Duchess of York tells friends: 'buck stops' with Prince Andrews' secretary over 'car crash' interview

Robert Mendick
Amanda Thirsk, Private Secretary to Prince Andrew, pictured in 2016

Friends of the Duchess of York have said the ‘buck stops’ with her ex-husband’s private secretary over the Newsnight interview that even she believes was a “car crash”

Multiple sources have told The Telegraph that the Duchess was staggered to return from a trip overseas to discover the interview with Newsnight had gone ahead.

They said Amanda Thirsk, the Duke of York’s private secretary, should have steered the prince away from a 50-minute interview with Emily Maitlis - described as a ‘forensic interviewer’ - on the single subject of his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein and questions over whether he had sex with a teenager trafficked to Britain.

One source claimed: “The Duchess had no involvement. This has Amanda Thirsk’s hands all over it.

The Duke is not very quick on his feet so how could Amanda put him up to it. Amanda was the one who pushed for it. Fifty minutes with anybody on the one subject is going to be difficult. Even Newsnight were flabbergasted.”

The source said that even the Duchess, who had expressed her support for her ex-husband in an Instagram post on Friday night in which she described him as a “giant of a principled man”, accepted the interview had been a ‘car crash’.

The Duke and Duchess divorced in 1996 after ten years of marriage but have remained incredibly close and even live together in Windsor. 

A second well-placed source said the Duchess had been abroad all last week in Hong Kong, China, Saudi Arabia and then Venice before returning home.

The second source said: “The Duchess was not involved. He [the Duke] has an office and you know who advises him.

Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew

“There is nothing wrong with doing television but it should have been as part of a wider documentary about the work he does. Nobody should be put up in front of a forensic interviewer for 50 minutes on a single topic.”

The source added: “I think the buck stops with Amanda and she knows that too. But she couldn’t push the Duke into doing something he would not want to do.”

Emily Maitlis, the BBC journalist who conducted the interview, has confirmed that Newsnight was only given the green light on Tuesday and were told Prince Andrew had wanted to get on with it quickly.

The now notorious four-day visit to New York in 2010 which the Duke insisted was made to say a final ‘farewell’ to Epstein coincided with Prince Andrew securing a loan from the billionaire to help pay off his ex-wife’s debts.

During the Duke’s stay at Epstein’s New York mansion, the convicted paedophile twice contacted Johnny O’Sullivan, the Duchess of York’s former personal assistant, urging him to accept an offer on the debt he was owed.

Epstein went on to pay Mr O’Sullivan £15,000 to cover the cost of his unpaid wages and other bills. The Duke insisted during his Newsnight interview that the sole reason for his December 2010 visit, five months after Epstein was released from prison, was to cut off contact.

He said he stayed at the house because it was “a convenient place to stay” and he thought it was “the honourable and right thing to do.” 

However, he acknowledged that during the visit he was guest of honour at a dinner party thrown by Epstein. Mr O’Sullivan was owed £78,000 by the Duchess, but accepted £15,000 from Epstein which then allowed a wider restructuring of the Duchess’s £5 million debts to take place.

The Duchess has suggested that her former husband, with whom she lives, handled the negotiations with Epstein on her behalf.  In a March 2011 interview, she said: “The Duke sorted out my debts and he and his office have been more than marvellous.

“I cannot state more strongly that I know a terrible, terrible error of judgment was made, my having anything do with Jeffrey Epstein. What he did was wrong and for which he was rightly jailed.”