Prince Andrew told friends he "regretted" not expressing sympathy for Jeffrey Epstein's victims in his disastrous TV interview.
The Duke of York insisted he had "great sympathy" for anyone abused by his late paedophile friend, and had been in the dark about the "extent of his wrongdoing".
It came amid a widespread backlash at Andrew's apparent lack of remorse in the "make or break" interview on BBC's Newsnight programme, which backfired spectacularly and led Epstein's victims – who include Virginia Roberts – to demand a personal apology from the duke for his appalling misjudgment.
Andrew told friends yesterday: "I regret that I didn't make it clear in the interview that I have great sympathy for anyone who was abused by Jeffrey Epstein. When I said I was shocked I thought that was implicit. In 2010 none of us had any idea of the extent of his wrongdoing."
A source close to Andrew told the Daily Mail: "Of course, the duke deeply regrets his friendship with Epstein. As a father, he totally condemns any exploitation of vulnerable young women. He supports the victims and says that it is right that they now
have the opportunity to tell their stories and seek justice."
Yesterday it appeared Andrew's Newsnight interview with Emily Maitlis on Saturday had backfired.
Lawyers in the US said it had left the women, many of whom were in their early teens when they were groomed and abused, with "more questions than answers" and demanded he now tell all to the FBI. Attorney Lisa Bloom described the interview given by the Queen's son as "deeply disappointing", saying: "He is entitled to deny allegations and defend himself. But where is his apology for being so closely associated with one of history's most prolific paedophiles?
"The lengthy interview lacked any statement that he joins all decent people in being appalled and revolted by what we now know about Jeffrey Epstein's predatory behaviour."
Their anger comes as:
• Andrew accompanied the Queen to church at Windsor yesterday and apparently told his mother the interview was "mission accomplished" and had "put all the criticism to rest";
• Sources close to the prince say he hopes people will believe that by subjecting himself to such "brutal" questioning he has nothing to hide;
• Friends reveal he sat down at his Windsor home, Royal Lodge, to watch his grilling by Miss Maitlis for the first time on Saturday night, along with the rest of the country;
• Officials insist he will continue with his public work with a "business as usual" mantra, despite the furore;
• Senior royal officials have privately lambasted the interview as a "monumental" mistake, saying it was crazy to allow someone as "inept" as Andrew to be interviewed by someone who grills politicians for living; and
• One former royal aide called on the eighth in line to the throne to "take a sabbatical" before irreversible damage is done to the charities and organisations he works with.
Sources close to Andrew have acknowledged his decision to speak so publicly about the case was a high-risk strategy.
The prince has been castigated for visiting Epstein after he was released from prison in 2010 following a jail term for child sex offences and admitted that it was "not something becoming of a member of the Royal Family".
But he has always rejected the claim by Epstein's most high-profile victim, Virginia Roberts – now Virginia Giuffre – that he had sex with her three times, twice when she was just 17 and once around her 18th birthday.
The prince says he doesn't even remember meeting her, despite the existence of a photograph showing him with his arm around the teenager's bare waist alongside Epstein's girlfriend and alleged "madame" Ghislaine Maxwell, a friend of his.
The programme saw him claim that, on the day Miss Roberts claims he had sex with her he had taken his daughter to Pizza Express in Woking, Surrey, for a party before spending the night at home.
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He also dismissed claims he was sweating profusely during their encounter because he had a "peculiar medical condition" meaning he cannot sweat, caused by his experiences in the Falklands War.
Andrew also claimed he had commissioned investigations into whether a photograph of him with the young women had been faked.
More controversially, however, he said he did not regret his friendship with Epstein because of "the opportunities I was given to learn" from him about trade and business.
He also revealed he believed he been acting "honourably" in flying to New York to tell Epstein personally that he could no longer have anything to do with him, although admitted that "in hindsight" this had been a mistake.
As Buckingham Palace reeled from the fall-out of Saturday night's bruising 50-minute interview, Gloria Allred, a prominent US lawyer representing many of Epstein's victims, told the Mail yesterday that Andrew must now volunteer to be interviewed by the American authorities investigating Epstein's crimes.
She said: "Prince Andrew has said that the reason that he went to see Jeffrey Epstein in person after Epstein's conviction was that he wanted to tell him that he could not be in contact with him anymore and that telling him in person rather than on the telephone was the right and honourable thing to do.
"I think that the right and honourable action for him to take now is for him to volunteer to be interviewed by the FBI and prosecutors who are still conducting a serious and intensive investigation into who may have knowingly conspired to assist Mr Epstein in recruiting, or assisting the sex trafficking of underage girls to Mr Epstein.
"Andrew said he would follow the advice of his lawyers on this decision. If he has nothing to hide and has committed no crime, then why doesn't he just make the decision to share what he does know about Epstein and his close associates or employees with the FBI?
"Anyone, no matter if he is a prince or a pauper, should provide information that he or she may have to law enforcement if that might assist in a criminal investigation."
The Queen's former press secretary Dickie Arbiter said: "You can't have a relationship with someone like Jeffrey Epstein for over ten years and not come out without some stain on your character."
One more sympathetic royal adviser said he thought Andrew had been "incredibly brave" to put himself up for "fifty bloody minutes of relentless questioning".
"I don't think he has been given enough credit for that but it was a big ask to put someone under the spotlight like that. It was badly executed," they added.
But sources close to the prince said he felt he had no choice but to address the issue that has dogged him for the past ten years.
One said: "He did an extraordinarily brave thing addressing head-on some very personal questions. The interview wasn't scripted in the way that a politician's interview can be. It was very raw. The duke felt he needed to personally address the two issues he is constantly being challenged about: did he have sex with Virginia Roberts and why did he visit that man Epstein in 2010?
"He was incredibly clear on those two points. No he did not, and yes, visiting Epstein was a mistake.
"The duke has put his side of the story across. He wasn't lying. You can't lie about something like that in those circumstances and if you were going to, you wouldn't put yourself forward like that... It would be a stupid thing to do.
"At some time you have got to give the guy a break and say he has done his level best to put himself out there, and if the interview had been conducted perfectly, then it would probably be fake.
"Even at its worst, what he did in 2010 was an error of judgment. He lost his job [as a trade ambassador], he moved on and has done nine years solid work since.
"He heard the message that he needed to speak and speak from the heart. It was a very tough thing for him to do, he is glad he did it.
"It was a huge risk. But it had to be done. He just hopes this will now allow him to focus on his charities and initiatives."