LONDON and DAVOS — Prince Andrew, the Duke of York insisted Thursday night that he remained “focused” on his royal duties as he made his first public comments about allegations that he sexually abused a teenager.
Addressing a high-powered audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Duke said he wanted to “reiterate and reaffirm” earlier statements denying sexual contact with 17-year-old Virginia Roberts. His remarks were brief and unsensational, but it was the fact that he said them at all that marked a watershed moment. After yet more allegations from Roberts had emerged in U.S. court papers overnight, he felt he had no alternative but to become the first senior member of the Royal family to make a televised statement denying serious sexual impropriety.
Introducing an event for British entrepreneurs, he said: “Firstly I think I must for the record refer to the events that have taken place over the last few weeks.
“I wish to reiterate and reaffirm the statements already made on my behalf by Buckingham Palace. My focus is my work.”
‘I have seen Buckingham Palace’s recent ‘emphatic’ denial … That denial is false and hurtful to me’
At the end of his speech he was given a warm round of applause by an audience that included Cherie Blair. One guest, who did not want to be named, said: “We all found it pretty awkward. It wasn’t the place or the forum to be addressing personal issues. This is not why people are here and it was pretty uncomfortable.”
The Duke arrived at his Pitch@Palace event, where budding businessmen are introduced to established entrepreneurs, looking relaxed and wearing trainers with his suit to combat the snowy pavements in the Swiss resort. He appeared in bullish mood and, after chatting to the entrepreneurs, mingled with his guests.
They included George Osborne, the Chancellor, who arrived late and missed the Duke’s speech. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown stayed for five minutes to hear the start of the speech and left.
The Duke had spent the day doing his best to carry on with business as usual by holding a series of one-on-one meetings promoting British entrepreneurs, education and science and technology.
But his arrival was overshadowed by Roberts’s first sworn court statement, in which she provided fresh details of her claims to have had sex with the Duke three times in 2001.
They included an allegation that the Duke took part in an orgy with nine teenage girls, including Roberts.
She also claimed the Duke had a “sexual interest in feet,” that she had sex with him while his police protection officers sat in a car outside and that his friend Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, was “collecting private information” about the Queen’s son.
In statements released by Buckingham Palace earlier this month, the Duke categorically denied any form of sexual contact with Roberts, now 31, who is attempting to have a plea-bargain agreement with Epstein overturned.
She added: “I have seen Buckingham Palace’s recent ‘emphatic’ denial that Prince Andrew had sexual contact with me. That denial is false and hurtful to me. I did have sexual contact with him as I have described here — under oath.”
The Daily Telegraph