Meghan Markle Dismisses Bullying Allegations as Pre-Oprah ‘Calculated Smear Campaign’

Tim Teeman
·4 min read
Ben Birchall/WPA Pool/Getty
Ben Birchall/WPA Pool/Getty

Meghan Markle has denied detailed accusations of “bullying” her former Buckingham Palace staff and accused opponents of conducting a “calculated smear campaign” in advance of her much-hyped CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey this Sunday.

If Meghan and Prince Harry had anticipated an open field to criticize the royal family and/or air various grievances, certain Buckingham Palace sources seem determined to torpedo their ambitions prior to Sunday night.

Harry and Meghan Are Begged to Delay Oprah Broadcast While Prince Philip Is Gravely Ill

Royal aides told The Times of London that Meghan was the subject of an official bullying complaint made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, Meghan and Harry’s former communications secretary. The Times reported that the complaint detailed how Meghan allegedly “drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member.” Prince Harry asked Knauf not to pursue the complaint, a source told the paper.

“Staff would on occasion be reduced to tears” because of the duchess, The Times reported. One aide, anticipating a confrontation with Meghan, told a colleague: “I can’t stop shaking.” Another aide claimed it felt “more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying.”

Knauf, in an email to Simon Case, then the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary, said the palace’s head of HR, Samantha Carruthers, “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious.” He added: “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”

Knauf, who is now chief executive of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Royal Foundation, said 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.”

Sympathetic sources around Harry and Meghan relayed their frustration and hurt with the attitudes of palace officials in Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family.

However, palace sources told The Times that the bullying allegations had not been investigated by the palace and that officials had made Meghan more “welcome” than the couple’s supporters have long claimed. One source said of the bullying complaint: “I think the problem is, not much happened with it. It was, ‘How can we make this go away?,’ rather than addressing it.”

Another source told The Times: “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.”

The paper said the sources were speaking out now in advance of Meghan’s Sunday night interview to give their view of Harry and Meghan’s royal life, presumably anticipating that it may be very different from what the couple may relay to Winfrey. The broadcast of the interview—the result of a reported two years’ worth of planning by Meghan and Winfrey—is being criticized as ill-timed given the illness and hospitalization of Prince Philip.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment to The Times.

The paper also details how Meghan wore earrings to a formal dinner in 2018 that were a wedding gift from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA concluded last week had ordered the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The dinner took place three weeks after Khashoggi was killed. At the time Meghan said the earrings were borrowed. “The duchess does not deny this was what she said, despite being aware of their provenance,” The Times reported.

In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for the Sussexes said of the various allegations: “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.”

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