LONDON — Prince Andrew, facing intensifying scrutiny of his ties to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, broke a long silence on Saturday to say that he never saw or suspected any behavior involving the sexual trafficking and exploitation of underage girls during their long friendship.
The prince’s statement, which was issued in his own name instead of by Buckingham Palace, was by far the most comprehensive account he has offered of their friendship. Yet Prince Andrew offered no new explanation for continuing a relationship with Mr. Epstein after the financier emerged from a Florida jail in 2010 following a sex crime conviction.
The 59-year-old second son of Queen Elizabeth II has been under growing pressure since Mr.
Epstein’s arrest last month in New York on sex trafficking charges. Lawyers for Mr. Epstein’s accusers have demanded that Prince Andrew disclose whatever he knows about the financier’s behavior, even more pointedly since Mr. Epstein’s suicide this month in a New York jail.
One of the accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffree, said in legal filings in 2015 that when she was 17, Mr. Epstein lent her to Prince Andrew for sexual exploitation on multiple occasions. She has released a photograph from 2001 showing Prince Andrew standing in a London apartment with his hand around her bare midriff.
A second woman, Johanna Sjoberg, has said in recently unsealed legal filings in the same case that, also in 2001, that Prince Andrew posed for another photograph touching her breast while at the same time touching the breast of Ms. Giuffrie with a puppet of himself.
The prince has repeatedly denied both allegations.
“I deplore the exploitation of any human being and would not condone, participate in, or encourage any such behavior,” he said on Saturday in his statement about Mr. Epstein. “At no stage during the limited time I spent with him did I see, witness or suspect any behavior of the sort that subsequently led to his arrest and conviction.“
Mr. Epstein had served an 18-month jail sentence before his 2010 release. He had pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution and had registered as a sex offender as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in Florida to resolve more severe charges.
Soon after his release on parole, the prince and Mr. Epstein were photographed walking together in Central Park in New York, and last week a video from the same year emerged that showed the prince peering out the front door of Mr. Epstein’s mansion in New York.
A representative of Buckingham Palace said in a separate emailed statement on Saturday that a single visit in 2010 had been the only one the prince had made to Mr. Epstein after his conviction and jail sentence. But around the same time, the prince helped arrange for Mr. Epstein to make a payment of 15,000 pounds, or about $18,400, to help pay down debts accumulated by the prince’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson.
When news of the payments emerged the next year, Ms. Ferguson publicly apologized for accepting money from Mr. Epstein and referred explicitly to the exploitation of underage girls.
“I abhor pedophilia,” she said in 2011.
Prince Andrew resigned the same year from his role as a trade envoy for the British Foreign Office, calling his 2010 meeting with Mr. Epstein “an error of judgment.”
In his statement on Saturday, Prince Andrew repeated that mea culpa.
“I have said previously that it was a mistake and an error to see him after his release in 2010,” Prince Andrew said, “and I can only reiterate my regret that I was mistaken to think that what I thought I knew of him was evidently not the real person, given what we now know.”
Johan Eliasch, a close friend of the prince who is the chairman of the Head sporting goods company and also a former special representative of the British prime minister, said: “Anybody who knows the Duke well knows that he is intensely loyal to his friends and sometimes that loyalty is not in his best interest, and that is what happened here.”
Several news organizations have reported that Prince Andrew began spending time with Mr. Epstein as early as 1999 — partying with him in New York, Palm Beach and London, vacationing together in Thailand and the Caribbean, and strolling with him through the woods of royal estates in Norfolk and Scotland.
Prince Andrew said for the first time that he had met Mr. Epstein in 1999 and no earlier.
“During the time I knew him, I saw him infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year,” Prince Andrew said.
“I have stayed in a number of his residences,” he acknowledged, but, “I am at a loss to be able to understand or explain Mr. Epstein’s lifestyle.”
Previous denials have done little to diminish the demands for more answers about Prince Andrew’s relationship with Mr. Epstein, in part because the Duke of York’s judgment has been questioned for years.
The prince was once regarded as a war hero for his missions as a helicopter pilot during Britain’s 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. But since leaving the Navy in 2001, he has more often been treated by the British media as an object of ridicule.
Among the many nicknames he has acquired are Randy Andy, for his parade of female companions as a young man; Airmiles Andy, for his lavish travel on the public dime; and His Buffoon Highness, bestowed by British diplomats complaining about his boorish behavior on official trips abroad.
During his years as a trade envoy, in 2007, he raised eyebrows by selling his English estate, Sunningdale Farm, to a son-in-law of the strongman who ruled Kazakhstan. Having received the estate as a wedding gift from the queen, Prince Andrew had managed to secure a sale price — 15 million pounds, around $18 million at today’s exchange rates — that was £3 million above the asking price, without an auction. The estate’s mansion has since been demolished.
In a luncheon with Western businessmen and diplomats in Kyrgyzstan the next year, the prince “railed” at British anti-corruption investigators, the American ambassador wrote in a cable that was later disclosed by WikiLeaks. It was “idiocy,” the prince said, to jeopardize a British company’s defense contract with Saudi Arabia because of alleged kickbacks to a senior Saudi royal.
British diplomats complained about the prince’s demands for perks like room-temperature water and five-star accommodations, about his entourage of no fewer than six — including private secretaries, security officers and a personal valet — and most of all about his insistence on traveling with his personal six-foot-long ironing board even during his stays in luxury hotels.
Simon Wilson, a former senior diplomat in the British Embassy in Bahrain, later recalled in a newspaper column that he had asked the valet why the prince needed an ironing board.
“No one knows how to press His Royal Highness’s trousers like I do,” the valet responded, according to Mr. Wilson.
Prince Andrew “is this kind of excrescence of the royal family,” said Stig Abell, the editor of The Times Literary Supplement, a former managing editor of the tabloid Sun and a former director of Britain’s official Press Complaints Commission.
“He is known as a sort of useless, slightly shady, has-dodgy-business-connections royal, so the fact that he is found hanging out with Epstein — who is the epitome of the dodgy businessman — is not surprising,” Mr. Abell said.