The Archbishop of Canterbury has commended Prince Andrew for “seeking to make amends” for the sexual assault scandal involving an alleged Jeffrey Epstein victim.
Virginia Giuffre accused Prince Andrew of sexually assaulting her on three occasions when she was a teenage girl.
The second son of the Queen paid Ms Giuffre a reported £12million settlement and ended the US civil suit out of court in February.
Regarding the scandal that plunged the monarchy into one of its worst-ever crises, Most Rev Justin Welby suggested “we all have to step back a bit” in an ITV News at 10 interview airing tonight, the Mirror reported.
The holy man said “we have become a very, very unforgiving society” – an astonishing intervention following the Duke of York’s disgrace.
The 66-year-old told ITV anchor Tom Bradby: “At a big public occasion the Queen is fully entitled to have one of her children supporting her. Forgiveness really does matter. I think we have become a very, very unforgiving society.”
Welby has previously appeared to defend Prince Andrew by saying “everyone makes mistakes”.
He has risked the wrath of victims’ groups by saying “forgiveness really does matter” when asked how Brits should react to the Queen’s son, after he was forced to pay off his accuser a huge settlement to stop the case going to trial.
The Archbishop is one of a small group of high-profile people to come out in support of humiliated Andrew, 62, in public.
His words fly in the face of the Palace’s decision to exclude the disgraced Duke of York from the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Virginia Guiffre made the claim against Andrew for damages, saying she was trafficked by paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with Andrew when she was 17, a minor under US law.
Prince Andrew denied the allegations against him and he later came to an out of court settlement with his accuser. The settlement is not an admission of guilt.
He continued: “There’s a difference between consequences and forgiveness. I think for all of us, one of the ways that we celebrate when we come together is in learning to be a more open and forgiving society.
“Now with Prince Andrew, I think we all have to step back a bit. He’s seeking to make amends and I think that’s a very good thing. But you can’t tell people how they’re to respond about this.
“And the issues of the past in the area of abuse are so intensely personal and private for so many people. It’s not surprising. There’s very deep feelings, indeed.”
The prince always vehemently denied the allegations, even stating in a disastrous BBC Newsnight interview in November 2019 that he had “no recollection” of ever meeting Ms Giuffre.
This is despite a picture emerging of him with his hand round the teenager’s waist taken at the home of now convicted sex offender Ghislaine Maxwell.
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Maxwell and her lover and Andrew’s former pal, convicted paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, trafficked numerous young girls round the world to be used as sex slaves including Ms Giuffre.
Epstein killed himself in a New York jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial for further sickening crimes while Maxwell, 60, faced 50 years in jail following her conviction earlier this year for sex trafficking.
When the Guiffre case looked as though it could be headed for trial, Andrew was stripped of his royal patronages and honorary military titles.
He was also prevented from using the style HRH amid growing calls to banish him from royal life.
It is not the first time Welby has seemingly defended Prince Andrew.
In an interview with the Big Issue in 2019 after the Duke of York’s catastrophic Newsnight appearance, but before he paid off Ms Guiffre, Welby said: “Everybody makes mistakes, everybody is human.”
Speaking before the shamed royal had reached a settlement with his accuser and been forced to step back from royal life, Welby said: “I’m not commenting on any member of the royal family except to say that I am astonished at what a gift they are to this country.”
The Archbishop added how the royal family “serve in a way that is extraordinary in what is literally, for them, a life sentence”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments come a day after he pulled out of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee service as he battles Covid and pneumonia.
He will no longer preach at the Service of Thanksgiving for the monarch’s reign at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday.
The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell will take Most Rev Justin Welby’s place at the service.
Last week, the Mirror revealed Andrew is visiting the Queen every day in a bid to make amends.
He makes daily visits to his mother at her Windsor Castle home after being dramatically snubbed from the Jubilee celebrations.
A royal source said: “Andrew is doing all he can to make amends for the shame he brought on his family for being involved in such a scandal.
“He wants to make it up to the Queen which is why he is doing all he can to see her as much as possible.
“The rest of the family, apart from Her Majesty, are united in feeling that he should stay out of the limelight and keep quiet having left such a stain on the family.”
According to the new book Prince William at 40, the Duke of Cambridge has “cut off all contact” with Prince Andrew and told the Queen to strip him of his military titles and patronages.
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