Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has conveyed a message to the Chinese government expressing sympathy for those affected by the deadly coronavirus outbreak – via her disgraced son Prince Andrew.
Andrew, the Duke of York, carried the message when he attended a dinner hosted by the Chinese ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, on Friday.
The meeting, as shown in photographs posted to Liu’s Twitter account, marks one of the first major appearances of the prince since he stepped down from public duties in November over a sex scandal involving an underage girl in the United States.
“Her Majesty The Queen sent an encouraging message to President Xi [Jinping] and Chinese people: At the critical time of fighting #coronavirus, I express my sincere sympathy for Chinese people, and pray for the speedy control and victory over the virus. It was conveyed by Duke of York,” Liu said.
In a separate tweet, Liu said: “My wife and I invited Duke of York and his family to our residence and celebrated Lunar New Year. Their enthusiasm for China and contribution to China-UK relation is highly appreciated.”
Andrew’s divorced wife, Sarah, their elder daughter Beatrice, and her fiancé, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, were also present, alongside Liu and his wife, Hu Pinghua.
The royal message came soon after Liu reportedly conveyed his displeasure to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson, over the British government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
In an email about his visit to China’s embassy in London – which Johnson senior accidentally sent to the BBC – he said: “Mr Liu obviously was concerned that there had not yet – so he asserted – been direct contact between the PM and Chinese head of state or government in terms of a personal message or telephone call.”
Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, has denied the allegation that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured for him in the period around 2000 by his friend Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in a US prison in August while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
One of Andrew’s last appearances before announcing he was stepping down from royal duties was also China-related.
In October, he attended the World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention in London and said Britain and China could jointly explore technological innovations in artificial intelligence and 5G communications.
Scrutiny about the sex scandal escalated after Andrew did an interview with BBC, aired in November.
He responded to allegations made by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers, who in 2015 said she was forced to have sex with Andrew in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island between 1999 and 2002, during which time she claimed Epstein kept her as a “sex slave”.
Andrew said her description of him sweating while dancing at a London nightclub before having sex with him could not be true, as he suffered from a medical condition that stopped him perspiring.
He also said that on the night he was alleged to have met her he was at home with his family after visiting a Pizza Express restaurant in the commuter town of Woking with his daughter Beatrice.
The interview drew widespread criticism in the media, with many saying his explanations were unsatisfactory.
Lawyers for Epstein’s victims said the prince showed little sympathy for those abused.
As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.