Thursday 5 December 2019

More organisations cut ties with Prince Andrew

Britain's Prince Andrew. Photo: REUTERS
Britain's Prince Andrew. Photo: REUTERS

Tony Jones and Laura Elston

Prince Andrew's reputation suffered another blow when two more organisations severed ties with him and a sponsor of his flagship business mentoring programme said his plans to continue leading it were "not tenable".

But Andrew is rumoured to be soldiering on with his Pitch@Palace project for start-ups and tech entrepreneurs - amid speculation he will fly to the Middle East for an event this weekend.

The Outward Bound Trust - which Andrew has supported for decades - accepted his resignation as patron and Huddersfield University confirmed the duke would be relinquishing his role as its chancellor.

An American lawyer for some of the alleged victims of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein called on the duke to honour his pledge to help with investigations into his former friend.

His offer came in a dramatic statement on Wednesday evening when the duke quit his life as a working royal over his association with the disgraced US financier.

A source, speaking for a sponsor of Andrew's Pitch@Palace, said his desire to carry on as normal would not work and if its "reputational" problems continued the backer would end its contract.

The duke was pictured leaving his Berkshire home Royal Lodge on Thursday morning and waved as he drove off, while that afternoon his former wife Sarah, Duchess of York was pictured laughing with a police officer as she was driven into Buckingham Palace.

According to reports Andrew will attend a Pitch event in Bahrain where he staged a similar showcase for up-and-coming businesses in the capital Manama in March.

The organisation's website states the winners of October's Pitch event in Abu Dhabi will be "invited to Pitch at Pitch@Palace GCC 2.0 in Bahrain in November".

Speaking about the duke a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman told the PA news agency on Thursday: "He will continue to work on Pitch but will look at how to do that outside and entirely separate from the palace."

Pitch will become a private initiative separate from the public work he has relinquished after the backlash following the television interview about his friendship with Epstein, widely viewed as a PR disaster.

But the source, close to a sponsor of Pitch, said: "To say you're stepping back from public life but then carry on is not a tenable position by the palace, and I think the sponsor shares that view.

"We really want the programme to continue and succeed, because it's a valuable programme, but if it's going to continue to have reputational problems then we'll have to walk away from our contract."

It is thought the duke will not have any involvement with the dozens of charities, organisations and military units he is associated with.

One of his more prominent organisations, the Outward Bound Trust, issued a statement thanking him for his support over many years but saying it had accepted his resignation as patron.

It said: "The board of The Outward Bound Trust has today accepted the resignation as Patron of HRH The Duke of York following his announcement yesterday that he will be withdrawing from public duties for the foreseeable future."

Andrew had become the Chair of the Board of Trustees in 1999 and in March succeeded the Duke of Edinburgh in becoming its patron.

In the aftermath of the Queen's second son announcing he would step down from public duties for the "foreseeable future", Huddersfield University confirmed the duke would be relinquishing his role as its chancellor.

In a statement the university said: "Due to the circumstances and in discussion with the University, he has decided to step down immediately to allow the University to appoint a successor."

Andrew will be scaling down his public work from now on, but it is not clear if his finances will change as he is supported by his mother the Queen and her help will never be disclosed.

After a tumultuous few days where the Evening Standard quoted sources as saying the Prince of Wales, who is on an official tour in New Zealand, had instructed the duke to stand down to save the monarchy, the Queen was working as normal - hosting an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

In his statement, Andrew said he was "willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required".

Lisa Bloom, a US lawyer representing some of Epstein's alleged victims, said there was a possibility of serving a subpoena on Andrew but it would not be as straightforward as the royal being handed the document.

She added: "If he refused to come, we may have a diplomatic situation between (the UK) and (the US). I hope it doesn't come to that.

"I take him at his word that he says he is going to co-operate, and I hope that's what's going to happen."

Graham Smith, of Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, called Andrew's decision to temporarily retire from public duties "more smoke and mirrors".

He added: "Several years ago Andrew was stripped of his trade ambassador title, but then continued to fly around the world representing this country.

"The palace needs to clarify exactly what they mean by him stepping back and explain why he isn't stepping down.

"Otherwise, this just looks like more spin to cover royal backs than real accountability."

Pressure had been mounting on the duke in the wake of his so-called "car crash" Newsnight interview, with a growing number of multimillion-pound businesses, universities and charities distancing themselves from him and Pitch@Palace.

He faced criticism for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein's victims and a lack of remorse over his friendship with the financier, who took his own life while in prison earlier this year awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

In the interview, the duke denied claims that he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage.

PA Media

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