Prince Andrew speaks to BBC about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

Prince Andrew speaks to the BBC's Emily MaitlisImage copyright Mark Harrison/BBC

The Duke of York has answered questions about his links to Jeffrey Epstein for the first time, in a BBC interview.

He spoke to BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis in an interview recorded at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.

Maitlis said it was a “no holds barred interview”, which will be broadcast on BBC Two at 21:00 GMT on Saturday.

The duke faces serious claims over his ties to the 66-year-old US financier, who took his own life while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.

In 2015, Prince Andrew was named in court papers as part of a US civil case against Epstein.

One of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts – now Virginia Giuffre – said she was forced to have sex with the duke three times between 1999 and 2002, in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein.

At the time she was under-age according to Florida state’s law.

The details were later officially struck from the court records when a judge ruled they were unnecessary to the case, saying they were “immaterial and impertinent” to the “central claim”.

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Media captionVirginia Giuffre: Prince Andrew “knows exactly what he’s done”

A risky but necessary interview

It’s a sign of how bad things are for Prince Andrew and his reputation that he has chosen to give an interview like this. This is not a fireside chat with an old family friend. This is a long, and presumably, forensic interview with one of the BBC’s best.

Members of the Royal family give very few interviews; they try to maintain a line between their public lives, which follow an order and a pattern that rarely raise questions, and their private lives, which attract much attention but are ruled out-of-bounds by the Palace.

When they do talk about their private lives, it is generally huge news – Princess Diana damning her marriage and describing her misery, Prince Charles admitting his infidelity, Harry and Meghan speaking of how hard their lives have seemed since the wedding.

The debate over whether Prince Andrew should give an interview will have been long and vigorous. So many questions have been stonewalled for so long, with the Prince’s right to privacy given as the reason. By sitting down with the BBC, he has waived that right. It seems like a huge risk. But the Prince and his advisers have judged that the risk of saying nothing is greater.

Separately, a woman called Johanna Sjoberg alleged that the duke touched her breast while they sat on a couch in Epstein’s Manhattan apartment in 2001 in documents from a defamation case.

Buckingham Palace has issued strong denials of all allegations against the duke.

In 2015 a statement said that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by the duke was “categorically untrue”.

Image copyright Mark Harrison/BBC

The duke first met Epstein in 1999 and they saw each other on several occasions after that.

In 2005, the parents of a 14-year-old girl told police in Florida that Epstein had molested their daughter at his Palm Beach home.

Prosecutors forged a deal with Epstein in 2008, which saw him avoid federal charges.

He instead received an 18-month prison sentence, during which he was able to go on “work release” to his office for 12 hours a day, six days a week. He was released on probation after 13 months.

In 2010, the duke was photographed walking with Epstein in New York’s central park – two years after the financier’s first conviction.

Video footage, released by the Mail on Sunday, shows the duke inside Epstein’s Manhattan mansion around the same time.

In a statement released by Buckingham Palace in August, the duke said he was “appalled” by the sex abuse claims surrounding his former friend.

The statement added: “His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent.”

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