Britain’s Prince Andrew took the unprecedented step Thursday of publicly denying allegations that he had sex with an American woman when she was a teenager.
Looking slightly nervous but saying he wanted to “go on the record,” the prince made a statement in which he emphasized that he sought to move on from the scandal, which has plagued him for a month.
“I just wish to reiterate and to reaffirm the statements which have already been made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace,” Andrew said, repeatedly gazing down at his notes. “My focus is now on my work.”
He made the brief comments at an event he was hosting for entrepreneurs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was the first time he has spoken publicly about the accusations of sex abuse of a woman identified in court papers as Jane Doe No. 3, but widely reported to be Virginia Roberts.
She says she was 17 when she was forced to have sex with Andrew in 2001 in London, New York and during an orgy in the U.S. Virgin Islands while being used as a “sex slave” by financier Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew was 41 at the time.
The allegations against the prince, who is fifth in line to the throne, first came to light in Florida court documents filed early in January. The palace has issued several strongly-worded denials.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting underage girls for prostitution.
The royal family has traditionally refused to comment on allegations leveled against them, making Andrew’s decision to speak so publicly “unprecedented,” said Robert Jobson, author of “The New Royal Family.”
“It’s a difficult situation because people believe there’s no smoke without fire,” he said.
The prince may have hoped his public denial will draw a line under the episode, but it leaves key questions unanswered, including why he posed for a photo with his arm around Roberts’ waist.
“He clearly knows her, he clearly met her and given the nature of what Epstein was convicted of, it all sounds a bit unfortunate,” Jobson said. “It clearly shows lack of judgment in regards to his choice of friends.”
Andrew’s comments came a day after his accuser gave a sworn affidavit to the Florida court repeating the claims in her own words and laying out her version of events in intricate detail.
It also emerged Thursday that Roberts’ lawyers had sent a letter to Andrew asking him to agree to a two-hour interview under oath to discuss the allegations. The request, dated Jan. 14, was returned to them.
Boyle is a special correspondent