Prince Andrew is working his way back into royal life, despite announcing in November that he was stepping back from public duties “for the foreseeable future” amid renewed interest in his ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The Duke of York stepped out for a private engagement with China’s ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming, and his wife last week. Andrew attended alongside his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson; his eldest daughter, Princess Beatrice; and Beatrice’s fiancé, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
Liu Xiaoming later revealed why the families met on Twitter, alongside a photo from the gathering.
“Her Majesty The Queen sent an encouraging message to President Xi and Chinese people: At the critical time of fighting #coronavirus, I express my sincere sympathy for Chinese people, and pray for the speedy control and victory over the virus,” he tweeted on Friday, saying that the message “was conveyed by Duke of York,” though the visit was not done under any official capacity.
“My wife and I invited Duke of York and his family to our residence and celebrated Chinese New Year,” he added. “Their enthusiasm for China and contribution to China-UK relation is highly appreciated.”
The prince stepped down from royal duties in November, following a disastrous BBC Newsnight interview where he failed to condemn the late Epstein or express sympathy for his victims.
The prince has been accused of raping a minor who was allegedly trafficked by Epstein, though Andrew has repeatedly denied all allegations.
In Andrew’s statement announcing his step back, he said he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations, if required.”
But in January, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a press conference outside of Epstein’s New York residence that the FBI and U.S. prosecutors were unsuccessful in getting an interview with the Duke of York.
“To date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation,” Berman said at the time. According to The Associated Press, this is the first time investigators have acknowledged that they sought and failed to obtain information from the Duke of York.
Despite Andrew stepping back from royal duties, he went horseback riding with Queen Elizabeth II shortly after the announcement in an apparent show of support.
He also stopped by the queen’s annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace, attended services at Sandringham with Prince Charles on Christmas Day, and recently stepped out alongside the queen for church services in January.
And when Beatrice marries Mapelli Mozzi on May 29, People reports that Andrew plans to walk his daughter down the aisle.
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