiveness in the world, but he needs to eat a bit of humble pie.”
Junor said she thought the news would be greeted with “a sigh of relief” in the family. “The lesson for the royal family is to be very careful who you speak to, what you say, who you make friends with and how you behave,” she continued. “You are not insulated, you are not immune. You can be disgraced, even if you are a member of the royal family.”
Friends of the family said they had no hint that Andrew was about to make such a dramatic move. Someone who exchanged texts with Sarah Ferguson on an unrelated matter today said there was no suggestion that the announcement was imminent.