Meghan Markle has accused the Royal Family of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ about her and Harry in their interview with Oprah Winfrey in a new teaser clip released just hours after Buckingham Palace launched a probe into her alleged bullying of staff.
Ramping up her war of words with the royals, the Duchess of Sussex calls her husband’s family ‘The Firm’ in the 30-second trailer released by CBS today and blames them for speaking out in a show set to be watched by millions around the globe.
In a clip set to dramatic music, Ms Winfrey asks her: ‘How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?’ And an emotional Meghan replies: ‘I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us’.
The Duchess adds: ‘And, if that comes with risk of losing things, there is a lot that has been lost already.’
It is not known what ‘falsehoods’ Meghan is talking about because the interview was recorded before she was accused of ‘driving out’ two PAs and shattering the confidence of another member of Kensington Palace staff – with one former aide branding Prince Harry and his wife ‘outrageous bullies’ in The Times yesterday.
And last night the Queen launched an unprecedented inquiry into allegations that the couple bullied their staff and devastating claims that the Duchess of Sussex inflicted ’emotional cruelty’ on aides who accuse her of playing the victim.
Today new claims emerged that royal staff say they are members of the ‘Sussex Survivors’ Club’ after working for the couple, with some claiming they have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety because of their treatment by Harry and Meghan.
And senior palace sources said aides are ‘incandescent’ the Sussexes claimed they were orchestrating a ‘smear campaign’ against the Duchess.
One told the Mirror: ‘It is totally disingenuous, frankly ludicrous and wholly untrue to suggest anyone at the Palace has been peddling disinformation and has been briefing on these matters. There are far, far more important things going on right now than the circus surrounding a media appearance’.
Meghan’s ramping up of the war of words with the palace came as:
- Buckingham Palace says it is ‘very concerned’ about claims Meghan mistreated staff and allegations some were forced out and others left ‘shaking’ and sobbing because of her alleged ’emotional cruelty and manipulation’
- A royal insider scotched hopes they could one day return for royal events such as Trooping the Colour, saying: ‘I can’t ever see those two back on the balcony’;
- New claims that Meghan ‘hissed’ at staff and reduced one aide to tears on a royal tour emerge;
- Prince Philip spends another night in hospital as he heads towards three weeks as a patient needing heart treatment;
Meghan and Harry’s war of words with his family and the royal household has stepped up a gear after Ms Markle said that they were ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ about them in a clip released hours after the Queen launched an inquiry into claims she bullied staff out of their jobs
Meghan Markle spoke to Oprah Winfrey for the interview, which will air on Sunday, and is asked whether she had contemplated what the reaction would be from Buckingham Palace to the interview
Meghan suggests she has no fears about losing her royal privileges by speaking out, claiming: ‘If that comes with risk of losing things, there is a lot that has been lost already’
Meghan Markle wore a pair of striking diamond earrings that were allegedly a wedding gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. She is pictured wearing them at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji, on October 23, 2018, three weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul
The royal aides at the centre of palace intrigue
Melissa Touabti (right) is pictured with Robbie Williams’ wife Ayda for whom she previously worked
PA WHO QUIT AFTER WEDDING:
Melissa Touabti, the duchess’s former personal assistant, had previously worked for Robbie Williams and Madonna.
She played a key role in preparations for Meghan and Harry’s wedding in May 2018, but quit after just six months.
The Frenchwoman, 41, took a job with the billionaire Livingstone family – owners of the stately home Cliveden.
THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR:
Jason Knauf joined the royals in 2014, having acted as a ‘crisis management expert’ at the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The 36- year-old American, who completed his master’s at the London School of Economics, served as communications secretary to the ‘Fab Four’ of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan before the Cambridges and Sussexes created separate offices in March 2019.
Mr Knauf now heads William and Kate’s charitable foundation.
THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR: Jason Knauf (left) walks behind the couple at the Invictus Games in Toronto
Simon Case in Dundee in 2019
THE WHIZ-KID WHO RUNS WHITEHALL:
Simon Case became the youngest head of the civil service for over a century when he took the post at the tender age of 41.
The Cambridge history graduate – a noted fan of tweed suits and Barbour jackets – had previously been the principal private secretary to successive Tory prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May. He also worked at spying centre GCHQ as a ‘director of strategy’.
His most recent role before becoming Cabinet Secretary last year was serving as private secretary to Prince William.
THE TOUGH TALKING AUSTRALIAN:
Formerly the Queen’s assistant private secretary, Samantha Cohen had planned to quit Buckingham Palace in 2018. Instead, she agreed to stay on and help the duchess through her first months in the Royal Family.
The well-liked but tough-talking Australian became the Sussexes’ private secretary, but left in 2019 to work for the environmental charity Cool Earth.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Samantha Cohen) attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 in Widnes, England
THE PRINCES’ HR HEAD HONCHO:
Experienced human resources director Samantha Carruthers worked for De Beers and investment bank Lazard before joining the royals.
Head of HR for Prince Charles and Prince William until 2019, she is now deputy chairman of the board of trustees for child bereavement charity Winston’s Wish.
Samantha Carruthers worked for De Beers and investment bank Lazard before joining the royal
Meghan Markle will talk about her experience of race issues in Britain during her interview with Oprah Winfrey.
And in dramatic promotional clips released on Monday, Miss Winfrey is seen asking Meghan if she was ‘silent or silenced’, with the duchess’ answer not revealed.
In response to a comment by the duchess, the presenter says: ‘Almost unsurvivable. Sounds like there was a breaking point?’
At one point in the trailer, Miss Winfrey tells viewers: ‘Just to make it clear to everybody, there is no subject that is off-limits,’ as Meghan nods in agreement.
The clip then cuts to Harry, 36, in a grey suit and white shirt with no tie, as he says: ‘My biggest fear was history repeating itself.’
The teaser then shows Harry and Meghan sitting side by side holding hands as Miss Winfrey says: ‘You have said some pretty shocking things here’.
In a second clip, also set to dramatic music, Prince Harry compares his mother’s situation to the one he says he and Meghan found themselves in.
As he speaks, a picture is shown of him with his mother when he was a little boy.
‘For me, I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here talking to you with my wife by my side, because I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago because it’s been unbelievably tough for the two of us. But at least we have each other,’ he says.
Today’s clip with Meghan’s views on ‘The Firm’ came as Buckingham Palace announced they will launch an investigation into allegations that Markle bullied royal aides.
The Queen launched the unprecedented inquiry into allegations that Meghan and Harry bullied their staff – leaving royal employees ‘shaken’ by ‘unhappy memories’ being brought up about a ‘toxic period’.
Devastating claims that the Duchess of Sussex inflicted ’emotional cruelty’ on underlings and ‘drove them out’ were ‘very’ concerning, Buckingham Palace said.
It came as a royal insider scotched hopes they could one day return for royal events such as Trooping the Colour, saying: ‘I can’t ever see those two back on the balcony.’
Harry and his wife were both labelled ‘outrageous bullies’, according to sensational claims reported yesterday.
‘Broken’ royal aides told of feeling humiliated, ‘sick’, ‘terrified’, left ‘shaking’ with fear, and being reduced to tears by the duchess.
The Duchess of Sussex is accused of ‘driving out’ two PAs and shattering the confidence of another member of Kensington Palace staff – with one former aide branding Prince Harry and his wife ‘outrageous bullies’ in The Times on Wednesday.
It also claimed the monarchy’s ‘men in gray suits’ were aware of the purported actions of the duchess – but did ‘absolutely nothing to protect people’.
Meghan has denied the allegations and accused the newspaper of being ‘used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative’ about her.
Royal officials initially refused to comment, with sources telling MailOnline that aides and senior family members are focused on Prince Philip’s health problems in hospital.
But on Wednesday night, the Palace confirmed that its HR team will ‘look into’ the allegations, saying it ‘does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace’.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
‘Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article.
‘Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.
‘The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.’
A royal source told the Daily Mail last night that the emergence of the bullying claims yesterday had ‘shaken’ many staff, both past and present, and brought up ‘many unhappy memories’ about a particularly ‘toxic period’.
There is no timetable to the investigation but it is understood that any changes in policies and procedures will be shared publicly in an annual review expected later in the year.
Meghan said The Times is being ‘used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative based on misleading and harmful misinformation’ about her treatment of staff after former aides accused her of ’emotional cruelty and manipulation’, reducing them to tears and leaving them ‘shaking’ with fear.
Her lawyers said the former actress was ‘saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma’.
Jason Knauf – the Sussexes’ then communications secretary who now heads the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charitable foundation – made a bullying complaint in October 2018 in an apparent attempt to force Buckingham Palace to protect staff.
A source told the newspaper Harry begged his senior aide not to take the matter further, but it also reported lawyers for the duke and duchess deny the meeting took place and that Harry would not have interfered with staff matters.
Knauf reportedly sent an email outlining the duchess’s alleged actions to Simon Case – the Duke of Cambridge’s then private secretary and now the cabinet secretary – after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of human resources.
Case then forwarded it to Carruthers, who was based at Clarence House.
The Times reported Knauf wrote in his email: ‘I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X was totally unacceptable.
‘The duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights.
‘She is bullying Y and seeking to undermine her confidence.
‘We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behavior towards Y.’
The bullying claims emerged in a 2018 email sent by Harry and Meghan’s press chief Jason Knauf, who now works for Prince William. This sparked an extraordinary chain of events where the Sussexes accused Buckingham Palace of smearing them. The Queen then launched an inquiry into the bullying claims
Knauf also made clear he was concerned nothing had been done, or would be done in future, to protect palace staff.
He said Carruthers ‘agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious’, but added: ‘I remain concerned that nothing will be done’.
Melissa Touabti, the second of Meghan’s personal assistants to leave, departed six months after the royal wedding after she ended up in tears, according to reports.
Lawyers for the duke and duchess said the Sussexes believed staff to be comfortable and happy.
The article came as ITV1 confirmed the ViacomCBS show, called Oprah With Meghan and Harry, will be broadcast in the UK between 9pm and 11pm on Monday night, almost 24 hours after it is shown in the United States.
Staff told The Times they have spoken out to give their story before the couple’s tell-all interview, claiming that when Meghan was urged to support palace staff she replied: ‘It’s not my job to coddle people.’
It is also claimed that the couple’s treatment of aides worried Harry’s brother William so much, because some staff were shared, that he and his most senior advisor, Case, hastened the split between the Sussex and the Cambridge households and the destruction of their joint foundation.
Other extraordinary revelations in The Times include claims Meghan wore a pair of £500,000 diamond earrings to a dinner in Fiji in 2018 that were a wedding gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, three weeks after the US claims he approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Revealed: Meghan’s £500,000 diamond earrings were NOT ‘borrowed’ but a ‘wedding gift from Saudi Crown Prince’ – and worn by duchess three weeks after assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in consulate
The Duchess of Sussex was again seen wearing the earrings one month later on November 14, 2018 as she was photographed leaving Kensington Palace to attend Prince Charles’s 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace
Meghan Markle wore a pair of striking diamond earrings that were a wedding gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it was claimed today.
Kensington Palace had said at the time of the formal dinner in Fiji in October 2018 – which took place three weeks after the killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul – that the jewelery was ‘borrowed’, without stating from whom.
Lawyers for the Duchess of Sussex have now told The Times that she may have stated they were borrowed, but did not say they were borrowed from a jeweler – and denied that she had misled anyone about their provenance.
The newspaper was also told by Meghan’s team that every relevant member of royal staff knew who the earrings were from, and the duchess was unaware of rumors at the time that bin Salman was involved in the killing.
Bin Salman is not thought to have met Meghan or given her the earrings in person. The jewelery is considered Crown property because it was a gift from a foreign head of state, and she would not be allowed to sell them.
The earrings Meghan wore for the black tie reception at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, which was hosted by Fiji’s president Jioji Konrote, were later revealed as being made by celebrity designer Butani.
And in a further twist Markle, a campaigner for women’s rights, told aides they were borrowed from a jeweler, rather than a present from a regime known for human rights abuses and the oppression of women.
Lawyers for the Duchess of Sussex have told The Times that she may have stated they were borrowed, but did not say they were borrowed from a jeweler – and denied that she had misled anyone about their provenance.
The newspaper claims that on the same official tour the duchess was seen being ushered out of an official engagement to a local market due to apparent security concerns.
In fact, it says, Meghan had cut short the visit because she had ‘reservations’ about the organization UN Women, which had an involvement in the event.
Daily Mail Royal Editor witnessed the aftermath and wrote today: ‘I was there at the time and witnessed Meghan turn and ‘hiss’ at a member of her entourage, clearly incandescent with rage about something, and demand to leave.
‘I later saw that same – female – highly distressed member of staff sitting in an official car, with tears running down her face. Our eyes met and she lowered hers, humiliation etched on her features’.
Describing life working for Meghan and Harry, aides have claimed they ‘bent over backwards’ to help her when she arrived after the couple became engaged in 2017.
A source told The Times: ‘Everyone knew that the institution would be judged by her happiness’.
According to the Times their sources say two ‘senior’ members of royal staff were bullied by the duchess. An ex-employee alleged they had been ‘humiliated’.
Another aide described the experience of working for the Sussexes as ‘more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying’.
Staff claimed they had occasion been reduced to tears after dealings with Meghan and one aide told a colleague ‘I can’t stop shaking’ as they anticipated a row with the duchess.
Meghan’s lawyers vehemently deny she is a bully and said that one person had left the job because of misconduct. The Times said it could not corroborate that claim before publication last night.
The Mail also approached a spokesman for the Sussexes for comment.
The Times said it was contacted by sources who felt a ‘partial version’ had emerged of Meghan’s two years as a working royal.
It makes clear they wished to tell their side in advance of Sunday’s ‘tell all’ television interview, which is likely to make uncomfortable viewing for Buckingham Palace.
A spokesman for the Sussexes said in a statement to The Times: ‘Let’s just call this what it is – a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation’.
Insiders told The Times that despite Knauf’s intervention nothing was done to investigate the situation or to protect staff from bullying from senior royals in the future.
One source told The Times: ‘I think the problem is, not much happened with it. It was, ‘How can we make this go away?’, rather than addressing it’.
A bullying complaint was lodged against the Duchess of Sussex by a senior member of Kensington Palace staff before she and Prince Harry quit as working royals, it was dramatically claimed on Tuesday
The Duchess of Sussex (pictured with the royal family) is accused of ‘driving out’ two PAs and shattering the confidence of another member of Kensington Palace staff – with one former aide branding Harry and his wife ‘outrageous bullies’ in The Times today
On Wednesday night, the Palace confirmed that its HR team will ‘look into’ the allegations, saying it ‘does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace’
ITV confirms bombshell ‘£1M’ Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan will be broadcast at 9pm on Monday – amid furious backlash from viewers over ‘horrendous timing’ with Prince Philip
ITV has confirmed it will show Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey next Monday evening after paying £1million for the rights.
The broadcaster will air the bombshell two-hour special next Monday from 9pm to 11pm, which will be 20 hours after it debuts on US network CBS at 1am UK time.
ITV managing director Kevin Lygo said: ‘This interview is already a national talking point and ITV is pleased to be able to offer UK audiences the opportunity to see it.’
ITV said the show will be called ‘Oprah With Meghan and Harry’ and will feature an ‘intimate conversation’ begining with be a ‘wide-ranging interview’ with Meghan.
It will cover ‘everything from stepping into life as a Royal, marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work to how she is handling life under intense public pressure’.
Meghan will then be joined by Prince Harry as they ‘speak about their move to the United States and their future hopes and dreams for their expanding family’.
It comes amid claims that ITV bid less than its rivals Sky and Channel 4 to show the programme, but US producers Viacom CBS wanted to maximise the audience.
A source close to the talks told the Daily Mirror: ‘A key aim is for it to do well in the UK and ITV gives it a fair chance of getting the highest ratings of the year so far.’
The email also described his worries about the stress the Sussexes’ private secretary Samantha Cohen was placed under.
Knauf wrote: ‘I questioned if the Household policy on bullying and harassment applies to principals’.
The Sussexes’ lawyers told The Times the couple remained close to Samantha today, and are very grateful for all her work them, denying she was ever bullied.
The Times claims that after the email was sent, Prince Harry had a meeting with Knauf and asked him not to pursue the claims against his wife. Lawyers for the couple deny the claim, or that the meeting took place at all.
Aides say that they did more to welcome Meghan than has been publicly acknowledged and wanted to give their side of the story before her interview with Oprah is broadcast in the US on Sunday and in the UK on Monday.
One source claimed: ‘Senior people in the household, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, knew that they had a situation where members of staff, particularly young women, were being bullied to the point of tears.
‘The institution just protected Meghan constantly. All the men in grey suits who she hates have a lot to answer for, because they did absolutely nothing to protect people’.
Times sources described a ‘febrile’ atmosphere at Kensington Palace, where the Sussexes lived alongside Harry’s brother William and his family. After the 2018 royal wedding there was a split between the royal households, which was made public in 2019.
The newspaper claims that concerns over the treatment of staff, shared by both William and Harry, became so urgent that William and his aide, Case, sped-up the split of the two households. The source said: ‘What was a long-term plan became an immediate plan’. Kensington Palace has not responded to the claims.
When Meghan arrived in London she claimed to have been a good boss. People magazine in the US claimed she once paid for an ice cream stand at Kensington Palace to treat staff in February 2019.
A friend of the duchess said that workers ‘were remarking how it was the ‘best day of work ever’.
Meghan’s personal assistant Melissa Touabti quit just six months after the Royal wedding at Windsor Castle in May in 2018.
The 41-year-old from France had previously worked for X Factor judges Robbie Williams and his wife Ayda Field, who she loved working for, according to friends.
‘Robbie Williams is a lively character, but she worked for him longer than she worked for Meghan,’ a friend of Melissa’s told the Daily Mail at the time.
A spokesman for the Sussexes said in a statement to The Times: ‘Let’s just call this what it is – a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation’
It came as ITV1 confirmed the ViacomCBS show, called Oprah With Meghan and Harry (the show’s trailer, pictured), will be broadcast in the UK between 9pm and 11pm on Monday night, almost 24 hours after it is shown in the United States
Royal biographer Robert Jobson claimed in his book, Charles At Seventy, that Meghan’s wedding preparations were so stressful that Harry became ‘petulant and short-tempered’ with members of staff. He wrote: ‘Raising his voice on occasion, Harry would insist: ‘What Meghan wants, she gets’.’
‘They’re sitting in a garden in California in the sunshine when we’ve all been through a cold lockdown winter’: Royal experts speak out about Harry and Meghan row
Royal biographer Hugo Vickers told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘The Queen was extremely generous to them and when Harry dropped a bombshell and said they wanted to go off in January last year. The Queen left the door wide open for them and said ‘let’s have a year to think about it, see how it all goes’.
‘Even Harry in his interview with James Cordon the other day referred to chats via Zoom with Prince Philip. They’ve not been cut off, that’s ridiculous. I mean they may think these things but I’m afraid it seems to be very much of their own making.’
Another royal biographer, Angela Levin, told the programme: ‘I think it is shaky ground but I think the Queen has to put aside her favourite motto which is don’t explain and don’t complain and actually come back.
‘You cannot have this torrent of accusation and not do anything. I mean we’re not in 1936 now when Edward VIII made tremendous fuss about the monarchy and there was bad feeling because he married Wallace Simpson and he felt they were badly treated.
‘This is modern Britain and with all the outlets, the pounding on their head – I think it’s quite extraordinary that Meghan would want to do this while she was pregnant. She had a miscarriage. You are very vulnerable when you’re pregnant. Why put yourself in this terrible position?
‘She’s one of the most famous women in the world. She’s very rich now. She’s got what more than anybody could ask for and yet if she doesn’t get her own way she’s powerful – she will just go on and on and on.’
Mr Vickers added: ‘The Royal Family has been doing their best during the pandemic to keep our morale going. We’ve had some very good broadcasts from the Queen, we’ve had William and Kate zooming in all over the place, the Royal Family getting out and about and to be honest that’s what they do and these things will just pass by.
‘The Queen actually gave Harry and Meghan the entire Commonwealth to work with and the job of the Royal Family is to support the Queen in their role and then when the Queen doesn’t need them, they can pursue their own endeavours – lots of them do wonderful work – so I personally feel the Royal Family is not in crisis because they are doing a good job, they are serving us whereas I cannot help but agree with Angela that Harry and Meghan are serving themselves. They’re sitting in a garden in California in the sunshine when we’ve all been through a cold lockdown winter – look at the contrast.’
Both PAs who left signed non-disclosure agreements. Lawyers for the Sussexes said they had no idea about the NDAs.
The Times claims that after Harry and Meghan became engaged in late 2017 a senior member of palace staff warned them about the problems they may have if staff were treated badly. Meghan allegedly replied: ‘It’s not my job to coddle people.’
Friends of the couple have since explained that Meghan was not being rude, but she came from a different culture.
Defending the duchess’ management of people, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s Finding Freedom book says: ‘Americans can be much more direct, and that often doesn’t sit well in the much more refined institution of the monarchy.’
But staff who spoke to The Times allege that it was worse than that. One said: ‘I had unpleasant experiences with her. I would definitely say humiliated.’ Another said they were ‘shaking’ and ‘terrified’ after a row about whether Meghan was told the media was attending one of her events.
Months after the wedding the couple embarked on their first royal tour, visiting Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. When staff complained of stress it is said that a senior adviser tried to reassure them by saying: ‘You are dealing with a very difficult lady’.
Meghan’s lawyers have said that their client had been distressed by negative press stories about her while living in the UK and her friends became ‘rightly concerned for her welfare, specifically as she was pregnant, unprotected by the institution and prohibited from defending herself’.
But aides trying to defend themselves before Sunday’s Oprah interview, have described bending over backwards for her as soon as she arrived. They also revealed that she was asked if she wanted to continue acting or working in the film industry, such was the clamor in the Royal Household to keep Harry’s new wife on side. But Meghan politely declined.
An insider with knowledge of the conversation told The Times: ‘The entire place, because of everything about her, and because of what Harry’s previous girlfriends had been through, was bending over backwards to make sure that every option was open’. Another source told the newspaper: ‘Everyone knew that the institution would be judged by her happiness’.
Meghan’s lawyers say she had left her life behind in the US to support her husband and work with him on charitable work and joint passion projects. The Finding Freedom book the couple deny collaborating with, says: ‘Nothing could convince Harry that some of the old guard at the palace simply didn’t like Meghan and would stop at nothing to make her life difficult’.
Responding to this allegation, a source told The Times: ‘The way I see it, their view of not getting institutional support was that they were not getting permission to blow up the institution’s relationships with the media’. The Sussexes’ lawyers denies these claims.
Another insider claimed that staff were panicked when there were rows with the Sussexes, because it was considered so unusual in the royal palaces.
‘When someone decides not to be civil, they have no idea what to do. They were run over by her, and then run over by Harry. They had no idea what to do’, the source said.
A spokesman for the Sussexes said in a statement to The Times: ‘Let’s just call this what it is — a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation.
‘We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet.
‘It’s no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining the duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and the duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years.
‘In a detailed legal letter of rebuttal to The Times, we have addressed these defamatory claims in full, including spurious allegations regarding the use of gifts loaned to the duchess by The Crown.
‘The duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma. She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.’
Buckingham Palace declined to comment when contacted by the Mail yesterday. The duchess denies bullying and her lawyers stated that one individual left after findings of misconduct.
Revenge of the Sussex survivors’ club: The extraordinary inside story of how a fairytale turned into a nightmare of ‘traumatised’ staff – by Royal Editor REBECCA ENGLISH, who saw so much of it herself
It is the one royal group that no one wants to join. Referred to only half-jokingly as the ‘Sussex Survivors’ Club’, its membership is sadly rising.
But its select band of members have one thing in common: all have worked for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and lived to tell the tale.
Joking aside, some even believe they may have a form of post-traumatic stress, defined by doctors as an anxiety disorder caused by distressing or frightening events.
Such experiences, of course, are now widely acknowledged not to be limited to soldiers who have undergone traumatic experiences on the battlefield, but also to people at work.
Even if that work is in a palace.
And today, many former palace staff look back on the moment that Prince Harry introduced to the world his beautiful, intelligent and passionate bride-to-be as the beginning of one of the most traumatic periods in their lives.
Let us be clear: Harry is a complex man but one with a strong sense of natural justice and charity, given to acts of compassion and kindness.
‘He wears his heart on his sleeve and genuinely wants to do good in the world,’ one admirer tells me.
But he is also equally capable, say those who know him well and like him, of behaving ‘like an absolute brat’.
It had been clear for years to anyone he came into contact with that he wasn’t happy working with the palace machinery – or, particularly, the British media (sometimes understandably so).
He was, they say, always capable of self-destructively ‘pressing the nuclear button’ on his royal life.
Meghan, they stress, was simply the catalyst.
But the result was more toxic, more personally harmful, than anyone could ever have imagined.
To begin with, however, the atmosphere at Kensington Palace was heady and exciting.
Here was a glamorous couple, clearly deeply in love. Meghan was the missing piece of the jigsaw that poor, motherless Harry had been searching for all those years.
Famously she once paid for an ice cream stand for her new staff at Kensington Palace, with the event later – surprise! – being breathlessly revealed in People, a ‘pro-Sussex’ American magazine, as the ‘best day of work, ever’.
More than that, they were a couple determined to do good on a world stage – at the same time sprinkling a little stardust on Britain’s ‘fusty’ old Royal Family.
And their small team of loyal staff believed in them – until, that is, the scales fell from their eyes.
Notoriously, within a few weeks of Meghan’s arrival in England and the announcement of the couple’s engagement in November 2017, word was leaking out about the couple’s ‘autocratic’ and ‘difficult’ behaviour.
Occasionally it slipped into print: that Meghan (a claim robustly sourced by the Mail) had refused to wear a hat on her first official engagement with the Queen in Chester, despite being strongly advised it would be appropriate and respectful to do so.
Then came the famous row over which tiara she wanted to wear to the couple’s wedding, resulting in Harry publicly admonishing one of the Queen’s most senior members of staff, Angela Kelly: ‘What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.’
There were also claims that the Duchess of Cambridge had told Meghan she shouldn’t speak to her staff so dismissively and that there was so much friction at a pre-wedding bridesmaid fitting that Kate was left in tears.
The Times has reported that the ‘febrile’ atmosphere within Kensington Palace saw staff, on occasion, weeping. Two say they were bullied by the duchess, a third that they had been ‘humiliated’ by her.
The paper quotes one aide, who was anticipating a confrontation with Meghan, as saying: ‘I can’t stop shaking.’ At first, my sources tell me, Harry tried to keep the peace, gently placating his wife and quietly apologising to staff.
On one occasion described to me by several sources, he even gently admonished Meghan about the way she behaved with palace staff – many of whom work long hours for relatively little money out of pride for the institution – after a particularly explosive encounter.
The details are subject to conjecture (and have become something of a palace legend) but resulted in Harry speaking to one of his close protection officers, who confirmed his fiancee’s behaviour.
But as the weeks went on, the prince became increasingly hostile to his once-loyal aides.
Rebecca English with Prince Harry to learn about the work of his new charity Sentebale in Lesotho in 2006
The Times has claimed Harry knew of a complaint made by the couple’s former communications secretary, Jason Knauf, that Meghan had driven two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member. Harry is said to have had a meeting with Mr Knauf in which he begged him not to pursue it. The Sussexes deny this.
They also describe the allegations as ‘old’, ‘distorted’ and aimed at ‘undermining’ Meghan. It has been suggested by others that staff may have ‘misunderstood’ Meghan’s more direct, American style. But I have personally witnessed more than one member of staff driven to tears by the treatment they were subjected to by the duke and duchess before the couple acrimoniously quit as working royals.
One person sobbed down the phone to me after a particularly harrowing day. They clearly felt emotionally broken and could no longer cope with the pressure they were being subjected to.
Others have indicated to me they were being asked to behave in a manner they did not feel professionally comfortable with, particularly in their dealings with the media. Several aides have also told me that Meghan in particular was very good at ‘drawing’ staff into her confidence, flattering them as if they were the only person in the world she could trust and asking them to help her with various duties.
Often these were things that were far beyond the scope of their normal work – in one case being instructed to make plans for her father Thomas to be flown from his home in Mexico before the wedding and taken to a fully-stocked ‘safe house’ in LA for a few days in order to fool any waiting media.
And then, when things didn’t go to plan, the sun would no longer shine on them. It was made ‘horribly clear’ they were out of favour.
Toxic, hostile, distrustful, poisonous: all words I have heard regularly used over the past few years to describe people’s experiences working in the Sussexes’ household.
The Times reports matters became so bad that Mr Knauf, an experienced PR operator who cut his teeth defending the bank RBS at the height of its financial scandal, decided to put his strongly held concerns in writing.
He made clear in October 2018, little more than six months after the couple married, that he believed the duchess had already driven two members of staff out and another was being targeted.
‘I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of [redacted] was totally unacceptable,’ he wrote.
‘The duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying ‘Y’ and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behaviour towards Y.’
The Times has chosen not to match incidents to individual names, but the members of staff leaving the Sussexes’ employment were all women and all seasoned professionals. A well-placed source said: ‘[One woman’s] job was highly pressurised and in the end it became too much. She put up with quite a lot. Meghan put a lot of demands on her and it ended up with her in tears.’ One member of staff, a seasoned professional, was initially said to have left on good terms.
But I have since been told that this popular aide was deeply unhappy about her experience working for the duchess and had been ‘desperate’ to get out as long as she could professionally put a brave face on it. Likewise a third member of staff. Mr Knauf makes clear in his email, as reported by The Times, that he was also concerned about the couple’s hugely experienced deputy private secretary, Samantha Cohen. She had worked for the Queen for more than 20 years and was personally persuaded by the monarch to stay on and help the couple navigate their first few years of royal life.
He indicated that she was experiencing extreme stress and said: ‘I questioned if the Household policy on bullying and harassment applies to principals [the term used to refer to a member of the royal family].’
One source tells me wryly, with an eye to Meghan’s much-hyped championing of female empowerment: ‘Note that everyone concerned was a woman.’
Another adds: ‘Sam always made clear that it was like working for a couple of teenagers. They were impossible and pushed her to the limit. She was miserable.’
The Times also makes reference to an incident during the couple’s tour to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga in 2018, which was a particularly difficult one for all concerned, Meghan included. She was, of course, pregnant at the time.
The newspaper reports how Meghan cut short a visit to a market in Fiji because she was concerned about the presence of a UN organisation promoting women, with which she had worked before and made clear she no longer wished to have anything to do with.
At the time officials had suggested that it was because it was humid and the crowd was oppressive in the market.
I was there at the time and witnessed Meghan turn and ‘hiss’ at a member of her entourage, clearly incandescent with rage about something, and demand to leave.
I later saw that same – female – highly distressed member of staff sitting in an official car, with tears running down her face. Our eyes met and she lowered hers, humiliation etched on her features.
At the time I was unable to document anything as I couldn’t conclusively link the two incidents together, despite my suspicions. I have subsequently found out from other sources that my instincts were right.
It should be stressed that lawyers for the duchess said she met other leaders from UN Women later on the tour and denied she left for the reason alleged.
So why has this all come out now, you might ask?
The Times makes clear that these aides have ‘hit back’ before Meghan’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey this Sunday.
The newspaper says it was approached by sources because they felt ‘only a partial version had emerged of Meghan’s two years as a working member of the royal family and they wished to tell their side’.
They were also concerned at how such matters were handled by the palace.
One source put it more succinctly to me yesterday. ‘Those concerned are fed up with the sheer hypocrisy of it all. The suggestion that they [the Sussexes] were being bullied and forced out when others were experiencing that very treatment at their hands!’ exclaimed the source.
Another insider told me they believed some staff had even sought psychological therapy over their experiences – something that Harry, who moved the nation when he revealed how he had himself sought professional help to cope with the emotional fall-out over his mother’s death and has long campaigned on mental health issues, should know all about.
‘People have been broken by this, genuinely so. Absolutely traumatised,’ I am told.
Lawyers for the duchess say she wished to fit in and be accepted and had left her life in North America to commit to her new role.
What a sad, sorry mess.
The irony, another source says, is that no one wanted a battle. But the Sussexes have waged this war and enough is enough.
Those aides who have broken the royal omerta say they refuse to sit by and watch Harry and Meghan’s ‘duplicitous’ behaviour, especially when ‘good people and brilliant professionals’ are having their reputations unfairly traduced. One source warns: ‘The royals cannot fight back. ‘Never complain, never explain.’ But they can.’
A spokesman for the Sussexes has told The Times that they are the victims of a ‘calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful information’.
They have said the duchess is ‘saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.’
Royals’ Meghan ‘bully’ crisis: As Buckingham Palace launches an unprecedented investigation into sensational bullying claims against Meghan, make no mistake this is a crisis that echoes the Abdication, writes RICHARD KAY
When Jason Knauf left the Treasury to go and work for RBS — the bank that had been bailed out with £45 billion of taxpayers’ money following the 2008 financial crisis — he was dubbed ‘gamekeeper turned poacher’.
But his silky skills in crisis management were never tested there as they were in his next big job — working for Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex.
Yesterday, the quietly spoken American was revealed to have been the author of a sensational bullying complaint against former actress Meghan, which threatens a new royal crisis every bit as divisive as the War of the Waleses.
That, of course, was the bitter and acrimonious battle for public sympathy waged between Princess Diana and Prince Charles throughout the 1990s.
A sensational bullying complaint against former actress Meghan threatens a new royal crisis every bit as divisive as the War of the Waleses
The crisis has echoes of the dramas that followed the Abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 after he chose to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson (pictured)
Mr Knauf’s email, alleging that the Duchess’s intimidating behaviour had driven two personal assistants out of the household, reopens a rift far more critical and damaging for the future of the monarchy: the split between Harry and his brother, Prince William.
But last night the email had an even more shocking immediate effect.
Stung by Meghan’s astonishing statement in response to allegations of bullying — that she was the victim of a ‘smear’ and that the newspaper that published the email was ‘being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative’ — the Queen hit back.
Announcing an inquiry into the claims about the two employees who left their jobs and a third whose confidence was said to have been undermined is an astonishing development.
Never before has the Palace held a member of the Royal Family to account, and its move represents a serious blow to the Duchess’s carefully curated status of victimhood.
It also shows that the Queen’s deep reserve of patience for her grandson, Harry, has reached a tipping point.
The move was not just a result of the incendiary remarks of the Sussexes’ American public relations team, but also because of the implications that the Palace could face legal action over nothing being done when the complaints were first raised. In other words, a cover-up.
I also understand that individuals who fear their reputations will be damaged in the Sussexes’ upcoming Oprah Winfrey TV interview have demanded the protection of the Palace.
‘The Palace is taking the gravity of the situation extremely seriously,’ I am told.
Even to the most neutral and fair-minded of observers, the bombshell revelations coming just four days before the Oprah interview is broadcast, represent a moment of potential danger for the Royal Family.
It has echoes, too, of the dramas that followed the Abdication of Edward VIII in 1936, when the Queen’s father reluctantly took the throne as George VI, triggering years of hostility between the brothers and, crucially, their wives.
The Queen Mother blamed, and never forgave, the Duchess of Windsor — the former Wallis Simpson — for the premature death of her husband.
The Queen’s father (pictured) reluctantly took the throne as George VI, triggering years of hostility between the brothers and, crucially, their wives
Just who leaked Mr Knauf’s 2018 email to The Times scarcely matters. Its very existence suggests an escalation in the fraught relationship between William and Harry.
The reason? Mr Knauf’s current job as the Duke of Cambridge’s right-hand man.
For more than two years he has worked exclusively for Prince William, and is now chief executive of the Cambridges’ Royal Foundation.
His email was one of a series of claims about Meghan’s treatment of staff after former aides accused her of ’emotional cruelty and manipulation’, which had reduced them to tears and left them ‘shaking’ with fear.
The fact aides had managed to keep a lid on these troubling claims for so long demonstrates the unease over what might be unleashed when the Oprah interview is broadcast in the U.S. on Sunday night.
It is also a sign that the Palace will not sit back and allow the Sussexes’ partial and highly selective account of their brief life as working royals to go unchallenged.
Yesterday, royal officials were insisting that the complaints about Meghan, which began to surface within weeks of her and Harry’s starry Windsor wedding, were not being orchestrated by Buckingham Palace or by members of the Queen’s family.
Their focus, they said, was on 99-year-old Prince Philip, who remains a patient at Barts Hospital in London.
Complaints about Meghan began to surface within weeks of her and Harry’s starry Windsor wedding. Pictured: Harry and Meghan at Ascot in July 2018
All the same, some courtiers are privately describing developments as ‘the Crown getting its revenge in first’.
Whatever the case, you don’t have to be much of a conspiracy theorist to see a pattern in the revelations.
For on any reading of the claims, what appears to emerge is a streak of wilfulness in Meghan and a pusillanimous Harry torn between his family and his wife.
As someone who has reported on the royals for 35 years, I have heard of complaints about the failings of the royals’ internal human resources departments on a number of occasions — and they were a key factor in the war of words between Charles and Diana.
This probably accounts for Mr Knauf’s pointed observation in a 2018 email leaked to The Times this week. It said that while the household’s head of human resources, Samantha Carruthers, had ‘agreed with me on all counts that the situation was serious . . . I remain concerned that nothing will be done’.
The intervention of the Queen last night indicates that was almost certainly true.
Sources quoted by The Times claim HR attitudes were ‘How can we make this go away?’, rather that addressing it.
The Queen Mother blamed, and never forgave, the Duchess of Windsor — the former Wallis Simpson (pictured) — for the premature death of her husband
According to insiders, senior figures in all the major royal households knew of the reports that young women were being bullied to the point of tears.
‘The institution just protected Meghan,’ it was claimed.
How ironic that it should be ‘the men in grey suits’ — the very people whom the Duchess of Sussex has complained had been so hostile to her — who protected her from these sulphurous claims.
By now stories of Meghan’s behaviour were circulating openly. One story that reached my ears was of a very junior assistant who had gone from being Meghan’s favourite to being told that she had become ‘over familiar’.
Another was how morning staff meetings over coffee, which Harry himself made, had stopped when Meghan apparently engaged a butler, ending the informality at a stroke. Harmless enough, you may think, but there were other accounts, too.
One figure, working in a different part of the royal estate, was alleged to have been reprimanded for giving Harry a present to mark his engagement.
And there have been claims that behind the glowing headlines of the couple’s first big overseas tour, in October 2018, all was not well at Admiralty House, Australia’s governor general’s residence which hosted Harry and Meghan.
The bombshell revelations coming just four days before the Oprah interview (pictured) is broadcast represent a moment of potential danger for the Royal Family
How conflicting this must all have been for Harry, who had been brought up by both his mother and father to respect the staff who work for the Royal Family.
But it was Mr Knauf’s devastating conclusion about bullying by ‘principals’ that was to have the greatest impact.
Prince William was appalled by the reports that reached his ears, and many now wonder whether it was this that ultimately led to the split between the brothers.
Initially, I understand, Harry acknowledged that something was not right, but he swiftly backed his wife.
At the time William and Harry shared their staff, but the issue of their treatment became so acute that William and his aides accelerated the process of splitting the household in two. ‘What was a long-term plan became an immediate plan,’ said a source.
Suddenly the ‘Fab Four’, as the two couples had been dubbed, were no longer quite so fabulous.
Harry and Meghan moved out of Kensington Palace and went to live at their new home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, taking their own staff with them.
Mr Knauf, meanwhile, took up a job as an adviser to the Duke of Cambridge.
To the public, the unravelling of the special relationship of two brothers who had been so close because of adversity — as well as their unique circumstance — was as perplexing as it was heartbreaking.
The picture of the princes and their wives barely acknowledging one another at last year’s Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey could not have contrasted more than with that joyful Christmas Day at Sandringham in 2017, when all four had been wreathed in smiles.
William has looked on with mounting dismay as his brother and sister-in-law have used their new Californian pulpit to wage war on the Press and, more recently, on their own family and the institution that serves it.
His hope that Harry, who more than anyone else knows the burdens William faces as the future king, would be at his side has vanished to be replaced by a fear that his disgruntled brother and sister-in-law are morphing ever more into a modern-day version of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
That may also indicate William’s hand in last night’s Palace intervention. Bullying and remedies to prevent it, are, after all, at the heart of his mental health charity, Heads Together.
Even when such damaging allegations are made on the Palace’s own doorstep, doing nothing is not an option.
‘Revelations about race’ in Oprah interview… and nothing is off-limits
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will discuss race is Britain in the 21st century with Oprah Winfrey and open up about her experience as a mixed race woman, it has been claimed
Meghan Markle will talk about her experience of race issues in Britain during her interview with Oprah Winfrey, it has been revealed.
There is a growing expectation that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s talk with the US chat show queen will live up to its billing of having no subject ‘off-limits’.
It was claimed yesterday that the program will be a ‘horror show’ for the Royal Family.
The journalist who broke the story that the Sussexes were doing the TV interview claimed Meghan’s comments about ‘the issue of race in Britain’ would be ‘what we will all be talking about’ the day after it is aired.
Chris Ship, the royal editor for ITV News, told Good Morning Britain on Tuesday: ‘I know that she’s going to mention things like mental health and the impact that being in the UK had on her mental health. I know that she’s going to mention about the press intrusion… but also she’s going to raise the issue of race in Britain.’
Ship suggested this would be the main thing viewers discuss after watching the interview, to be broadcast in the US on Sunday night. Meghan’s mother Doria is African-American and her father Thomas is white.
ITV was facing growing criticism over plans to broadcast the interview with Winfrey in Britain while the Duke of Edinburgh remains in hospital. There is increasing unease about the ‘horrendous’ timing. There were warnings last night that the broadcast could be a ‘reputational mess’ for everyone, which could ‘herald terrible consequences’ for the royal pair.
There were calls for ITV to ‘await events’ before screening the program in the UK. One critic branded the broadcaster’s decision to buy up the interview rights as ‘deplorable’.