“Unbecoming… he was a sex offender.” With those words, BBC Newsnight presenter, Emily Maitlis delivered the final blow of humiliation to Prince Andrew, who had just completed the most astonishing and damaging attempt at PR in the Monarchy’s history.
It was the interview that was meant to promote the Duke of York’s innocence and paint him as a victim after salacious and disturbing allegations of sexual abuse were dramatically fired his way. With each answer there was a hope that a clearer picture of Andrew’s relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and that of the Duke’s accuser Virginia Roberts would emerge. Both of these attempts failed, and spectacularly so.
In a one-hour special Maitlis expertly dissected a cacophony of Andrew’s answers puncturing seismic hole after seismic hole. The Prince was left floundering in what was quickly growing into an excruciating example of an almighty PR disaster. From beginning to end Andrew navigated each question with an arrogance and an out-of-touch attitude which sunk any scraps of credibility the Duke of York had left.
In answering a question on whether he regretted his friendship with the convicted billionaire, Andrew jaw-droppingly responded: ‘Now, still not and the reason being is that the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful’.
I’m sorry. What?
The answer was nothing short of egotistical nonsense which hammered nail after nail into the coffin labelled Duke of York. And this breath-taking calibre of answering continued throughout what was a potent reminder of how not to conduct yourself in an interview over such damning allegations.
As Maitlis began to move onto the allegations themselves, with clinical dissection she picked apart each shallow excuse the Duke would muster. Reading a list of accusations from a statement made by Virginia Roberts Andrew stated he had ‘no recollection’ of ever meeting the then 17-year-old. When asked about the accompanying photograph showing Miss Roberts standing beside the Prince he seemed to question its authenticity.
With each question Andrew appeared more and more desperate and his excuses became almost comical. When asked about Miss Roberts’ statement claiming she spent the night dancing with the Prince at London nightclub Tramp on March 10 2001 he referred to a visit to Pizza Express in Woking with his daughter Princess Beatrice. He said: ‘I was with the children and I’d taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at I suppose 4 or 5 in the afternoon.’
For someone who stated they had no recollection of a 17-year-old girl they have been photographed with, how odd that they should remember such distinct details of a trip to a Pizza restaurant. Emily Maitlis seemed to think the same asking why he remembered the evening so distinctly.
The Duke’s answer was, once again, following the common theme of arrogance and a complete lack of understanding. ‘Because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing for me to do. I’ve only been to Woking a couple of times and I remember it weirdly distinctly.’
As answer after answer left Andrew’s mouth you could hear the collective disbelief of the entire viewing public aghast at what they were hearing. Yet, faintly in the distant corners of Buckingham Palace you could also hear the piercing silence of instant regret from the those who had thought all of this was a good idea.
In real-time, social media was alight with people utterly perplexed at Andrew’s attempt to garner sympathy from the public. Many may feel that the jury is now out on the Duke of York. I’m not so sure. It seems as if they’ve already passed judgement and it doesn’t look good.
Whilst Andrew’s fate may be sealed, what about the Queen and more importantly the monarchy as a whole? Where do they head from here?
The reality is of one no longer linked to continuity. The monarchy cannot carry on as if this interview never happened. The Duke of York is tainted beyond rehabilitation. His position cannot be saved.
Emily Maitlis towards the end of the searing interview asked how the allegations had affected the Queen and the Royal Family. He admitted he had ‘let the side down’ and that the allegations did not impact the Queen’s reputation, only his own.
This may be true now but depending on how the monarch deals with this PR nightmare, this whole debacle does have the power to derail the twilight years of her reign. Many will see any support for Andrew as complicity in this whole sorry affair and that may be a push too far for some of the public.
The blatant truth which is now fiercely staring the Royal Family in the face is that the Duke of York’s position is now untenable. He no longer has the respect or support of the British public. His reputation is in tatters and his popularity non-existent.
Within an hour Prince Andrew demonstrated a sickeningly potent example of a man who feels he is unaccountable for his alleged misdeeds. The simple fact remains that he continued to maintain contact with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender. He allegedly did meet Virginia Roberts and there is a photograph as proof. He did fly on Epstein’s private jet used to traffic underage girls for sex. He did visit his private island where the same underage girls were abused consistently. No amount of Pizza Express visits can distract from these facts and no royal ‘never complain, never explain’ mantra can either.
The dye has now been cast on Prince Andrew’s relationship with Virginia Roberts and Jeffrey Epstein. Whatever the outcome there is no going back. The carnage of the Duke’s PR fail will send reverberations throughout every corridor of Buckingham Palace. His failure to mention any of the women abused or show an ounce of sympathy for their suffering is beyond shameful – it is a disgrace. If Andrew takes one thing from this interview, besides the burden of his own ego, he would do well to remember that Jeffrey Epstein wasn’t unbecoming… he was a sex offender and one Andrew was more than happy to remain friends with.