The Archbishop of Canterbury has addressed the Duke of York scandal by saying that asking the Royal Family to be “superhuman saints” is unrealistic.
The Most Rev Justin Welby shared his Christmas message with The Big Issue today, in which he reflected on the state of vulnerable people, homelessness and foodbank users.
However he was also asked about the scandal embroiling the Duke of York and his thoughts on whether the royal family have to adhere to a higher moral code than the rest of society.
Prince Andrew was confronted about his relationship with billionaire financier and convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Eepstein, who killed himself in prison earlier this year, during a BBC Panorama interview with Emily Maitlis last month.
Prince Andrew denies allegations that he had sex with Virginia Roberts-Giuffre, who claims she had been trafficked to London in 2001, where she was forced into having sex with the Duke, and said he could not recall meeting her at all.
Following the television appearance, he was widely criticised for his failure to show remorse for his association with the disgraced financier or empathy with his victims.
Yet the Archbishop has since waded into the row. Asked about whether Royal Family members have a greater responsibility than other members of society, he told the publication: “I think generally speaking they do serve in a way that is extraordinary in what is literally, for them, a life sentence," he said.
"I think to ask that they be superhuman saints is not what we should do because nobody is like that.
"Everybody makes mistakes, everybody is human. I am not commenting on any member of the royal family except to say that I am astonished at what a gift they are to this country."
The Archbishop’s comments come as a second alleged victim has come forward to claim that Prince Andrew was used as bait by the paedophile, Epstein, in an attempt to lure her to his Caribbean island when she was 15.
Little St James was owned by Epstein from around 1998 until his death in August. The woman, who refers to herself as Jane Doe 15, claims she had been sexually assaulted at Epstein's Zorro ranch compound in New Mexico in 2004 before the attempt to lure her to the Caribbean.
The 15-year-old was then offered by Epstein's representative to visit his Caribbean island which she declined 'out of fear' and did not meet Andrew or see the billionaire sex offender again, according to The Sunday Times. Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the new claims.
In response to the BBC interview, a Palace spokesman said the Duke “unequivocally regrets his ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein' and 'deeply sympathises with those affected who want some form of closure”.
They said 'it is emphatically denied that The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation'.
It has been reported that the FBI are interested in interviewing Prince Andrew about his connections to Epstein. The royal has said in a public statement that he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations if required”.