The official website of Prince Andrew, thedukeofyork.org, has quietly been taken down, with the link now automatically redirecting visitors to the Royal Family website.
The news comes the same week that the Prince's former friend – and Jeffrey Epstein's former partner – Ghislaine Maxwell appeared in court in New York, accused of assisting, facilitating and contributing to "Jeffrey Epstein's abuse of minor girls", after her arrest by the FBI on the 2nd of July. On Tuesday, Maxwell plead not guilty to the charges. She was denied bail by a New York judge, who said she will remain in custody until she faces trial in July of 2021.
The Duke of York was drawn into the Jeffrey Epstein scandal when Virginia Roberts Giuffre – who says she was the disgraced financier's "sex slave" – alleged that she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17 years old. Despite being photographed with Ms Giuffre, Andrew says he has no recollection of meeting her. He also categorically denies sleeping with Ms Giuffre.
Prince Andrew was a close friend of Ghislaine Maxwell, and first met Epstein through her. The day after her arrest, the Telegraph resurfaced a photograph of Maxwell and Kevin Spacey sitting on the Queen's throne in Buckingham Palace during a behind-the-scenes tour reportedly organised by Andrew. Spacey was accused of multiple sexual offences, but was never convicted and denied the allegations.
The Prince has been retreating from public life since a disastrous interview with the BBC's Emily Maitlis in November of 2019, in which he attempted to distance himself from Epstein. The disgraced financier was found dead in his New York prison cell last August while awaiting trial, having plead not guilty to charges of sex trafficking dozens of minors.
After the BBC interview, Prince Andrew released a statement reading, "It has become clear to me over the last few days that the circumstances relating to my former association with Jeffrey Epstein have become a major disruption to my family’s work and the valuable work going on in the many organisations and charities that I am proud to support. Therefore, I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, and she has given her permission."
Today, Nigel Cawthorne, author of Prince Andrew, Epstein and the Palace, said, "The removal by stealth of Prince Andrew's personal website is a significant step in his reduced role since he stepped back from royal engagements in November last year. It makes it increasingly doubtful that the prince will return to royal duties. It begs the question whether he can retain his HRH title and still receive money from the Privy Purse."
In early July, it was reported that the Duke of York was "bewildered" that the FBI wants to question him in relation to Epstein's crimes. His legal team claim they have repeatedly tried to contact the US Department of Justice, saying "the DoJ… are perhaps seeking publicity rather than accepting the assistance proffered".
At a press briefing about Maxwell's arrest on the 2nd of July, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, Audrey Strauss, said, "I will say that we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us – we would like to have the benefit of his statement."
The Duke of York cannot be extradited to the US, as investigators currently only want to question him as a witness, but in June it was revealed that prosecutors had submitted a mutual legal assistance request, asking the Home Office for their help in speaking to Prince Andrew.
On Monday, an extradition lawyer told Sky News that it is "very likely" the Home Office and UK government "will play some part in deciding if and when Prince Andrew talks to authorities in the US about Jeffrey Epstein".