In a statement issued Wednesday, Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, said: “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.”
Andrew said, “I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission.”
He added: “I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.”
The 59-year-old prince had been criticized for failing to express sympathy for Epstein’s victims in his open-ended, hour-long interview with the BBC that aired on Saturday.
In that interview, Andrew also claimed to have “no recollection” of meeting Virginia Roberts, now Virginia Giuffre, who says she was groomed by Epstein to have sex with Andrew on three occasions. Andrew “categorically” denied having sex with her.
He told the BBC that “if you’re a man it is a positive act to have sex with somebody. You have to have to take some sort of positive action, and so, therefore, if you try to forget, it’s very difficult to try and forget a positive action, and I do not remember anything.”
The duke was also asked why he spent four days at Epstein’s home in New York in 2010 — a period after Epstein had served prison time for two charges of felony prostitution. Andrew said he went to break off the friendship, and Epstein’s home was a “convenient place to stay.”
“At the time I felt it was the honorable and right thing to do,” he said. “And I admit fully that my judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable, but that’s just the way it is.”
Andrew’s ties to Epstein, who hanged himself in prison in August, have dominated news in Britain for days — even amid a pivotal election campaign.
On Wednesday morning, BT, the British telecommunications company, said it would no longer work with iDEA, the duke’s Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, which enables people to earn digital badges for technical skills they learn.
BT followed a number of other organizations — KPMG, Standard Chartered, Aon, the University of Huddersfield, Outward Bound, the English National Ballet, Bond University in Australia — that suggested they were cutting ties or reviewing their relationship with the embattled prince.
On Tuesday, the “supporters” page on the prince’s flagship initiative, Pitch@Palace, read “page not found.”
In a further development on Wednesday, the Times of London said a letter it received from Buckingham Palace in 2011 contradicted Andrew’s claims about when he first met Epstein. Andrew told the BBC on Saturday that they met in 1999 through Epstein’s then girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell. In the letter sent to the Times, on a different issue, the duke’s then private secretary said that Andrew had first met Epstein in the early 1990s.
Andrew’s friendship with Epstein had already damaged the prince’s prospects years ago. Andrew quit as a trade envoy for the United Kingdom in 2011, after a photo of him strolling with Epstein in Central Park caused a media furor and raised questions about his judgment.
Andrew’s withdrawal from public life this week — seen as a major dishonor for such a senior royal — came as his mother Queen Elizabeth II and his father Prince Philip celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.
In his Wednesday statement, Andrew said of Epstein’s victims: “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,” he said.