Prince Andrew has bowed to growing pressure over his relationship with American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and stepped away from all royal duties.
“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 organizations and charities that I am proud to support,” the Prince said in a statement Wednesday.
“Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.”
Andrew added that he regretted his association with Mr. Epstein, who died in jail in New York last summer while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking dozens of girls.
Police are still investigating whether his former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, groomed girls, and several alleged victims have come forward to urge the Prince to co-operate with the probe.
Mr. Epstein’s “suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure,” the Prince said.
“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.”
The statement followed a controversial interview on BBC television last Saturday that the Prince had hoped would clarify his friendship with Mr. Epstein and address allegations that he slept with a teenaged girl procured by the financier.
Instead, the interview only raised more questions, as the Prince appeared evasive, arrogant and at times barely believable. Since then, a growing number of charities in Canada and around the world have begun cutting ties to him.
The Rideau Hall Foundation announced this week that it was dropping its association with Pitch@Palace Canada, which was part of a global charity the Prince created in 2014 to help budding entrepreneurs.
The Prince was in Toronto in May to announce the Canadian finalists for the international competition, which provides seed money for startups. Allison MacLachlan, a spokesperson for the foundation, would not comment on whether the decision was directly related to the allegations surrounding the Prince.
Bank of Montreal has also been the lead corporate sponsor of Pitch@Palace Canada and contributed $500,000 this year. A spokesman for the bank said Wednesday that its agreement with the Rideau Hall Foundation was for one year only and ended last May.
The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ont., is also reviewing whether the Prince should remain a patron. The Prince became a patron in 2006, and the museum has said his fondness for canoeing began when he was enrolled at nearby Lakefield College School in 1977.
For its part, Lakefield said Wednesday that the Prince’s role with its foundation is also ending.
This week telecom giant BT along with KPMG, Aon, Standard Chartered and Inmarsat all said they were severing ties to another charity headed by the Prince Advertising Week Europe also dropped plans to host a Pitch@Palace event next year.
Four universities in Australia have also ended their partnerships with Pitch@Palace Australia, and students at Huddersfield University in Britain have launched a drive to remove the Prince as chancellor.
On Wednesday, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children Foundation said it was “important and appropriate” for the Prince to step away from public duties. “With the announcement today, His Royal Highness is no longer in the role of Royal Patron to SickKids,” spokeswoman Sandra Chiovitti said.
With a report from Oliver Moore