Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Prince Andrew accused of tagging Sri Lankan heritage official with racial epithet

Former government aide said he regretted not confronting second son of Queen Elizabeth II

Prince Andrew has said he does not remember meeting Virginia Roberts Guiffre, a victim of disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein. AFP
Prince Andrew has said he does not remember meeting Virginia Roberts Guiffre, a victim of disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein. AFP

The troubles of Britain’s Prince Andrew grew on Monday when he was accused of using a racial slur in the presence of an aide to David Cameron of Sri Lankan descent in 2012.

Rohan Silva recalled his shock at the remark after he asked the Duke of York how the trade department could be doing a better job during a meeting at Buckingham Palace.

Writing in the Evening Standard, Mr Silva said the prince responded: “If you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the [expletive] in the woodpile”.

The phrase, which originates in the Deep South of the US in the 19th century, is a reference to a hidden problem and has widely recognised and deeply offensive connotations.

“I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t do anything about it – I felt overawed and extremely conscious of the gulf in status between the two of us,” Mr Silva wrote.

“The meeting ended shortly afterwards, and I remember distinctly how I walked blinking into the sunshine outside Buckingham Palace, reeling at the prince’s use of language.

“For a long time after, I kicked myself for not confronting the prince on his choice of words – and it’s something I still regret today. He clearly wasn’t taken to task very often by the people around him, which meant offensive language could go unchallenged.”

Palace officials said Prince Andrew strongly denied ever having made the remarks.

Mr Silva, who now works as a technology entrepreneur, also said Prince Andrew had said “you’ll never get anywhere by the playing the white man” in a separate meeting, an archaic reference to the idea of abiding by the rules.

“I genuinely didn’t know what he meant, and the discussion moved on. But the phrase ‘playing the white man’ stuck in my head, as I’d never heard it before. So when I got back to my desk, I immediately googled it.

“The definition flashed up on my screen: an old-fashioned saying, used during colonial times, meaning that only white people can be trusted to follow the rules, unlike dark-skinned natives.”

The allegations cap a testing few days for the third child of Queen Elizabeth II after he was grilled on TV for his links to the late billionaire and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Prince Andrew denied having met a teenage girl who says she was sexually exploited by the prince after they were introduced by Epstein.

Prince Andrew said was at a Pizza Express restaurant with one of his daughters when the incident is said to have taken place but has come under a wave of criticism for showing an apparent lack of empathy.

The prince’s office has said it stands by the decision to give the interview. Lawyers for women who say they were trafficked and abused by Mr Epstein have called on Prince Andrew to give a deposition under oath of what he knew of the fund manager’s lifestyle and behaviour towards women and girls.

Updated: November 19, 2019 03:25 PM