Editor’s Note: Robert Jobson is a royal commentator and author. His latest book “The New Royal Family,” is published by John Blake. Follow @theroyaleditor on Twitter. The views expressed in this commentary are solely the author’s.
At Davos, Prince Andrew reiterated Palace denials over accusations of underage sex
Robert Jobson says the spotlight on the Prince has prompted to some to ask what he does
Jobson says Andrew focuses on entrepreneurship, education and technology
The Duke of York has said his piece and personally made his position clear.
In a much-trailed speech in Davos at a reception at the World Economic Forum the resilient royal “reiterated and reaffirmed” the categorical denials made by Buckingham Palace issued on his behalf over accusations that he was repeatedly intimate with an alleged underage “sex slave.”
Andrew, still fifth in line to the British throne and Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, carefully and wisely avoided mentioning the name Virginia Roberts (Jane Doe 3 in filed U.S. court papers) – the woman at the center of the sordid claims. He also did not repeat the specific allegations made against him.
For the record those allegations are that Miss Roberts, now 31, was “trafficked” to be used as an underage prostitute and was forced to sexually “service” the prince – who she knew as “Andy” – by her wealthy boss financier, and convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.
She says she was 17-years old at the time of her first encounter with Prince Andrew, which is under the legal age of consent in Florida.
She claims in court papers that Andrew’s Scotland Yard protection officers left her alone with him the first time he had sex with her and that she was later involved in an orgy with the Prince and approximately eight other girls.
Five photos were also submitted, including one which Miss Roberts said showed her aged 15, when she says she began working as a “sex slave” for Epstein.
She insists she is telling the truth and wants Prince Andrew to repeat his denials on oath.
In his “for the record” speech, Prince Andrew stressed, “my focus is on my work.”
It has prompted some to ask, “what exactly is it that the Duke of York does and what is the point of him?”
Since his association with convicted sex offender financier Epstein forced the Duke to accept a downgrading of his role as a UK trade envoy in 2011, he has been busy trying to carve out a new role for himself.
He has continued to support business in the UK – but without a specialized role as before.
In recent months many high ranking figures at Buckingham Palace believed was on the right track and making progress in achieving that new role.
I have witnessed personally what a good, no-nonsense communicator Andrew is at events he has inspired and hosted.
He is particularly passionate when dealing with young start-up entrepreneurs and bringing them together with successful businesses at networking and showcasing events.
Andrew is direct and to the point, and his methods seem to work.
There is no doubt he is passionate about these issues and before this sex scandal blew up in his face he was making a good fist of it.
As he said in his Davos speech – but went widely unreported as his sound-bite about the sex allegations took all the attention: “I focus on inspiring young people to develop skills to enable them to become economically active, and encouraging a culture of enterprise and entrepreneurship.”
His work focuses on supporting entrepreneurs.
Two of the important initiatives he has inspired are the Digital Enterprise Awards – referred to as “iDEA” – which he is working with the Nominet Trust to deliver.
This is about to engage and to inspire young people to get, not only digital skills, but enterprise skills, and to expand their knowledge in the digital universe. So far in year one, about 10,000 young people are engaged in the program.
His second big project is Pitch@Palace – a bid to support start-up businesses. In 2014 the Duke launched Pitch@Palace, and held two competitive pitch events at St James’s Palace, worked with 76 entrepreneurs from across the UK. Each event was attended by around 400 invited investors, mentors and supporters.
On the day #pitchatpalace was trending 4th in the UK on Twitter. Since then more than 700 connections made between the entrepreneurs and the audience.
Some results for the entrepreneurs featured include: financial wellbeing startup Squirrel, which has raised £500k ($756k) , hired four new employees, and received media coverage on CNN and other major media outlets.
Andrew argues passionately that entrepreneurs need more than just money; they need business partners, they need mentorship, they need customers and they need network and of course investors.
Essentially, his new role is all about assisting the economic success of, and the creation of skilled jobs in, the UK.
His efforts focus on three core areas where he believes he can have the greatest impact: Education and skills, promoting apprenticeships as a desirable path to a career is one of his big issues.
He is Patron of the Studio Schools Trust and the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, among others. Last year he visited 9 University Technical Colleges and Studio Schools, as well as 24 other educational projects or institutions, interacting with in excess of 5,000 students and learners.
Entrepreneurship is his second core focus – encouraging entrepreneurship in the UK, supporting current start-ups and efforts to develop a culture of enterprise.
Thirdly, supporting science technology and engineering, promoting expertise in these areas which attract investment into UK and promoting the further translation of science into business.
He has also been key in showcasing the work of the UK Technology Industry and Innovators.
Last month he hosted the Duke of York Award for Technical Education at St James’s Palace to celebrate the achievements of students in University Technical Colleges (UTC’s) across the United Kingdom.
Question of judgment
There is no doubt this work is all highly commendable. But it is not his work life that is under scrutiny, but his judgment.
But if Prince Andrew hopes his unprecedented move to speak out publicly about his private life will draw a line under the scandal he is mistaken.
Why? Because there are still simply too many unanswered questions about his role in the scandal engulfing him; not least what was the nature of his relationship with Epstein, a man convicted of procuring underage woman for prostitution, why did he visit him AFTER he was released from prison and what was the nature of his association with Virginia Roberts (Jane Doe 3) who he was photographed with when she says she was a teenager.
This combined with the fact the ongoing civil court case in the U.S. against Epstein and three women could just keep turning up new embarrassing allegations about the Duke.
However, it is important to remember the prince is not facing legal proceedings over the U.S. claims. He has simply been named in court papers.
He has not done anything illegal until someone proves he has. To date he has not been charged with anything either.
It may be wiser for the media to show a measure of fairness and restraint when reporting allegations that are – no matter how salacious and good copy – after all just that, allegations.
The only way, perhaps, Andrew can hope to move on is by giving a detailed rebuttal of all the allegations that have been made against him in a sworn affidavit.