Prince Andrew told friends that he only visited Jeffrey Epstein at his New York home in 2010 to end their friendship.
The Queen’s second son claimed that a controversial visit to see the pedophile billionaire after he had been convicted of child sex offences was to tell him they could no longer be friends, according to the Sunday Times.
Despite this, a large party was held in his honor when he arrived
The convicted child sex offender was found hanged in his cell in August, weeks after being charged with child-trafficking offences.
But a source told the newspaper: “The duke has been hammered for one mistake, which took place in 2010.
“He has apologised again and again for the error of judgement. But what he did wasn’t criminal. It was a mistake.
“He went to see a friend to tell them he couldn’t be their friend any more.”
They added: “Every example of anyone behaving like Epstein, who has later been discovered, has actually been very good at
keeping their cover.
“If you have someone like the duke, you probably don’t show that side of yourself to him. That’s the sadness of being someone like the duke, you sometimes don’t see the real person because you are a bit of a trophy friend.”
DOGGED BY SCANDAL
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the claims.
The financier’s alleged sex slave Virginia Roberts claims she had sex with Prince Andrew aged 17 – which he strongly denies.
He was once pictured with his arm around her when she was 17 at a party thrown by billionaire Epstein, which supporters of the royal have suggested is fake.
Prince Andrew previously released a statement condemning his former pal, saying: “It is apparent to me since the suicide of Mr Epstein that there has been an immense amount of media speculation about so much in his life.
“This is particularly the case in relation to my former association or friendship with Mr Epstein. Therefore I am eager to clarify the facts to avoid further speculation.
“I met Mr Epstein in 1999. During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year. I have stayed in a number of his residences.
“At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behaviour of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.”