RICHARD KAY: Prince Andrew's silence will only make things worse

RICHARD KAY: Prince Andrew’s silence will only make things worse

How Prince Andrew must wish he could turn back the clock. But to where and when?

Might it be that November night in 2019 when his singular lack of remorse over his friendship with the monstrous Jeffrey Epstein was shredded in the unforgiving glare of the Newsnight cameras?

Or might he, perhaps, go back further to December 2010 and that chilly walk with Epstein in New York’s Central Park after the billionaire’s conviction – and jailing – for sex offences, as an unseen paparazzo clicked away?

Certainly they are both episodes over which he must harbour regret, if not shame. But one incident above all, surely, stands out. It is the evening of March 2001 when a smiling Andrew was photographed with his arm around the bare midriff of 17-year-old Virginia Roberts.

Yesterday, as the enormity of Miss Roberts’s lawsuit in which she accuses the prince of battery, sexually assault and emotional distress when she was a teenager emerged, that infamous picture returned to haunt him again.

How Prince Andrew must wish he could turn back the clock. But to where and when? While other family members have been angered by how Andrew has tarnished the monarchy, the Queen has remained steadfast in her support for her favourite child

How Prince Andrew must wish he could turn back the clock. But to where and when? While other family members have been angered by how Andrew has tarnished the monarchy, the Queen has remained steadfast in her support for her favourite child

Yet even as details of the bombshell allegations were making headline news, the Duke of York’s silence was deafening.

Astonishingly, in view of his previous vehement denials that he’d ever had sex with Miss Roberts, the prince and his legal team had no comment at all.

Last night that strategy of saying nothing was being questioned.

‘The duke has previously expressed his innocence and not to do so again looks like a misstep,’ said one figure who has advised him. ‘Saying nothing allows the other side’s version of events to go unchallenged.’

There is no doubt that there was a deliberately theatrical element to the way the news was masterminded from New York, but the danger for Andrew, 61, in not offering any response is that he is in danger of losing in the court of public opinion.

Yesterday, the saga was threatening to overshadow the Queen's summer holiday at Balmoral, where Andrew and ex-wife Sarah Ferguson arrived yesterday in the same car

Yesterday, the saga was threatening to overshadow the Queen’s summer holiday at Balmoral, where Andrew and ex-wife Sarah Ferguson arrived yesterday in the same car 

This is not the first time Miss Roberts has made these claims, but it’s the first time she has sued Andrew directly.

She has ratcheted up the pressure on a man who has repeatedly insisted her claims are untrue, but who has also repeatedly declined to be interviewed under oath by the FBI.

These are the most serious allegations ever to be made about a member of the Royal Family in modern times. Refusing to cooperate also damages the integrity of the Crown.

One reason for choosing to stay silent may, of course, be because of past experience – that disastrous BBC interview with Emily Maitlis.

Andrew believed he could set the record straight over Epstein. But, as Maitlis probed his answers, the prince made a series of stunning – even risible – comments that left viewers shocked.

He claimed he could not have had sex with Miss Roberts because on the night in question he was with his daughter Beatrice at Pizza Express in Woking.

How Prince Andrew must wish he could turn back the clock. But to where and when? Might it be that November night in 2019 when his singular lack of remorse over his friendship with the monstrous Jeffrey Epstein was shredded in the unforgiving glare of the Newsnight cameras?

How Prince Andrew must wish he could turn back the clock. But to where and when? Might it be that November night in 2019 when his singular lack of remorse over his friendship with the monstrous Jeffrey Epstein was shredded in the unforgiving glare of the Newsnight cameras?

He also said a medical condition brought on by being shot at during the Falklands War left him ‘unable to sweat’, challenging Miss Roberts’s assertion that as they danced together at London nightclub Tramp he had been ‘sweating profusely’.

But most controversially he offered no regret for his friendship with Epstein because of ‘the opportunities I was given to learn either by him or because of him’. Crucially, he showed no sympathy for his victims.

Andrew is hardly the first royal to bury his head in the sand in the face of public uproar.

‘Over the years the first instinct is often to adopt the ostrich syndrome,’ says a courtier. ‘The hope is if they say nothing things will blow over.’

But the Epstein affair has cruelly exposed that tactic. Time after time Andrew has been caught on the back foot as smart American lawyers and slick PRs have crafted a narrative in which the prince is painted in the worst possible light.

Or might he, perhaps, go back further to December 2010 and that chilly walk with Epstein in New York's Central Park after the billionaire's conviction ¿ and jailing ¿ for sex offences, as an unseen paparazzo clicked away?

Or might he, perhaps, go back further to December 2010 and that chilly walk with Epstein in New York’s Central Park after the billionaire’s conviction – and jailing – for sex offences, as an unseen paparazzo clicked away?

Yesterday, the saga was threatening to overshadow the Queen’s summer holiday at Balmoral, where Andrew and ex-wife Sarah Ferguson arrived yesterday in the same car.

While other family members have been angered by how Andrew has tarnished the monarchy, the Queen has remained steadfast in her support for her favourite child.

She admires his resolutely positive outlook. She was the first person he spoke to after recording the Maitlis interview and believed him when he said it had been a great success. It was Prince Charles who coordinated the royals’ response after he saw how catastrophically it had backfired.

The Queen then had to approve his recommendation that Andrew should step back from public duties.

As of May, 47 charities had retreated from their association with the duke or removed him as patron, while his Pitch@Palace mentoring network has erased his name from its website saying it will ‘reassess its future direction’.

And yet no one should underestimate the strength of the relationship that exists between mother and son.

But one incident above all, surely, stands out. It is the evening of March 2001 when a smiling Andrew was photographed with his arm around the bare midriff of 17-year-old Virginia Roberts

But one incident above all, surely, stands out. It is the evening of March 2001 when a smiling Andrew was photographed with his arm around the bare midriff of 17-year-old Virginia Roberts 

The Queen was always impressed with how Andrew handled his divorce, putting aside public humiliation to ensure the best possible home life for Beatrice and Eugenie. As for his unrelenting support for ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, the Queen saw it as the embodiment of loyalty.

After Philip’s death, when he spoke warmly of his father on camera, it seemed Andrew might be harbouring some hope of rehabilitating himself with the public.

The latest developments suggest that is a long way from reality. And the longer he chooses to remain silent, the more the suspicion grows that he has something to hide.