Tonight, The Times (of London) published a long and explosive article alleging that several complaints of “bullying” were lodged against Meghan Sussex by her Palace staffers while she was still an active British royal and living in London. The article comes in the run-up to Harry and Meghan’s interview with American television queen Oprah Winfrey, which will air on March 6, 2021.
According to Valentine Low, who broke the story:
The complaint claimed that [Meghan] drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member. 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 report goes on to detail:
Knauf sent an email to Simon Case, then the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary and now the cabinet secretary, after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of HR. Case then forwarded it to Carruthers, who was based at Clarence House.
In his email Knauf said Carruthers “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious”. He added: “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”
(Harry and Meghan’s people have denied the allegations in the article and deemed it a deliberate smear campaign)
I am not shocked by the substance of these revelations. There were contemporaneous whispers of this at the time, e.g. the Sun report that Meghan texted and called staffers at 5am and one assistant quit in tears. Whether every detail of a particular story was true might not have been verifiable, but those sorts of stories are generally bread-crumb trails at the very least. This new report tracks with the picture we were getting back at the time.
To me, the most interesting part of this Royal Divorce plot-twist is how the Sussexes and Palace appear to be on the brink of all out war. The Times story seems to reveal Palace turmoil about the proper course of action. It starts by saying, “Royal aides have hit back,” but then notes later in the article that “The Times understands that the palace establishment is highly concerned that the allegations have emerged.” So, either the aides broke out on their own, or there is disagreement on how to handle this within the Palace. Whether this was an unauthorized leak (that feels unlikely) or not, Meghan and Harry consider the attack to be sanctioned by BP. The Times reported:
The couple’s lawyers told The Times that this newspaper is “being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative” before the interview. (emphasis added).
It should be noted that the sequence of events that led up to this is as follows: The Queen wrote to Harry privately announcing her decision that the couple could not maintain their royal patronages if they weren’t working royals, the news that Harry and Meghan had already recorded an interview with Oprah was leaked, it was officially announced the couple won’t return to royal duties and would lose their patronages, Harry’s segment with James Corden aired, it was announced that the Oprah interview that had been a 90-minute special will now be a full 2 hours. There is most certainly some escalation in there.
I think we all knew that Meghan was high-maintenance. Both the reports at the time and her approach to royal life generally sketch out that picture pretty accurately. This article in The Times confirms as much, but obviously making that perception concrete with these details results in a very damaging piece for Meghan. It suggests that the Palace (or at least some factions in the Palace) are willing to risk the turmoil of a public fracas to tangle with Meghan. I assume the Palace has gotten wind of at least some of the content of the upcoming interview.
As usual, it is important to remember that the Sussexes didn’t leave for privacy. They didn’t want to stop being royal. They forced their own hands, and are unhappy with the ultimate result (see my other post on this blog for details). Leaving them alone is unlikely to result in peace.
I’ll have to think more about this and maybe write more later, but as I said when the couple announced they wouldn’t return to active royal duties, the Windsors are far from done with the Sussexes (or perhaps more accurately, the Sussexes are far from done with the Windsors). These two will be a headache, possibly a catastrophe, for the foreseeable future. The fact that the 90-minute special with Oprah was extended to 2-hours after the Palace finalized the split has a very ominous feel to it.