Buckingham Palace on Sunday took the rare step of addressing a royal rumor, vehemently denying that Prince Andrew had several sexual liaisons with an underage woman.
Working hard to get ahead of the story, the palace issued a second statement in which officials “emphatically denied” allegations by a woman who claims she was forced to have sex with the prince when she was 17.
The woman made the claims 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 Associated Press reported.
Right after the allegation emerged on Friday, royal officials denied “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors. Sunday, the palace went further: “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 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.