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Prince Andrew ‘plots return to royal duties despite his toxic reputation’

Prince Andrew plans to return to frontline royal duties after a year in exile over his role in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, it is claimed.

The Duke of York stepped back from official duties amid public outcry over his friendship with the paedophile financier last year.

But he reportedly believes he can still help “support the monarchy” and go back to public duties – despite concerns from within the family.

A source told The Times that the Queen has a “soft spot” for Andrew, 60, and could give him the green light to return.

But Prince Charles and Prince William would be harder to convince, in spite of Andrew’s insistence that he has done nothing wrong.

The Duke, under mounting pressure to fully engage with investigators in the US, is currently at his Royal Lodge home in Windsor mulling over his next move, insiders claim.

He is said to be confident of clearing his name.

Virginia Giuffre claims she was one of Epstein’s sex slaves and was made to have sex with the Duke three times when she was 17.

He denies the allegations, but announced in November last year that he was stepping back from frontline royal duties after a disastrous interview with the BBC.

A source said he is “focusing on the way ahead” – but claimed he is “sensitive to the public mood”.

The insider stated the Duke has “clear thoughts” on his future role, adding: “He feels he has support from the family, very much so, including all his siblings and his parents.”

However a return to frontline is unlikely, another source said, with no current plans to review his exile.

“The royal family is supportive of him thinking about what life might be like after issues are resolved, but the palace is not currently planning any future rebranding of his role,” an insider said.

Talks have taken place about what Andrew can do with his life, but a return is not currently on the table, it is claimed.

An insider said the Queen has a “soft spot” for her son, but Prince Charles and Prince William are unlikely to sanction his return.

They said: “The toxicity of his reputation is that he is indelibly associated with Epstein, and he cannot shed that reputation.

“The Queen has a soft spot for Andrew, but the Prince of Wales and Prince William will have a bigger say and I can’t see the royal family allowing him a return to any kind of public role.”

They said having to settle for a private role would “crush him”, but his “best bet” would be to manage one of the royal estates and quietly do some volunteering.

Andrew no longer has a private office at Buckingham and links to nearly 200 charities were cut after his Newsnight interview in November last year.

However he does still have military commands, including being colonel of the Grenadier Guards, in spite of force commanders lobbying for his removal.

On Friday it emerged Ghislaine Maxwell had dismissed claims that Prince Andrew had sex with Ms Giuffre in the bath at her London home by saying: “The tub is too small.”

The British socialite, who denies being the paedophile billionaire’s madam, also insisted she never made the Duke of York’s accuser, Virginia Giuffre, dress up as a schoolgirl after buying her outfits.

And she denied introducing Epstein to Andrew – despite the Prince having said that she did.

The revelations came as a New York judge released a 465-page transcript of a seven-hour video deposition Maxwell, 58, made in a 2016 civil defamation case.

During a testy exchange, Maxwell said she cannot recall Ms Giuffre, now 37, ever being in her London home – even though she was pictured there with her and the Prince.

Maxwell does, however, confirm that the Duke was a visitor to her Belgravia home and they once discussed Ms Giuffre’s “entire tail (sic)”. The Duke’s name is redacted throughout the documents but it is believed he is the person being discussed.

Ms Giuffre’s lawyer Sigrid McCawley asks: “Did you ever introduce ****** ****** [Prince Andrew] to Virginia in London?”

She replies: “I understand her story about ***** but, again, her tissue of lies is extremely hard to pick apart what is true and what isn’t. Actually, I would­­n’t rec­­ollect her at all but for her tissue stories about this situation.” The lawyer then asks: “Did Virginia ever stay at your home in London?” Maxwell says: “I know she claims she did but if you are asking me here today to remember ­specifically, I cannot.”

Of the claims Ms Giuffre had sex with Andrew in her home, Maxwell says: “What I’m representing is that her entire ludicrous and absurd story of what took place in my house is an obvious lie.”

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Ms Giuffre, 17 at the time of her alleged encounter with the Duke in March 2001, has described having sex with him in a bath while in Maxwell’s London townhouse.

But Maxwell says: “She then characterised things took place in my bathroom in the bathtub itself.

“The tub is too small for any type of activity whatsoever.”

Andrew has categorically denied allegations against him.

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