Exclusive: Prince Andrew steps down as patron of York Racecourse as Jeffrey Epstein paedophile scandal grows

The Duke of York presents the trophy to the owner of Postponed, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, after winning the Juddmonte International Stakes during day one of the 2016 Yorkshire Ebor Festival at York Racecourse.
The Duke of York presents the trophy to the owner of Postponed, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, after winning the Juddmonte International Stakes during day one of the 2016 Yorkshire Ebor Festival at York Racecourse.
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PRINCE Andrew is stepping down as patron of York Racecourse as the fallout from his links to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and his subsequent Newsnight interview, continues to grow.

The Duke of York has been a regular visitor to race meetings on the Knavesmire since he took up the largely ceremonial role in the summer of 2015. The venue’s first patron, he was present this July to mark the 60th running of the John Smith’s Cup.

The Duke of York has regularly accompanied the Queen in the Royal procession at Royal Ascot.

The Duke of York has regularly accompanied the Queen in the Royal procession at Royal Ascot.

The Yorkshire Post understands that racecourse officials have now been informed that His Royal Highness is stepping down from all patronages with immediate effect.

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It is understood that the racecourse directors were due to discuss the matter at their next board meeting on December 10 but that Buckingham Palace has pre-empted any decision that they may – or may not – have taken.

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At the time of the Duke’s appointment, Lord Grimthorpe, the current chairman of the York Racecourse, said: “The York Race Committee and I are absolutely delighted and honoured that The Duke of York has agreed to become our first ever patron.

“He will be a wonderful ambassador for the racecourse and we hope, with his help, York will continue to improve as one of the world’s leading racecourses.”

Last week Prince Andrew stepped down as Chancellor of Huddersfield University following protests by students who did not wish their higher education institution to be associated with the 59-year-old.

After his much criticised interview with Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis that was broadcast on November 16, Prince Andrew faced criticism for showing a lack of empathy towards the victims of Epstein.

The Duke was also criticised for what was seen by many as a lack of remorse over his friendship with Epstein, who took his own life in prison earlier this year while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

The Queen’s middle son also faces the prospect of Virginia Giuffre - an alleged Epstein victim who claims she had under-age sex with the duke, which he strenuously denies - being interviewed on BBC’s Panorama programme early in December.

Over the weekend, it was reported the Duke had resigned from his role with his flagship business project Pitch@Palace after days of speculation about his future with the initiative he founded.

High-profile business sponsors KPMG, Standard Chartered and Inmarsat, a British satellite telecommunications company, all said they would not renew their financial support for Pitch while Barclays, a partner of the project, ended its association on Friday.

A sBuckingham Palace spokeswoman told the PA news agency: “The Duke has over 230 patronages.

“He will be stepping back from public duty and temporarily standing back from all his patronages.

“The Duke will continue to work on Pitch and will look at how he takes this forward outside of his public duties, and outside of Buckingham Palace.

“We recognise there will be a period of time while this transition takes place.”

Meanwhile, it has been reported the Queen has cancelled a party she was to host for Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday on February 19.

There were plans for a formal reception for Andrew and the charities he was a patron of.

When the Prince of Wales turned 60 in 2008, he was given a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park and a party with more than 400 guests including European royalty and members of his charity.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk