Prince Andrew's private office to be moved out of Buckingham Palace

Duke intends to keep working on mentoring scheme despite saying he would step back from public life

Prince Andrew is preparing to leave his private office in Buckingham Palace as he seeks a way to maintain control of an entrepreneurial scheme he set up, despite having agreed to step back from public life.

The palace confirmed on Friday that the Duke of York intended to continue working on the Pitch@Palace scheme, even as Barclays became the latest among a growing number of organisations to sever ties with him over his links to the convicted child sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.

“The Duke will continue to work on Pitch and will look at how he takes this forward outside of his public duties, and outside of Buckingham Palace,” a spokesman said on Friday. “We recognise there will be a period of time while this transition takes place.”

The news came shortly after it emerged that the aide who orchestrated the duke’s disastrous interview about his Epstein links is no longer his private secretary.

Amanda Thirsk, who was said to have played a key role in persuading him to agree to the BBC interview, will reportedly run Pitch@Palace.

On Friday, Buckingham Palace refused to confirm the details surrounding Thirsk’s departure from her long-standing role. A spokesman said: “We would not comment on the impact on any individual member of his team.”

It follows Barclays’ announcement late on Friday that it was pulling its support as a major sponsor from the prince’s mentoring scheme. In a statement, it said: “In light of the current situation, we have informed Pitch@Palace that going forward we will, regretfully, no longer be participating in the programme. Pitch@Palace has been historically highly successful in supporting entrepreneurs and job creation and we hope a way forward can be found that means they can continue this important work.”

Earlier, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) said it had dropped Andrew as its patron, with the prince also stepping down from the same role at London Metropolitan University.

The BBC confirmed it would air a damaging Panorama interview on 2 December with Virginia Giuffre, the woman who claimed she was made to have sex with Prince Andrew on three occasions including when she was 17.

Giuffre, formerly called Roberts, spoke to Panorama three weeks ago for an investigation the programme has been working on for months scrutinising the prince’s connections with Epstein, who killed himself in August as he awaited trial on new sex trafficking charges.

But before the episode was ready to air, the prince agreed to do a sit-down interview with rival BBC programme Newsnight.

The interview with Emily Maitlis, during which the royal denied claims he slept with Giuffre and failed to express sympathy to Epstein’s victims, prompted an outpouring of criticism. He told the Newsnight presenter he only went to stay with Epstein in New York in 2010, after Epstein had served jail time for child sex offences, to inform the financier that he could no longer associate with him.

Born in Brooklyn in 1953, Jeffrey Epstein was a convicted sex offender and financier who died in jail in August 2019 while awaiting trial for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. He had previously served 13 months in jail after being convicted in 2008 of procuring an underage girl for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute. A medical examiner declared Epstein's death a suicide.

His death came after unsealed documents in New York revealed the extent of his abuse of young women at his home in Palm Beach, New York and the Virgin Islands. An earlier attempt to prosecute him on similar charges had collapsed when authorities granted him an unusually generous deal to plead guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida.

Epstein made his name at the investment bank Bear Stearns before opening his own firm in 1982, managing money for clients with wealth in excess of $1bn. The business came with an intensive social schedule. Epstein positioned himself as a party figure in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, and courted the rich, famous and powerful across America and the world.

Epstein’s circle of friends and acquaintances has included Donald Trump; Bill Clinton; Prince Andrew; Leslie Wexner, founder of the company that owns the Victoria’s Secret lingerie brand; and many other prominent names in law, entertainment and politics.

In July 2020, his long-term confidante and personal assistant Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI on charges related to Epstein's sex crimes.

The interview led to his suspension from duties by the Queen. On Wednesday, after days of unrelenting pressure as a slew of companies cut ties with the prince, the Queen gave permission for Andrew to “step back from public duties for the foreseeable future”. He said he would be “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required”.

Thirsk’s position in pushing for the interview is understood to have been at odds with Jason Stein, the aide who left just a fortnight after he was brought in to assist with managing the prince’s reputation.

Reports suggested Thirsk would take up a role as the chief executive of Pitch@Palace, where she has already served as a director since 2014. Pitch@Palace did not respond to a request by the Guardian for comment.

RPO distanced itself from Andrew after its management met the royal’s office on Thursday afternoon. In a statement released on Friday, a spokesman said: “At a subsequent meeting of the RPO board, it was decided that the orchestra should part company with its patron, with immediate effect. The RPO would like to express its gratitude to His Royal Highness for his support of the orchestra over the past 15 years.”

It followed London Metropolitan University announcing that the prince had resigned “with immediate effect” as its patron. “The university’s board of governors will consult widely, in particular with our students, about whether and how we replace the duke with any senior honorary roles,” it said.

On Friday, the Queen was spotted horse riding with Prince Andrew in the grounds of Windsor in what one royal expert said was an apparent show of support to her second son. Ingrid Seward, the editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, said: “He’s been through the wringer, he’s thoroughly humiliated, he’s had to step down, but that doesn’t mean his mother doesn’t care about him any more. It’s probably giving a message that whatever he’s done, he’s still my son, he’s still a member of the royal family.”


Simon Murphy , Jim Waterson and Kevin Rawlinson

The GuardianTramp

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