Does anyone who watched the Duke of York’s interview believe that his claimed amnesia closes down the allegation that he had sex in 2001 – and later – with a trafficked 17-year-old victim of the dead rapist Jeffrey Epstein?
Did a single viewer consider that his claim of vivid memories of pizza in Woking, but not a thing about Virginia Roberts-Giuffre – against whom he was photographed, pudgy fingers on her bare midriff, with his friend the alleged procuress Ghislaine Maxwell leering alongside – to be anything other than a further powerful reason to believe the survivor, not Prince Andrew? Giuffre has, after all, already settled a lawsuit against Ms Maxwell, who had accused her of lying.
The royal family owes Princess Diana a posthumous apology: her Panorama appearance is now only the second most catastrophic, ill-advised royal broadcast ever made (unless that place rightfully goes to Charles’s earlier confession of adultery). To our existing understanding of Andrew as an arrogant dolt, we can now – thanks to this uncovenanted example of reputation management – add the discovery that this proud patron of the NSPCC believes this substitutes for giving a shit about Epstein’s victims. And to think that this time last week royalists were agitating about the disrespectful portrayal of the monarch with “Porchie” in The Crown. Now – assuming she’s heard the same excuses – the Queen is exposed as having protected the royal family’s own, morally vacant, nemesis.
The prince’s rueful snigger alone, before “let the side down”, must have triggered a surge of collective nausea that the Queen, notwithstanding the new extra-empathetic generation of dependants, will struggle to subdue. Again, aside from the Giuffre allegations, the prince’s frank focus on the convenience of the Epstein residence, as opposed to the fate of the girls and women who were raped inside it, would have confirmed that Princess Margaret was actually quite a minor case of royal entitlement syndrome. But perhaps we should blame ourselves? Andrew’s generous Kazakh friends can’t do everything. There was no room at the inn. Given a royal annexe in Fifth Avenue, this might never have happened. And media training seems to have been another incautious palace economy.
If “I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady” does not follow him, like Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, to his grave, it will only be because “my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable” becomes the popular, go-to excuse for idiocy of all kinds, let alone the misfortune to remain the boon companion of a convicted paedophile. It was hard to gauge, from the tackily suspenseful way the BBC has flourished its underage-sex-related scoop, how far the prince has been indulged. Maitlis was persistent, but never mentioned the time Andrew – according to Fergie – helped mediate a loan from Epstein. Nor did we discover, re the recurrent amnesia, if these blackouts are impacting his daily life, or if he can still count backwards from 100.
There are questions, too, for the BBC. What is the excuse, given the seriousness of Giuffre’s allegations, for the reverential set-up, for burnishing this pitiful, misogynistic nonsense with an audience in a massive gilded chamber, like a scene discarded from The King’s Speech for looking too comically servile? For years, nobody heard Epstein’s victims. The prince isn’t the only one still indifferent to their feelings.