Prince Andrew's Royal Birthday Tribute Could Be Scrapped Amid Epstein Scandal

Prince Andrew's royal birthday church bells could be scrapped amid the continuing fallout from his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, Newsweek can exclusively reveal.

Westminster Abbey is in discussions with the Royal Household over whether the Duke of York will be honored with a bell ring when he turns 61 next February.

A source said: "We are discussing that. No decision has yet been made."

The possibility of restricting the bell ringing to Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George' birthdays is on the table, Newsweek has been told.

A final decision could be made as early as next week.

The Duke of York stepped back from public life in disgrace after a car-crash BBC interview in which he said he did not regret his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein in November.

Westminster Abbey caused a backlash in February when it honored Andrew's 60th birthday by ringing its 10 church bells.

A schedule has now been uploaded in error appearing to suggest Prince Andrew's birthday bells would go ahead again.

The timetable said the tribute would start at 1 p.m. on Friday, February 19, 2021, in apparent defiance of public outrage.

However, the schedule is not accurate and the decision on whether or not to honor Andrew is under active discussion, Newsweek has been told.

Prince Andrew Visits 161st Great Yorkshire Show
Prince Andrew on the final day of the 161st Great Yorkshire Show on July 11, 2019 in Harrogate, England. Ian Forsyth/Getty

The Abbey is one of Britain's most famous churches and was the scene of Prince William and Kate Middleton's 2011 wedding, as well as Princess Diana's 1997 funeral.

In November, the duke said in a statement: "I continue to unequivocally regret my ill-judged association with Jeffrey Epstein.

"His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathize with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.

"I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives."

However, asked by BBC journalist Emily Maitlis whether he regretted the friendship just days earlier, he said several times he did not.

He told her: "Now, still not and the reason being is that the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful.

"He himself not, as it were, as close as you might think, we weren't that close.

"So therefore I mean yes I would go and stay in his house but that was because of his girlfriend, not because of him."

The girlfriend Andrew referred to is Ghislaine Maxwell, who was recently charged with a 17-page indictment of grooming offenses.

She has pleaded not guilty and is in a New York jail awaiting trial next year.

Local councils in the U.K. were initially expected to fly the flag for the prince's birthday as well, but following a backlash government guidance was changed.

Westminster Abbey in London
A tourist takes a photograph of Westminster Abbey in central London on April 16, 2019. Ben Stansall/Getty

Among those to criticize efforts to honor the duke was Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool.

He said in February: "No, we won't be doing that, I don't think that would be appropriate.

"This isn't to do with being anti-royal, we have flown the flag for the Queen before.

"But Prince Andrew isn't a major royal, he's not a significant member of the royal family."

He added: "When you look at his behavior, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to mark his birthday."