Prince Andrew has admitted he let the Queen and the Royal Family down by becoming involved with a paedophile billionaire.

In a "make or break" TV interview about the scandal, he said he regretted going to stay with Jeffrey Epstein in New York after the financier's release from prison on child sex offences.

"The problem was the fact that once he had been convicted I stayed with him," he told the BBC's Emily Maitlis.

"That's the bit I kick myself for on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the Royal Family and we try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that."

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Virginia Roberts holds a photo of herself at age 16, when she says Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein began abusing her sexually. Photo / Getty
Virginia Roberts holds a photo of herself at age 16, when she says Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein began abusing her sexually. Photo / Getty

Andrew also again rejects the claim by one of Epstein's victims, Virginia Roberts, that he had sex with her when she was 17, the Daily Mail reports.

The prince says he does not even remember meeting Miss Roberts, despite the existence of a photograph showing him with his arm around the teenager's bare waist alongside Epstein's alleged "madam" Ghislaine Maxwell.

"She says she met you in 2001, she says she dined with you, danced with you at Tramp nightclub in London. She went on to have sex with you in a house in Belgravia belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, your friend. Your response?" asks Miss Maitlis.

"I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever," Andrew replies.

"You don't remember meeting her?" the interviewer asks.

"No," Andrew firmly states.

The full interview, which was conducted at Buckingham Palace, will be shown on BBC Two at 9pm tonight (UK time) in a Newsnight special: Prince Andrew & The Epstein Scandal.

Duke said he had 'no recollection whatsoever' of meeting accuser Miss Roberts. Photo / BBC
Duke said he had 'no recollection whatsoever' of meeting accuser Miss Roberts. Photo / BBC

According to royal sources, the programme makes for uncomfortable viewing at times, but, they say, is a "no holds barred" discussion of the Epstein case.

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Filmed on Thursday, the Mail understands that, over 45 minutes, the Queen's son was "machine-gunned" with questions about everything from his family to his sex life in excruciating detail.

The palace did not ask for any questions to be submitted in advance, and no assurances were given. One of those present claimed the Queen's normally rather pompous and garrulous son was surprisingly "humble and candid".

"Maitlis doesn't pull her punches and [people] were wincing slightly at times but he didn't shy away from answering a single question," said one.

It is highly unusual for a member of the Royal Family to speak about something so personal and controversial in a one-on-one interview. Only the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and Prince Charles, both speaking about their failed marriage, have done so. Both programmes were considered disastrous for the monarchy.

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Andrew – long believed to be the Queen's favourite son – informed his mother about the interview in advance and was, apparently, given her blessing.

A source close to the prince said: "He wouldn't do anything without discussing it with her majesty first".

A Buckingham Palace spokesman added: "The Queen is aware of the interview."

It is the first time the prince has been publicly grilled about his friendship with the American sex abuser who was found dead in his New York prison cell in August while awaiting trial for sex-trafficking.

He has been dogged by the scandal since 2010, when he was photographed visiting the disgraced Wall Street money man in New York following Epstein's release from jail following a conviction for prostituting minors.

He lost his job as a roving UK trade ambassador as a result of the outcry.

Since then the prince has been forced to deny claims by Epstein's teenage "sex slave" Miss Roberts that she was flown to London on the billionaire's jet, the "Lolita Express", for sex with the prince.

She claims Miss Maxwell told her: "I want you to do for him what you do for Epstein."

Miss Roberts, now a 35-year-old mother, alleges that it was one of three occasions she was forced to have sex with the prince, which also included an "orgy" at Epstein's home in the US Virgin Islands. In the face of the prince's denials she has said "he knows the truth and I know the truth" and recently said he deserves to be sent to prison.

He says meeting Epstein 'was not becoming of a member of the Royal Family'. Photo / BBC
He says meeting Epstein 'was not becoming of a member of the Royal Family'. Photo / BBC

Buckingham Palace has always called the allegations "false and without any foundation", saying "any suggestion of impropriety with under-age minors was categorically untrue".

Miss Maxwell has always denied being involved in a sex-trafficking network run by Epstein. This week's bombshell interview took place in the grand south drawing room of the palace.

"It's quite raw and it's emotional," a source said, "But he doesn't shy away from answering anything – and I mean anything – and hopes this honesty will enable him to draw a line under things once and for all."

Privately, palace officials admit that Andrew's decision to allow himself to be questioned on television is a huge gamble and "may all go horribly wrong".

But one insisted: "There's two narratives about the duke. The first that he is some sort of horrible, seedy person, the second – from those who actually know him – that he is decent, honourable, kind and is continually being crucified for mistakes he has already held his hands up to. He has honestly, straightforwardly addressed some difficult questions and hopefully that authenticity will allow people to see the real narrative."

It is understood that Andrew is emphatic in his denials when he is asked by Maitlis whether he had sex with Miss Roberts.

The prince will also claim that he visited Epstein in the States in 2010 only to tell him that he could no longer have any contact with him because he felt this was the "honourable" thing to do.

A member of Miss Roberts' legal team, Jack Scarola, said he would like the prince to submit to an interview under oath instead of giving statements to the media that carry "little weight". He said there was an FBI investigation into those involved in facilitating Epstein's abuse and Andrew "would be a key witness".

And he's STILL saying he can't remember this

By Christian Gysin for the Daily Mail

The infamous photograph of Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts has dogged him for years.

Both the photo and the claims made by the young American – that she had sex with the prince in society hostess Ghislaine Maxwell's central London home – refuse to go away.

Miss Roberts maintains the photograph was taken in March 2001 when paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, Miss Maxwell and Andrew returned to Miss Maxwell's mews house after dinner and a visit to Tramp nightclub in Mayfair.

The infamous photograph of Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts has dogged him for years. Photo / Virginia Roberts
The infamous photograph of Prince Andrew smiling as he stands with his left arm around the waist of a young Virginia Roberts has dogged him for years. Photo / Virginia Roberts

Miss Roberts, who was 17, said the group went upstairs and it was then that she asked Epstein to take a shot of her with the divorced prince. Miss Maxwell is in the background.

She later revealed she wanted to show the photograph to her mother and, after the picture was taken, Epstein and Miss Maxwell left the pair alone.

The prince has told Newsnight's Emily Maitlis he does not recall meeting Miss Roberts.

The clear implication from his answer on the BBC is, therefore, that the photograph is a fake.

The picture was first published by the Mail on Sunday in 2011 after the newspaper found Miss Roberts living in a small bungalow in New South Wales.

In recent months, Andrew's friends have tried to discredit the photograph – with some saying it had been doctored on a computer.

Andrew is seen dressed in dark trousers and a light blue shirt with several buttons undone and with the sleeves adorned with cufflinks. This was a "look" he favoured at the time. Only a few months earlier a photograph was taken of the prince in almost exactly the same clothing.

Sources close to Andrew have also claimed his fingers "don't look right" in the photograph.

However, Andrew has chubby fingers and in a shot taken of him at around the same time this appears to be the case. His fingers in the shot with Miss Roberts also look remarkably similar to other photos from the time.

Sources close to Andrew question his height relative to Miss Roberts. The prince is around 6ft, while Miss Roberts is said to be around 5ft 8in. The picture does seem to reflect this.

There is clearly the sight of a flash as the shutter button was pressed by Epstein and the style of the window matches Miss Maxwell's then home.

Photographic experts point out that the practice of manipulating images was in its infancy when the picture was taken.