British royal aides have revealed to The Times that a bullying complaint against Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, from one of her closest advisors was made while she was at Kensington Palace — and the complaint was not pursued. The report was published ahead of a much-talked about Oprah Winfrey interview with Markle and her husband Prince Harry in which Markle reportedly described her time as a royal as “unsurvivable.”
“The complaint claimed that she drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member,” The Times reported. “It was made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the couple’s communications secretary at the time, seemingly in an effort to get Buckingham Palace to protect staff who he claimed were coming under pressure from the duchess. Prince Harry pleaded with Knauf not to pursue it, according to a source.”
The sources who spoke to The Times focused on the period between 2017, when Markle was introduced as Harry’s girlfriend, to last year when the couple left the family as working royals.
After communicating with Samantha Carruthers, the head of HR, Knauf reportedly emailed Simon Case, the private secretary of Harry’s older brother William, the Duke of Cambridge, writing that Carruthers “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious. … I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”
Knauf also stated, “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 behaviour towards Y.”
The email also claimed that Samantha Cohen, the couple’s private secretary, was undergoing genuine stress. “I questioned if the Household policy on bullying and harassment applies to principals,” Knauf added.
Case, who is now cabinet secretary, forwarded the email to Carruthers. One source said that although the email was sent to the HR department,“I think the problem is, not much happened with it. It was, ‘How can we make this go away?’, rather than addressing it.”
The Times reported that Prince Harry, apprised of the email, had a meeting with Knauf in which “he begged him not to pursue it.”
“Lawyers for the duke and duchess deny that any meeting took place or that the duke would have interfered with any staff matter,” The Times notes.
Two senior members of staff said Markle bullied them; another former employee told The Times that Markle had “humiliated” them and said two other members of staff had been bullied. Another aide said Markle’s behavior felt “more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying.”
“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,” another source told The Times. “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.”
The Times reports that Markle became very concerned about the number of news stories about staff leaving. “The issue of staff — their treatment, and the fact that they were shared between William and Harry — became so pressing that William and Case accelerated the process of splitting the two households,” The Times claims.
A spokesman for the Sussexes responded to the staff’s accusations, stating:
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.
Attorneys for the Sussexes said that The Times was “being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative.” However, the outlet says that it understands that “the palace establishment is highly concerned that the allegations have emerged.”
The Daily Wire reported on Monday regarding the Oprah interview:
Oprah Winfrey, whose interview with Great Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle features Markle reportedly wearing a $4,700 Armani dress, stated that Markle said her twenty months as a royal were “almost unsurvivable.” Winfrey asks Markle, “It sounds like there was a breaking point … Were you silent or were you silenced?”
In the 30-second clip from the interview, Harry states, “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.”