Prince Andrew makes first public appearance since since Jeffrey Epstein scandal

Duke of York makes appearance at ceremony marking 75th anniversary of liberation of Bruges

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Saturday 07 September 2019 23:47
The Duke of York was present in his role as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards and laid a wreath at the Charles II memorial
The Duke of York was present in his role as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards and laid a wreath at the Charles II memorial

Prince Andrew has attended his first major international event since controversy surfaced over the royal’s links to the late billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The Duke of York made an appearance at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bruges.

It is his most significant public engagement since his friend Epstein was found hanged in his cell on 10 August in New York while facing fresh charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy.

Epstein, who once listed Bill Clinton and Donald Trump among his friends and associates, was already a registered sex offender after being found guilty of soliciting a minor for prostitution in 2008. He spent 18 months in prison.

Prince Andrew is known to have gone on holidays with Epstein up until around 2010.

Prince Andrew’s appearance comes after a woman who claims she was forced to have sex with him when she was 17 years old has dismissed his repeated denials and said she hopes “he comes clean about it”.

The prince “knows exactly what he’s done”, Virginia Roberts Giuffre said outside a New York court at the end of last month where a succession of women said disgraced financier Epstein sexually abused them at a young age.

Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. In a statement last month, he said there had been immense speculation about the convicted sex offender.

“This is particularly the case in relation to my former association or friendship with Mr Epstein,” he said. “Therefore I am eager to clarify the facts to avoid further speculation.”

The royal added: “At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.”

Buckingham Palace has been forced to issue strong denials over allegations made by Ms Guiffre in court papers in Florida that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17, which is under the age of consent in the state.

The palace called the allegations “false and without any foundation”, saying “any suggestion of impropriety with under-age minors” by the duke was “categorically untrue”.

The Duke of York was present in his role as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards and laid a wreath at the Charles II memorial in the Belgian city on Saturday morning.

He was a guest of Prince Laurent of Belgium, the brother of King Phillipe, and the pair later inspected a guard of honour in the market square.

Prince Andrew stared directly at the bank of photographers and camera crews waiting for him at the memorial and fumbled with the wreath which had to be placed on a stand. The royal had initially attempted to hook the wreath on to the stand and had to be helped by an official.

The prince’s host in Bruges, Prince Laurent, has previously stoked controversy, earning himself the nickname of “the cursed prince” in the Belgian media.

He has frequently attracted criticism for conducting what has been deemed diplomatic activity without the consent of the country’s parliament.

Last year his annual stipend was docked for attending an event at the Chinese embassy to mark the 90th anniversary of the Chinese military in full military uniform without authorisation.

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