Duchess of Sussex 'saddened' by staff bullying claims

UK royal couple complain of ‘smear campaign’ before tell-all Oprah Winfrey interview

Powered by automated translation

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex accused royal aides of carrying out a "calculated smear campaign" after revelations that a bullying complaint was lodged against the duchess by one of her closest advisers.

Before a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey is broadcast, royal aides made a series of allegations to The Times about the months after the couple married in October 2018.

Jason Knauf, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's communications chief at that time, sent an email to Simon Case, who was private secretary to Prince William, outlining "very serious" concerns about how staff were being treated inside Kensington Palace.

“I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two [personal assistants] out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X was totally unacceptable,” he said in the email.

“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 used letters to protect the identities of staff.

The complaint did not progress any further, the newspaper reported.

Sources told The Times that Prince Harry asked Mr Knauf not to pursue the complaint any further. The couple denied any meeting took place.

The duke and duchess said the revelations were linked to growing tensions over their interview with Winfrey, which will be broadcast in the UK on ITV next Monday.

“Let’s just call this what it is – a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation,” a spokesman for the couple said.

“We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of the Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 19: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Jason Knauf, Communications Secretary to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, attends the wedding of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England. Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales marries Ms. Meghan Markle in a service at St George's Chapel inside the grounds of Windsor Castle. Among the guests were 2200 members of the public, the royal family and Ms. Markle's Mother Doria Ragland. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Jason Knauf attends the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018. Getty

“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.

“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.”

In promotional clips for the interview, Winfrey asks the duchess if she was "silent or silenced". Ms Markle's answer is not revealed.

In response to a comment by the duchess, Winfrey asks: “Almost unsurvivable. Sounds like there was a breaking point?”

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
The Duchess of Sussex in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. AP

Prince Harry compared his wife's treatment to that of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

“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 [Princess Diana], going through this process by herself, all those years ago,” he said.

Winfrey says “there is no subject that is off-limits” in her interview with the couple.

The interview will be broadcast at an awkward time for the UK royal family, with its patriarch – the Duke of Edinburgh – still in hospital receiving treatment for an infection and heart condition.