Buckingham Palace launches probe into Meghan bullying allegations

Claims of bullying against Hollywood actress expected to spark further internal conflict

Bullying allegations involving Meghan Markle on Wednesday brought the British royal family to a level of crisis unprecedented in recent memory.

Buckingham Palace said it was "very concerned" about a report in The Times newspaper detailing allegations of bullying from the former staff of Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan.

"Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article," Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Wednesday.

"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 will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace, it added.

Based on reports from royal household sources who spoke to The National, it is thought officials are “getting the other side of the story in” before the couple are shown in Sunday's watershed interview with Oprah Winfrey.

In a second clip from the impending interview released on Wednesday, Meghan accuses the Royal Family of "perpetuating lies".

The revelations demonstrate that a potentially irreparable rift has opened up between Prince Harry, his wife and the rest of the royal household, including his older brother Prince William.

The two previously inseparable siblings are now at daggers drawn, with the royal family lurching into an unseemly row.

A potentially irreparable rift has emerged between members of the royal family. Reuters.
A potentially irreparable rift has emerged between members of the royal family. Reuters.

The whirlwind romance between the actress Meghan Markle and the battle-hardened prince who served in Afghanistan, culminated in engagement in November 2017.

What followed was a media boon for Buckingham Palace, with favourable commentary that someone of mixed race and with modern liberal views would go some way to modernising the white, somewhat staid, monarchy.

Meghan embraced her new role, giving up acting, promoting her humanitarian interests and applying for British citizenship. She was even baptised into the Church of England with water from the River Jordan flown in specially.

As the wedding day approached, hints of a rift appeared. Prince William reportedly told his brother of his concerns over the marriage.

“William was worried that Harry was rushing into things and had become besotted, and asked if she was the right person to marry,” a royal insider told The National. “That was the start of the problems and they resented him saying it.”

That was largely forgotten in the sunshine and splendour of the wedding day in May 2018, when the British public expressed their delight and were able to observe a galaxy of American stars in Windsor.

Among that firmament was Oprah Winfrey, invited by Meghan as a friend but, curiously, was someone she had met only once.

“I wonder whether she ever intended on remaining in the royal family in the first place,” the insider said.

While weddings put strain on many relationships, the first cracks emerged as Meghan’s father Thomas provided some unhelpful commentary, culminating in a familial rift that meant he did not walk his daughter down the aisle. The resultant stress surfaced briefly when media reported that her personal assistant had quit only six months after the marriage.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stand next to Queen Elizabeth II on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 2018. AFP
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stand next to Queen Elizabeth II on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 2018. AFP

Tension ran high in the palace over Meghan’s demands, leading to Harry becoming “petulant and short-tempered” with members of staff, according to royal biographer Robert Jobson. "Raising his voice on occasion, Harry would insist: 'What Meghan wants, she gets'," he wrote.

That appeared to be borne out when the couple moved out of Kensington Palace less than a year after the marriage. The rift between the brothers had grown, not helped by an apparent lack of friendship between their respective wives.

A new start was made when the couple moved into Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Castle estate, given to them by Queen Elizabeth, where they had their first child, Archie, in 2019.

But even then there were reports of misunderstandings, with questions asked about why vintage motor cars were parked out front.

“They looked out their window and didn't like how the cars were parked outside,” the royal source said. “It turned out that cars were parked there for a sports club, which had been at Windsor Castle for about half a century.”

There was then a suggestion that they might move to Africa for a few months, while Buckingham Palace did its best to quash reports of an irreconcilable split with the couple.

But in early 2020, without consulting Queen Elizabeth, the Sussexes dropped the bombshell that they would be “stepping back” as senior royals to become financially independent, dividing their time between Britain and the US. Buckingham Palace said it was disappointed, in royal terms considered a strong rebuke.

Meghan and Harry’s office in the palace closed in March last year and having finished their last royal duties, they were on their way to a new home in California in June. Some long-range sniping across the Atlantic followed, with the brothers' relationship still sour and Meghan taking legal action against British newspapers.

This year it was reported that the couple would do an interview with chat-show host Oprah Winfrey, about which it was suggested the queen, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge had good cause to be nervous. Indeed, they are advised to “hide behind the sofa” when it is broadcast on Sunday in the US, and the next day in Britain.

Five days before broadcast, Meghan’s alleged bullying was reported in the press. Allegations included “emotional cruelty and manipulation” that left staff “shaking with fear”, and that personal assistants were driven out of their jobs. An official complaint was made yet little appears to have come of it until now. Further investigation is likely.

A spokesman for the couple strongly denied the allegations, telling the newspaper that the couple were “victims of a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation”.

The timing and release of the story was significant, according to the royal insider. “It has come out now before the interview, in case Meghan makes allegations that she was badly treated,” the source said. “This tells another side to the story.”

The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday that Meghan “craved rejection” because ultimately, she never intended to remain within the strict confines of being a British royal.

“I don’t think Meghan had any intention of ever staying in this country,” the royal source told The National. “And I don't think she's ever going to come back. She certainly won’t get a very warm welcome.”

Meghan and Harry’s side of the story will be given in undiluted detail on Sunday. An indication of what she might say can be found from a quote she gave a year ago before departing British shores. “I gave up my entire life for this family,” Meghan told a friend. “I was willing to do whatever it takes. But here we are. It's very sad.”

Updated: March 4, 2021 02:18 PM

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