LONDON — Buckingham Palace on Sunday stepped up efforts to defend Prince Andrew after the British royal was embroiled in claims of sexual impropriety with an underage woman.
In a second statement since the claims surfaced, officials “emphatically denied” allegations by an unidentified woman who said she was forced to have sex with the royal when she was under the age of 18.
The woman named 54-year-old Prince Andrew, known as the Duke of York, in papers filed with a Florida court last week. The filing was submitted as part of a lengthy lawsuit against American financier Jeffrey Epstein, who the woman claims forced her to have sex with prominent people, including Prince Andrew. The woman was only identified as “Jane Doe Number 3” in the papers.
Royal officials on Friday denied “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by Andrew, and strengthened that stance Sunday after two tabloid newspapers published details of interviews with the alleged victim. The controversy has dominated British news coverage since Friday.
“It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with (the woman),” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. “The allegations made are false and without any foundation.”
The statements are unusual because royal spokespeople typically refrain from commenting on most media reports.
The woman claims she was forced to have sex with the royal in London, in New York and on a private Caribbean island between 1999 to 2002.
Those claims were filed Tuesday to court as part of a lawsuit centering on Epstein. The billionaire financier was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 after pleading guilty to child sex offenses, but several women want authorities to reconsider a plea deal that they said allowed Epstein to avoid more serious federal charges.
Prince Andrew is not named as a defendant in that case, and no criminal charges or formal allegations have been made against him.
The prince, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s second son and fifth in line to the throne, has been dogged for years over his relationship with Epstein. In July 2011, the royal stepped down from his role as a U.K. trade ambassador following controversy over his links with the billionaire.
SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press