Buckingham Palace sources insisted, after it was alleged that he had begun informal discussions with the royal family about his future role, the Duke of York cannot return to public life unless his name has cleared.

The Duke, 60, stepped back from his official royal duties in November after that Newsnight interview about his friendship with Geoffrey EpsteinConvicted Poof. However, insiders have long made clear that he is desperate to rebuild his reputation and is even pinning his hopes on a “complete acquittal.”

A source close to Prince Andrew has now admitted that although he knows he cannot “continue as usual,” he still has some “clear ideas” about his future service.

“He is thinking of how best to serve his country and will work with his family, advisors and stakeholders on what this will look like,” the source said.

“He is very sensitive to the public mood and acutely aware that the public is the most important stakeholder. He feels that he has the support of the family, to a large extent, including all of his brothers and his parents.”

The Duke is said to be devising a “rework” of his role that could restore him to some public duty next year, if he can solve legal issues related to his relationship with Epstein and claim he slept with one of the 17 financiers. Victims a year old when she was in London.

The Duke has always vehemently denied the allegations.

Buckingham Palace made it clear that while his family members privately support him, a return to any form of public role cannot be considered unless his association with Epstein no longer obscures him. A senior royal aide praised the Duke for the “level of maturity” he had shown in handling the fallout so far, accepting, for example, that he could not appear in his daughter’s official wedding photos of Princess Beatrice or attending the memorial next month on Sunday’s Memorial. .

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The source said: “The Duke is still a son and brother and part of the family and has not been excluded.” But when he stepped back from his “foreseeable future” public role last November, it was due to disagreements about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein that were never resolved.

“In an ideal world, a family would like to see something change but the harsh reality is that there are a lot of obstacles that have to be overcome first.”

Attempts to rehabilitate the Duke’s image began when he appointed a formidable legal team working around the clock to clear his name. Pictured earlier this year packing donuts at his home, Royal Lodge, in Windsor, presenting sponsorship packages to Thames Hospice

. However, revealing the possibility of returning to public life couldn’t have come at a worse time, coming only days after his friend. Ghislaine Maxwell’s legal deposit revealed, He brought up new questions about his friendship with Epstein and the allegations that he slept with Virginia Roberts Joffrey, when she was 17. Maxwell claimed in his testimony that the Duke described Miss Roberts Joffrey as a “liar”.