Earlier this summer, federal prosecutors charged wealthy Manhattan financier Jeffrey Epstein with one count of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. After pleading not guilty to the crimes, Epstein was denied bail, and was later found dead in his Manhattan jail cell. The cause of death was ruled a suicide.
But even after his death, Epstein's high profile social circle has continued to remain in the headlines. Notably, Epstein's associates included not only politicians in both parties, but also royalty. Queen Elizabeth's son Prince Andrew reportedly had close ties to Epstein at one point.
Over the past few months, the Duke of York has issued several statements about Epstein, and in November, he recorded an interview at Buckingham Palace about their relationship with journalist Emily Maitlis.
Following enormous public criticism of their conversation, in which Andrew said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein, the Queen's son has voluntarily stepped back from his royal duties.
"I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission," reads the statement in part.
The extent of their friendship is largely unknown, but a new photo recently surfaced showing the two men at Royal Ascot together in 2000. In light of that news, here's what we do know about the Duke of York's relationship with Epstein:
They met in 1999.
According to the Guardian, their friendship began when Prince Andrew was introduced to Epstein by Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite and Epstein's girlfriend at the time.
The extent of Epstein's relationship with Andrew or other members of the royal family is largely unknown, though never-before-seen photos of the Duke of York with Epstein at Royal Ascot in 2000 recently surfaced. The woman wearing green standing between them is Maxwell.
The two men were also photographed walking together in Central Park in 2010 (above), several years after Epstein was released from prison. Two years earlier, Epstein had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of solicitation of prostitution involving a minor, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison; he served 13.
In a statement released on August 24, Prince Andrew shared that he had stayed at several of Epstein's properties, but that he "saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year."
Epstein also had a financial relationship with Andrew's ex-wife Fergie.
In 2011, the Telegraph reported that Epstein paid Sarah Ferguson's former personal assistant Johnny O'Sullivan £15,000 at the request of the Duke of York. That payment then reportedly "allowed a wider restructuring of Sarah's £5 million debts to take place."
The Duchess of York has since apologized for her association with Epstein. She told the publication at the time:
"I personally, on behalf of myself, deeply regret that Jeffrey Epstein became involved in any way with me. I abhor paedophilia and any sexual abuse of children and know that this was a gigantic error of judgment on my behalf. I am just so contrite I cannot say. Whenever I can I will repay the money and will have nothing ever to do with Jeffrey Epstein ever again. I cannot state more strongly that I know a terrible, terrible error of judgment was made, my having anything do with Jeffrey Epstein. What he did was wrong and for which he was rightly jailed."
Fergie also confirmed that her ex-husband Andrew facilitated the payment.
Buckingham Palace has issued several statements about Andrew's association with Epstein.
While some of Epstein's associates, including President Bill Clinton, issued statements distancing themselves from Epstein immediately following the news of his arrest, Prince Andrew stayed silent on the matter for several weeks.
But in August, Buckingham Palace released several statements regarding the Queen's son's relationship with Epstein. In a statement from August 24, Prince Andrew admitted that it was "a mistake and an error" to spend time with Jeffrey Epstein in 2010, after he was already a convicted sex offender. Andrew also said that he did not "see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to [Epstein's] arrest and conviction."
"His suicide has left many unanswered questions and I acknowledge and sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure," the Duke of York writes, before closing with "I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behavior."
He signed it simply ANDREW. It was the third statement release by the royal family that month about the Duke of York's relationship with Epstein.
On August 18, a statement from Buckingham Palace says that the Duke of York is "appalled" by Epstein's alleged crimes.
It reads in full:
“The Duke of York has been appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes. His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent.”
That statement was released after a 2010 video of Prince Andrew inside Epstein's New York City home (likely taken around the same time as the above photo) was published by the Daily Mail. In the footage, the Duke of York can be seen waving to a woman from the door.
The day before Epstein was found dead by suicide, a number of legal documents relating to his criminal case were unsealed, one of which included allegations about Prince Andrew. When asked about the allegations by NBC News, Buckingham Palace gave the following statement:
“This relates to proceedings in the United States, to which The Duke of York is not a party. Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue.”
The same statement was given to the Daily Mail when the publication's reporter inquired if Prince Andrew was going to comment on Epstein's death.
On August 27, one of Epstein's alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, held a press conference. When asked specifically about Prince Andrew, she said, "he knows exactly what he's done, and I hope he comes clean about it."
In September, Giuffre sat down with Savannah Guthrie of NBC News for a televised interview in which she said that Prince Andrew "was an abuser." In the segment, Guthrie reports that Giuffre says Prince Andrew sexually abused her a total of three times.
“Ghislaine said, ‘He’s coming back to the house. And I want you to do for him (Prince Andrew) what you do for Epstein.’” Virginia Roberts Giuffre shares details about her previous encounter with Prince Andrew at Ghislaine Maxwell’s London townhome. pic.twitter.com/IZVYaIfdTt— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 20, 2019
Prince Andrew has always denied any accusations of inappropriate behavior, and Buckingham Palace issued an additional statement to NBC regarding Giuffre's allegations. It reads, "It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation."
In mid-November, Prince Andrew sat down with journalist Emily Maitlis, for what she called a "no holds barred" interview.
During their conversation at Buckingham Palace, Maitlis and Prince Andrew discussed the his association with Epstein and why he visited the convicted sex offender in New York City in 2010. Notably, The Duke of York said that he did not regret his relationship with Epstein, and perhaps most significantly, he did not explicitly express sympathy for Epstein's victims. He also denied Giuffre's allegations against him several times.
Watch the full interview here:
Just a few days after the interview aired, Prince Andrew announced he was stepping down from public duties "for the foreseeable future" in a statement.
Read it in full here:
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 organisations and charities that I am proud to support.
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. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise 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.
In early December, Giuffre responded to Andrew's interview with a broadcast of her own.
She sat down with Panorama to discuss both Epstein and Prince Andrew, and called the royal's response to her allegations "BS."
"The people on the inside are going to keep coming up with these ridiculous excuses like his arm was elongated, or the photo was doctored, or he came to New York to break up with Jeffrey Epstein," she said.
"I mean come on. I'm calling BS on this because that's what it is. He knows what happened. I know what happened, and there's only one of us telling the truth, and I know that's me."
"I’m calling BS on this, because that’s what it is.”— Panorama 🌐 (@BBCPanorama) December 2, 2019
Prince Andrew says he has no recollection of meeting Virginia Giuffre, nor of any photo being taken with her and he emphatically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with her. pic.twitter.com/aqQ76kpPHI
She also asked the people of the United Kingdom to stand with her. "I implore the people in the U.K. to stand up beside me, to help me fight this fight, to not accept this as being OK. This is not some sordid sex story. This is a story of being trafficked."
Buckingham Palace has issued two statements in response to the program, the first of which is in regard to the Duke of York's association with Prince Andrew. It's quite similar to previous statements issued by the royal family about their friendship, and reads:
“The Duke of York unequivocally regrets his ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein’s suicide left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims. The Duke deeply sympathises with those affected who want some form of closure. It is his hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives. The Duke is willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required."
The second statement focuses more specifically on Giuffre's allegations. It reads:
“It is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation.”
We'll continue to update this post as more information is released to the public.
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