Queen weighs in on scandal

The Queen is reported to have held
private talks with Prince Andrew about the mounting scandal over his links to
Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire convicted sex offender, and his trade dealings
with despotic regimes on behalf of the government.

Prince Andrew’s spokesman refused
to comment on the meeting, said to have taken place at the Queen’s private apartments
at Buckingham Palace, after more than two weeks of daily reports criticising
his conduct and his judgment as the UK’s international trade envoy.

It was reported that the Queen and
the Duke of York discussed the continuing negative impact of the headlines he
is generating.

The revelations include his
decision to lobby MPs and peers to support greater business links with Azerbaijan,
an autocracy accused of torturing protesters.

It also emerged that Epstein used
an RAF base to land his jet en route to a party at Sandringham, Norfolk.

Asked about the meeting, a
spokesman for Prince Andrew said: “We will absolutely not make any comment
on that.”

Sources close the situation said the
Queen was concerned that scrutiny of the duke was overshadowing preparations
for the wedding next month of Prince William and Kate Middleton, which the
royal family had hoped to use to generate a boost in public support.

“The feeling is that this
can’t go on forever and the only person who could make that clear to the duke
is the Queen,” the source said.

“He would never resign of his
own accord but if his mother tells him he has to, he will.”

The duke has already held meetings
with senior government officials since the controversy over his behaviour

Last week, he was briefed at the
Cabinet Office and held talks with Jon Cunliffe, David Cameron’s adviser on
international economic affairs and Europe.