Prince Andrew is visiting his mother Queen Elizabeth II after dark in a plot to clear his name from the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal and return to royal duties, The Sun reported citing an unnamed source. According to the newspaper, the Duke of York, who himself faces sexual abuse allegations, is confident he will be cleared of any wrongdoing over his links to the disgraced financier and is arranging a return to public life.
Royal experts have questioned the possibility of Prince Andrew's return to royal duties after being implicated in the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal. In a recent episode of the podcast The Royal Rota, ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship and Royal Producer Lizzie Robinson discussed this week's report by The Sunday Times, which said that Prince Andrew, who stepped down from royal duties last November over his association with Epstein, intends to return to royal life and "serve his country". The newspaper wrote that the Duke of York reportedly has the backing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and other senior members of the Royal Family.
Lizzie Robinson believes Prince Andrew will be unable to support the monarchy and resume a public role until US prosecutors complete an investigation into Jeffrey Epstein and his life companion Ghislaine Maxwell.
"I found it extraordinary. I had a double-take moment when I saw that story. The thought that he wants to return to royal life, to duties…I just think until this has been cleared up and he has spoken to the FBI that he proves a distraction and he would be unable to work with that hanging over him", said Lizzie Robinson.
Robinson's statement was echoed by Chris Ship, who voiced doubts that Prince Andrew can return to royal duties before the investigation is wrapped up, calling the idea of a comeback "quite bizarre". Ship stressed that for the comeback to happen there needs to be "total exoneration" of the royal.
"I can't believe for a second that anyone in the Royal Family is thinking of putting Prince Andrew front and centre of any event anywhere in the near future", Ship said.
According to the Daily Star, which cited an unnamed source close to Prince Andrew, the Duke of York's potential return would be discussed by other senior members of the Royal Family and the government. The source underscored that Andrew's future role would be "different" from the one he had before.
"He's thinking very hard about how best he can serve his country, and a public reframing of the role of the Duke of York is critical. He's very sensitive to the public mood and acutely conscious that the public are the prime consideration. It is his intention to return to public duties but none of this can seriously progress until the legal process in the US has been resolved and the Duke's side of the story has been properly explained", the source told the Daily Star.
The Duke of York fell into disgrace after Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on charges of sexually trafficking minors. However, it's not so much his association with the financier, but the interview he gave to the BBC that made him a pariah. The royal said he didn't regret being friends with the disgraced billionaire, noting that the friendship had some "beneficial outcomes" for his career in trade and failed to express sympathy for Epstein's purported victims.
The royal admitted that he had visited Epstein's numerous mansions and a private island as well as flew on his private jet, where the financier allegedly abused and raped his victims, but said he didn't notice any inappropriate behaviour.
The Duke of York also addressed allegations of sexual abuse against himself. One of Epstein's alleged victims Virginia Giuffre (nee Roberts) has long claimed that the financier and his former girlfriend and life companion Ghislaine Maxwell trafficked her to London and forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew on at least three occasions, including when she was 17 years old.
Prince Andrew said he was with his daughter on the day Giuffre claimed the sexual intercourse happened and noted he has no recollection of ever meeting the woman, although there is at least one photo appearing to show the Duke of York with a young Giuffre.
The statements he made during the BBC interview caused a huge backlash, resulting in the royal resigning from public duties. Major companies and banks, including British Telecom and Barclays, have distanced themselves from the prince and withdrawn from his Pitch@Palace project, while charities ditched him as their patron. He has kept a low profile since then and the Royal Family has repeatedly brushed him out of the photos released to the public.