A source close to the beleaguered eighth in line to the throne said yesterday: “He will be undertaking official engagements in the very near future.” And another source last night reportedly said Prince Andrew “stands by his decision” to give the BBC interview. They said the Duke of York wanted to address the issues head-on and did so with “honesty and humility”.
Andrew, 59, is expected to be on duty this week and last night friends rushed to his support after Saturday night’s Newsnight interview at Buckingham Palace with Emily Maitlis.
In the interview the prince denied having sex with a then 17-year-old girl – Virginia Roberts.
One of the prince’s friends, who was involved in helping evaluate the infamous photo of Andrew with his arm around the teenager in a friend’s Belgravia house, acknowledged that the interview has rebounded on the Duke for now.
“Of course it has,” he said.
But, the friend added: “I thought to put himself in front of a forensic journalist and answer so many questions like that was very brave.”
The interview at least gave Andrew an opportunity to present an alibi.
He said he was at Pizza Express in Woking, Surrey, on the night of March 10, 2001, when it has been alleged he slept for the first time with Ms Roberts, now known as Virginia Giuffre, after a night dancing at the London nightclub Tramp.
Asked why it had taken him eight years to come up with the alibi, sources close to Andrew said the date had only emerged very recently.
However, Ms Giuffre has never publicly given a date for when she says that photo was taken before she allegedly had sex with him, on the instructions of Epstein’s girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell.
It was a Channel 4 Dispatches team, checking back through flight logs and other records, that said March 10 was the “likely” date. In his interview, Andrew insisted that his actions had not damaged the Queen, who early last week signed off the idea of doing the interview in an effort to clear his name.
Buckingham Palace refused to go into detail about who advised Andrew to do the Newsnight interview but other sources said his private secretary Amanda Thirsk was the driving force behind the idea.
Peter Hunt, a distinguished former BBC royal correspondent, said on Twitter: “Prince Andrew’s judgment has long been called into question – now it’s also the Queen who’s exposed.
“The head of state allowed the palace to be the setting where a paedophile’s actions were described by the eighth in line to the throne as ‘unbecoming’.” BBC Newsnight chiefs were given the green light just as Prince Charles was flying out of the country on an official visit.
“If he’d been here, would the ‘shadow king’ have stopped it?” he asked. Mr Hunt went on: “Will Prince Charles have the courage to do what he should do – and tell Prince Andrew to retire from public life on the basis his judgment has been called into question one too many times? Their mother won’t – Andrew is one of her blind spots.”
The BBC’s current royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, said yesterday he felt the Queen had “lost central control” of Buckingham Palace.
Witchell told BBC News: “The Queen was informed but she is 93 years old now, and she is not exercising the strong control she had.” Pointing to the recent furore around Harry and Meghan admitting they struggled with aspects of royal life, he added: “We have a similar situation now. The mainstream advisors of the Queen at the Palace were not a part of this Prince Andrew debate.”
The Duke of York hoped the no-holds barred interview would draw a line under the affair but critics, including some who had given him the benefit of the doubt, admitted that his refusal to express remorse over his friendship with the late convicted paedophile Epstein has further damaged his reputation.
In other parts of the Royal Household there was incredulity yesterday that he had decided to go ahead with the interview. Similar previous royal interviews at moments of crisis have done little to help, by comment consent.
Prince Charles’ admission to Jonathan Dimbleby in 1994 that he had been unfaithful to Diana and had carried on an affair with Camilla was seen as damaging, as was Diana’s revenge interview with Panorama the following year.
Critics said last month’s television interviews with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex portrayed a sense of entitlement and further alienated the young couple from many in Britain.