A British pizza chain is the subject of worldwide attention after Prince Andrew explained that a visit to its Woking venue almost two decades ago meant he could not have had sex with an alleged victim of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
When asked on BBC Newsnight if he remembered dancing with Virginia Roberts at a London nightclub in 2001 before leaving to sleep with her, the Duke of York said he was “at home with the children” on the night in question, having earlier taken his daughter Princess Beatrice to the pizza restaurant.
The admission quickly inspired a barrage of tongue-in-cheek reactions on Twitter and various restaurant review sites.
“Pizzas so good, they’re fit for a prince,” one user posted.
“Going to hit up Pizza Express. I’m sure I’ll remember this day forever,” another wrote.
Even the company shared a photo reacting to the unexpected wave of publicity.
Newsnight host Emily Maitlis asked why he remembered going to Pizza Express “so specifically”.
“Because going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do, a very unusual thing for me to do,” the Duke replied.
Within hours of the television interview going to air, hundreds of Google reviews about the Woking store had been posted online.
“It has been 18 years since I visited, but I remember it like it was yesterday,” Dave Branwood wrote.
“The pizza is so good from this specific branch it gives you the ability to not only remember what year you visited but the exact day and month,” Micky Tolchard added.
Royal Central website editor Charlie Proctor tweeted: “I expected a train wreck. That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad.”
Public relations and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski said: “I have never seen anything so disastrous. For any students of PR that is how not to do it.
“It was like watching a man in quicksand and unfortunately, I don’t think anyone would have thrown him a line to get him out.”
Following the BBC broadcast, there were calls from the public for Prince Andrew’s resignation.
Andrew, 59, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II and eighth in line to the throne, has been heavily criticised over his links to multimillionaire Epstein, who died in custody in the US in August.
A photograph apparently showing Andrew with his arm around then 17-year-old Roberts, now Giuffre, and with Epstein’s friend Ghislaine Maxwell standing in the background, has been widely published. Supporters of Andrew, however, have disputed its authenticity.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to procuring a girl under the age of 18 for prostitution and served 13 months in a US prison before being released on probation.
He was arrested in July on new federal charges that he trafficked girls as young as 14 for sex, but was found dead in New York’s high-security Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10 as he awaited trial.
A coroner ruled that he committed suicide by hanging.