NOEL KING, HOST:
Prince Andrew is facing new questions about his ties to Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender. I should note that this story includes disturbing details and is not appropriate for all listeners. Virginia Roberts Giuffre told the BBC that Epstein took her to London when she was 17 years old. She claims she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew. Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied that he had a sexual relationship with Giuffre. When he was asked by the BBC last month about her allegations, he said, quote, "They never happened."
Last night, Buckingham Palace said, quote, "It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. Any claim to the contrary is false and without foundation." In a one-hour special on BBC's "Panorama," Giuffre went into detail about their alleged relationship and the prince's denial.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PANORAMA")
VIRGINIA ROBERTS GIUFFRE: I'm calling B.S. on this because that's what it is. He knows what happened. I know what happened. And there's only one of us telling the truth. And I know that's me.
KING: Once again, this story contains details that will disturb some listeners. Royals commentator Richard Fitzwilliams is on the line with me from London. He's been following the royal family for decades. Mr. Fitzwilliams, what was your biggest takeaway from this BBC interview?
RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS: I think it was a very powerful documentary and a strong interview. Virginia Giuffre was emotional and, I think, would've communicated her point of view very, very vividly to her audience. The documentary chronicled Epstein's monstrously sleazy world superbly. I have to say that Prince Andrew's interview recently was nothing more nor less than a public relations catastrophe. Only 6 percent of the population actually believed it.
KING: Only 6 percent actually believed Prince Andrew. I wonder then, does this interview change public perception of the prince in the U.K.?
FITZWILLIAMS: Public perception of the prince in the U.K. is already at an all-time low. I mean, he has no future in public life. He's stepped down from royal duties. And there are questions being asked, also - allegations that he exploited his trade role as United Kingdom special envoy for business deals for his own purposes. The facts are that this has been a grave embarrassment to the royal family. And during a general election campaign, it has featured very considerably. The whole thing is absolutely dreadful for the monarchy.
KING: How has the royal family responded?
FITZWILLIAMS: They have responded by distancing themselves from - as you mentioned, the statement from Buckingham Palace did - from Virginia Giuffre's allegations. But they have ensured that he will not perform any royal duties - I quote - "for the foreseeable future." For that, you can read forever. Frankly, I cannot see a comeback. What I do see potentially are legal aspects of this, which - who knows where they may lead.
KING: In the 20 seconds we have left, what does this mean for the royal family going forward?
FITZWILLIAMS: The royal family should go forward as it has over the past thousand years with ups and downs. But there is no question that just as the 1990s was the nadir, this is a very tricky time for it.
KING: Royals commentator Richard Fitzwilliams, thanks so much.
FITZWILLIAMS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.