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Duke of York thought to have cancelled Middle East trip as backlash continues

Andrew has reportedly scrapped his travel plans after pressure from his family.

The Duke of York suspended his work with his charities, organisations and military units (Steve Parsons/PA)
The Duke of York suspended his work with his charities, organisations and military units (Steve Parsons/PA)

By Tony Jones and Laura Elston, PA Court Staff and Jess Glass, PA

The Duke of York has cancelled a trip to Bahrain as the fallout over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein continues, it has been reported.

Andrew was expected to travel to the Middle East this weekend as part of his Pitch@Palace project for tech entrepreneurs, but has cancelled plans following reported pressure from his family.

It has also been reported that his private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, has been removed from her palace-funded role and will instead become the chief executive of the programme.

The Daily Mail said Ms Thirsk, believed to have been the driving force behind Andrew’s catastrophic Newsnight interview, will now run the business mentorship scheme, after she was dismissed on Thursday.

Ms Thirsk will also manage the Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, after the duke quit his life as a working royal on Wednesday.

It has also been reported that Buckingham Palace was disturbed by the mention of Andrew’s relationship with Epstein in the ITV election debate on Tuesday.

On Friday, during his week-long trip to New Zealand, the Prince of Wales ignored a question from a reporter about whether the duke should speak to US investigators.

The Times said senior aides and the Prince of Wales advised the Queen that Andrew should be withdrawn from public life, after concerns the scandal was overshadowing the democratic process.

Despite stepping back from public life, Andrew will be continuing with Pitch@Palace “outside and entirely separate from the palace”, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said.

It is thought he will not have any involvement with the dozens of other charities, organisations and military units with which he has been associated.

Pitch will become a private initiative separate from the public work he has relinquished, after the backlash following the television interview about his friendship with Epstein, widely viewed as a PR disaster.

However, several organisations have distanced themselves from the duke in the aftermath of the Queen’s second son announcing he would step down from public duties for the “foreseeable future”.

Pressure had been mounting on the duke in the wake of his interview, with a growing number of multimillion-pound businesses, universities and charities distancing themselves from him and Pitch@Palace.

By Thursday, two organisations had severed ties with him, and a sponsor of Pitch@Palace said Andrew’s plans to continue leading it were “not tenable”.

The Outward Bound Trust, which Andrew has supported for decades, accepted his resignation as patron, and Huddersfield University confirmed the duke would be relinquishing his role as its chancellor.

A source, speaking for a sponsor of Andrew’s Pitch@Palace, said his desire to carry on as normal would not work and if its “reputational” problems continued the backer would end its contract.

The source, close to a sponsor of Pitch, said: “To say you’re stepping back from public life but then carry on is not a tenable position by the palace, and I think the sponsor shares that view.

“We really want the programme to continue and succeed, because it’s a valuable programme, but if it’s going to continue to have reputational problems then we’ll have to walk away from our contract.”

Andrew will be scaling down his public work from now on, but it is not clear if his finances will change, as he is supported by his mother and her help will never be disclosed.

After the interview, Andrew faced criticism for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein’s victims, and a lack of remorse over his friendship with the financier, who took his own life while in prison earlier this year awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

The duke denied claims he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was underage.

PA

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