Prince Andrew has tonight spoken out on allegations he abused an underage girl, telling an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that he wanted to reiterate the formal denials already made in his name by Buckingham Palace.
There had been much speculation during the day that the prince would use his speech to address the allegations, although he spoke only very briefly on them, failing to mention the specific claims or anyone involved in them.
“I want to refer to the events that have taken place in the last few weeks, and I just wish to reiterate and to reaffirm the statements which have already been made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace,” he said, adding: “My focus is on my work.”
Although his comments on the matter were brief, this is the first time in modern history that a member of the royal family has been moved to personally deny allegations of wrongdoing. Buckingham Palace has in the past been very reluctant to comment on allegations made against members of the royal family, and when they have done so they have usually only said that they cannot comment.
In this case, however, the Palace was swift to issue several denials on behalf of Prince Andrew, and he has now felt moved to speak on this issue himself, marking a serious break with royal protocol.
The prince is accused by Virginia Roberts of having sex with her on three occasions while she was under age. She claims to have been kept as a “sex slave” by Jeffrey Epstein, a multi-millionaire friend of the prince, who allegedly forced her to have sex with Prince Andrew.
It emerged earlier today that the prince has now been formally asked to respond to the claims made by Ms Roberts in a letter filed by her lawyers.
The letter states: “This letter is a formal request … to interview you, under oath, regarding interactions that you had with Jane Doe No 3 beginning in approximately early 2001. Jane Doe No 3 was then 17 years old.
“The interview could be conducted at a time and place of your choosing, and with your co-operation, I believe the interview could be completed in two hours or less.”
An earlier statement by the Palace insisted that “any suggestion of impropriety with under age minors” was “categorically untrue”.