Buckingham Palace denies claim Prince Andrew used n-word in meeting with government aide

Buckingham Palace has denied claims by a former Downing Street aide that Prince Andrew used the n-word during a meeting at Buckingham Palace.

Sky News understands that the palace has written a legal letter to the Evening Standard over allegations made in the newspaper by columnist Rohan Silva, who was an adviser to former PM David Cameron.

He said that the Duke of York used the racist word while talking with him about trade policy in 2012, when asked if he thought the government department responsible for trade "could be doing a better job".

The royal was alleged to have said: "Well, if you'll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile".

The palace is understood to "strenuously deny that these words were ever used".

Mr Silva said in the Standard that the meeting was only attended by him, a palace aide and Prince Andrew, and that he regretted not "confronting the prince on his choice of words".

The phrase he accused the duke of using was once a common reference to a hidden threat or something suspicious, however it has long been completely unacceptable.

It originates from 19th century America, where people in the Deep South used it to describe slaves who hid in piles of logs and firewood as part of their bid to escape oppression.

Despite that, British politicians have got into trouble for using the phrase as recently as 2017, when the Tory MP Anne Marie Morris was suspended by Theresa May for saying it during a meeting about Brexit.

Sky News has contacted Mr Silva for a comment.

The claim comes just days after Prince Andrew was roundly criticised for an interview on BBC's Newsnight about his links to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

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The duke was accused of "utterly lacking in compassion" for the victims of the disgraced billionaire, who died in prison earlier this year, with several commentators expressing their shock about the nature of the interview.

Lisa Bloom, who represents five of Epstein's victims, told Sky News: "He seems utterly lacking in the compassion and the astonishment that the rest of the world has felt after hearing from Jeffrey Epstein's victims."

His friendship with Epstein allegedly led to him being introduced in 2001 to Virginia Roberts-Giuffre, who says she was trafficked by the American as a teenager and forced to have sex with his friends.

Ms Roberts-Giuffre claims she and Prince Andrew dined and danced at a nightclub in London before having sex, but thee duke denies having ever met her.

Sky News' royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills said she was "shocked" by how long the palace allowed the Newsnight interview to run for, during which the duke failed to say that he regrets his friendship with Epstein.