Prince Andrew says he will be stepping down from public duties “for the foreseeable future.”
Andrew has denied allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, procured for him by his friend, Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in a U.S. prison in August while awaiting his own sex trafficking case.
“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,” he said in a statement on 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.”
The British prince said he continues to “unequivocally regret” his “ill-judged association” with Epstein.
“His 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. I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives,” he wrote.
“Of course, I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
The prince’s decision comes after a controversial BBC interview that aired on Saturday night.
Andrew denied ever meeting Virginia Giuffre Roberts, who alleges they had sex when she was underage. The prince said the encounter could not have happened as she described because he was at a birthday party with his daughter that day.
He was grilled by the BBC’s Emily Maitlis for staying at Epstein’s New York mansion in 2010, which was after he was convicted on sex charges.
Andrew said he did that in order to end their friendship face to face in light of what had occurred but admitted it was a “convenient” place to stay and ended up spending several days there.
“At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do,” he said.
“But at the time, I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable, but that’s just the way it is.”
Prior to his death, Epstein was in jail awaiting trial on fresh charges — one count of sex trafficking a minor and one count of sex trafficking conspiracy.
Prosecutors believed he exploited “dozens” of underage girls over the course of many years and asked them to recruit new victims, court documents show.
Epstein was convicted on prostitution charges relating to underage victims roughly a decade prior, but was spared a lengthy prison sentence due to what has been criticized as a “sweetheart” deal with prosecutors. He received a 13-month sentence in a program that allowed him to continue working at his office.
After the BBC interview, critics lambasted the prince — who had known Epstein since 1999 — for not expressing enough sympathy for the alleged victims.
One journalist said he expected the interview to be a “trainwreck” but it surpassed even that.
“That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion-level bad,” said Charlie Proctor, editor of the Royal Central website, which covers the British monarchy.
Prince Andrew, who holds the title Duke of York, is the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press