Emily Maitlis admits that the questions she asked Prince Andrew were ‘almost too surreal’

Emily Maitlis admits that the questions she asked Prince Andrew were ‘almost too surreal’

BBC Newsnight journalist Emily Maitlis has said that the questions she posed to Prince Andrew in a 2019 interview were “almost too surreal to ask”.

In a column on the BBC website, the broadcaster said that the directness of her questions to the Duke of York makes her “catch [her] breath” when she listens back to the interview today.

Maitlis’s column comes as a New York judge is set to decide on whether or not to dismiss a civil lawsuit against the royal.

Virginia Giuffre is suing the Queen’s son for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was 17 and a minor under US law. Prince Andrew has denied all the allegations.

The 2019 interview conducted by Maitlis - in which the duke made claims over his supposed inability to sweat and his alleged visit to a Pizza Express in Woking - was an opportunity for the duke to explain his side of the story, she said.

In an article published on Tuesday night, Maitlis wrote: “At the time, the specifics seemed almost comical. They spawned memes and riffs, quiz-show questions and stand-up routines. But now, suddenly, they feel deadly serious.”

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She said the team went into the interview knowing they had “one chance to get it right”.

She wrote: “The answers he gave me on camera may have seemed astonishing, jaw-dropping, even, in places. But bizarrely, I had been expecting them. We had talked through the things he wanted to say earlier, so part of my job that day was just to let him speak.”

Before filming, Maitlis met Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace where he outlined what he wanted to tell Newsnight.

It was during this meeting, over cups of tea in bone-china cups, that Prince Andrew claims the photograph of him and Giuffre “was likely a doctored fake”, Maitlis wrote.

During this meeting, he also told the journalist about his inability to sweat, apparently caused by an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War.

She told him that the team at the BBC wanted to hear “as much detail of his account as we could”.

She stressed that the “point of the interview was not to catch him out”. Rather, it was to serve as a record of the royal’s “own version of events”.

Reflecting on the interview, she said she catches her breath at the “directness” of her questions, and “can’t quite believe that the words came out in the order [she] intended”. “But they had to”, she added, “because we had just one chance”.

She continued: “And we had to be very, very sure - not of the answers - but of the things we needed to find out. Virginia Giuffre alleged she had dined and danced with a sweating Prince Andrew in that London club. And that afterwards she was made to have sex with him in Ghislaine Maxwell’s house.”

“I was already prepared for much of what he was going to say - although never the exact manner in which he said it. But I had to ask those questions in the way I did - to hear and to capture those answers on tape - for wherever the story would take us next,” she concluded.

For live updates on the hearing as it happens, follow The Independent’s live blog.

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