Britain's Prince Andrew, from dashing pilot to sex offender's friend

LONDON (Reuters) - Once feted as a dashing young military officer, Britain’s Prince Andrew’s reputation came to be overshadowed by accusations about his sex life and royal excess.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York visits the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital to open the new Stanmore Building, in London, Britain March 21, 2019. David Mirzoeff/ Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

On Wednesday, he stepped down from public duties over the controversy surrounding his association with late U.S. financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

His move followed a disastrous TV interview aired on Saturday in which he gave a rambling explanation of his actions and showed an apparent lack of compassion for Epstein’s victims.

Here are some facts about his life:

- Andrew was born at Buckingham Palace on Feb. 19, 1960. Like his father and older brother Charles, he attended the physically rigorous Gordonstoun private school in Scotland before going to the Dartmouth naval academy in 1979.

- As a young man he was a popular royal, acclaimed by the media for his active service as a helicopter pilot in the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina. He sailed with the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, flying anti-submarine and transport duties.

- He earned the nickname “”Randy Andy” for his courting of glamorous girlfriends, including U.S. actress Koo Stark.

- The once second-in-line to the throne dropped in the public’s affection as he slipped down the line of succession, his reputation came to be sullied by accusations of a lavish playboy lifestyle funded by the taxpayer.

- He married Sarah Ferguson in 1986. She was often pilloried by the British press. Their mansion, a gift from the queen built in the style of an American ranch, drew ridicule - dubbed “South York” because of similarities to a ranch from the U.S. TV soap opera “Dallas”.

- They separated in March 1992. Andrew was said to be devastated by the departure of Fergie, who described him after the break-up as a gentle man who deserved to be loved. The couple have two children, Beatrice and Eugenie, and the family remained close and on good terms after the divorce in 1996.

- His passion for golf is said to have infuriated his ex-wife, who complained to friends he spent too much time on the golf course, and also led to media accusations he was far more interested in indulging his pastime than doing any work.

- Later years saw much negative publicity, with newspapers printing photographs of Andrew cavorting on yachts or sunbathing surrounded by topless women, and dubbed him “Airmiles Andy” for his lifestyle.

- His career in the navy lasted 22 years and in 2001 he was named the United Kingdom’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment. He gave up this role in 2011 after being lambasted for his friendship with Epstein, who was jailed in 2008 for child sex offences.

- In allegations filed in a U.S. court in 2015, a woman said she was forced as a minor by Epstein to have sex with several people, including the prince. Andrew denies the allegation.

- After stepping down as trade ambassador, he carried out official duties for the queen and promoted economic growth and skilled job creation. In recent years, the prince’s main focus was his “Pitch@Palace” scheme to use his royal influence to help young tech entrepreneurs find partners and investors.

Reporting by Micahel Holden, Editing by Angus MacSwan