His grand oak-panelled office with its conference table and comfy sofas in the heart of Whitehall, four miles from Kensington Palace, is too far away for Simon Case to hear the cries of anguish emanating from the royal bunker where he used to work.
The irony that he left the back-stabbing, hot-tempered intrigue of palace politics for the comparative tranquillity of Downing Street when he took the job as Britain’s top civil servant is not lost on the £200,000-a-year, risk-averse Cabinet Secretary.
But the chaos that has enveloped the royal world with incendiary claims that the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry bullied staff – and that he was privy to them as a senior courtier – has plunged the mandarin into the deepest crisis to hit the monarchy for a generation.
At its heart the turmoil engulfing the royals has occurred not because of what the bespectacled Dr Case did – but because of what, it is alleged, didn’t happen after the bullying claims reached his desk.
Simon Case (pictured with Prince William in 2019) left the Palace for Downing Street when he took the job as Britain’s top civil servant
Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle are set to feature in a tell all interview with American chat show host Oprah Winfrey on Sunday
Duke of Edinburgh recovering in hospital following successful surgery for pre-existing heart condition
By Kate Pickles, Health Correspondent for the Daily Mail
The Duke of Edinburgh is recovering in hospital following successful surgery for a pre-existing heart condition – just three months short of his 100th birthday.
Prince Philip, the nation’s longest serving consort, underwent the procedure at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London on Wednesday.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement yesterday: ‘His Royal Highness will remain in hospital for treatment, rest and recuperation for a number of days.’
The announcement sparked renewed concern due to the duke’s advanced age.
He has already spent 17 nights in hospital after being admitted to the King Edward VII’s Hospital in Marylebone, central London, on February 16, on his doctor’s advice.
He has never before spent as long in hospital. The duke – whose 100th birthday will be on June 10 – walked into King Edward VII’s unaided after travelling there from Windsor Castle, where he has spent most of lockdown with the Queen.
A royal source had previously said that it had not been an emergency admission and was down to ‘an abundance of caution’. Philip was admitted after feeling unwell and was treated for an infection.
But on Monday, he was transferred to Bart’s – the country’s leading heart hospital – for tests and observation on ‘an existing heart condition’. Treatment for the infection was also to continue.
In 2011, Philip was rushed to hospital by helicopter from Sandringham after suffering chest pains as the royal family prepared for Christmas. In the serious health scare, he was treated for a blocked coronary artery at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire and had a stent fitted – a minimally invasive procedure.
The Palace declined to give details of the latest exact surgery. But experts have suggested that a decade on, the stent may have needed replacing, requiring a further procedure.
It is also possible that the duke had aortic stenosis, a common condition in old age where the main valve in the heart becomes stiff or narrowed, reducing blood flow to the main artery.
Once requiring open heart surgery, the valve now tends to be replaced using another minimally-invasive procedure which patients can recover from ‘in days’.
Dr Derek Connolly, a consultant interventional cardiologist at Birmingham City Hospital, said Philip is in ‘the best possible hands’. He explained: ‘We obviously don’t know the procedure he’s undergone but we do know he’s got coronary disease from when he had the stent fitted ten years ago.
‘Older patients often get stenosis of the aortic valve but they will be checking for other conditions, such as rhythm disturbances and the heart failing.
‘Charles Knight, the chief executive at Bart’s, is one of the most eminent cardiologists in Europe so he’s in exactly the right place, whichever of these it is. The team at Bart’s really are world-leaders when it comes to cardiology.’ The Duchess of Cornwall revealed the Duke of Edinburgh was ‘slightly improving’ but ‘hurts at moments’ as she carried out a visit to a community vaccination centre on Wednesday.
On a visit to South London, Camilla was heard telling staff that morning: ‘We’ll keep our fingers crossed.’
It is not known whether the duke had undergone the procedure at this point.
Philip is patron of the British Heart Foundation, which sent its best wishes, saying the royal had been a ‘long-term advocate for heart research’.
Philip was visited in King Edward VII’s Hospital last month by the Prince of Wales, who made a 200-mile round trip from Highgrove and stayed for around half an hour.
Along with the Queen, Philip received his Covid-19 jab in January.
After announcing the surgery, the Palace shared an image on social media to mark World Book Day of the Queen and Philip together in 1976 in the library at Balmoral Castle.
The Queen has been carrying on with her official duties, holding her weekly audience with the Prime Minister by telephone from Windsor on Wednesday.
Yesterday, she had a telephone audience with the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Wigston.
Meanwhile, ITV vowed to go ahead with broadcasting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, despite criticism in light of Philip’s ongoing health problems. The broadcaster released a trailer yesterday, ahead of the two-hour show next Monday, featuring the same footage put out by CBS.
On Wednesday it emerged he had been sent an email from Harry and Meghan’s former communications secretary Jason Knauf that claimed the duchess bullied two assistants and shattered the confidence of a third member of staff, and ‘drove them out’ of Kensington Palace.
At the same time a former aide was quoted as telling The Times newspaper that both Harry and his wife were ‘outrageous bullies’.
The complaint was passed to the palace’s personnel department – these days known as HR, or human resources – and, once there, the suspicion is that it was buried.
Now the leaking of the email has forced Buckingham Palace into retrospective action with its unprecedented announcement of an inquiry into the bullying claims.
Past and present staff are to be invited to speak confidentially about their experience of working for Meghan.
The Queen’s statement escalated the tit-for-tat war of words between Buckingham Palace and Los Angeles-based ‘Team Sussex’.
A clip from Meghan’s upcoming tell-all interview with broadcaster Oprah Winfrey included the extraordinary accusation from her that the palace had been ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ about her and Harry.
But beyond recriminations about the bullying claims, the focus is shifting to the role played in the whole sorry saga by palace servants and who knew what and when.
That has placed the smooth-as-silk Dr Case at the centre of the drama. But it also involves other figures, some of them American-born like the duchess.
The story begins in October 2018 when, behind palace doors, the glow of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Windsor wedding just five months earlier had long passed. Insiders were already describing Meghan as ‘Duchess Difficult’.
Despite the positive headlines of their first major overseas tour to Australia there were claims that her demands had reduced at least one member of staff to tears.
As the man in charge of the couple’s public image, Jason Knauf was so alarmed by what he had learned that he set it down in an email, writing: ‘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).’
In the same message, Mr Knauf expressed concern about the stress experienced by Samantha Cohen, the couple’s private secretary, a veteran of the Queen’s office and a highly regarded palace operator.
Why Mr Knauf wrote to Dr Case when technically Miss Cohen was his line manager is unclear. But presumably it is explained by the fact that Australian-born Miss Cohen featured in the content.
Although Dr Case had no managerial responsibility for Harry’s staff, he was said to take a close interest in what was happening at a time when the strains between Harry and William were beginning to cause real concern at the palace.
He and Mr Knauf had a close working relationship as he was also communications chief for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
According to reports, Dr Case suggested the email should be passed to Samantha Carruthers, human resources director for the Prince of Wales at Clarence House.
As Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall funds both Harry and William’s staff, HR comes under his control.
Some believe that by passing the whole thing to human resources Dr Case was effectively washing his hands of the problem.
Meanwhile, Mr Knauf said he had already consulted Miss Carruthers – who now works for media figure Elisabeth Murdoch – and that she ‘agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious’.
But he added pointedly: ‘I remain concerned that nothing will be done.’
What seems beyond doubt is that the complaint about Meghan’s behaviour reached HR but it is unclear why it went no further. Was it a deliberate cover-up – or a concerted attempt to bend over backwards to accommodate the duchess?
Figures close to the action at that time say that there was a view that the claims of bullying have long been a feature of royal life.
As a courtier observes: ‘Working for the royals is a very strange job. It tends to attract social misfits and those from military backgrounds used to taking orders, but not everyone can handle it.
‘Very few cases are made public and victims are usually paid off and made to sign a non-disclosure agreement.’
The palace inquiry will try to get to the bottom of the Knauf complaint. The one question it will need to answer is whether it was taken to a higher level in the royal household or, as Mr Knauf clearly believed, was simply ignored.
How ironic if the latter is the case. This would suggest the very people whom Meghan has complained were out to destroy her, the ‘men in grey suits’ were actually the figures protecting her.
As the man in charge of the couple’s public image, Jason Knauf (pictured left) was so alarmed by what he had learned that he set it down in an email, writing: ‘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. Pictured right: Samantha Carruthers head of HR
Palace ‘won’t rush’ inquiry into Meghan Markle bullying allegations
By Daily Mail Reporter
The Buckingham Palace inquiry into claims that Harry and Meghan bullied their staff may not release its findings until next year.
The Queen launched the probe into the behaviour of her grandson and his wife following allegations they inflicted ‘emotional cruelty’ on aides and ‘drove them out’.
Royal sources said they have set ‘no timeframe’ for the investigation, which could see as many as 12 people give evidence.
While they stressed that any resulting changes to workplace practices will be made public in the annual Sovereign Grant report, they could not say whether it would be in this year’s review or the next.
A source said: ‘There will be no push to rush through this. It is a very sensitive issue. The fact we are doing this and have made clear we are very concerned about the allegations shows how seriously this is being taken.’
They added: ‘This is a “lessons learned” exercise, to educate us about what happened. But policies will clearly change should it be found that they need to.’ Harry and Meghan, who deny the accusations, will not be asked to contribute at this stage.
All the same, it is significant that the complaint should have been made by Jason Knauf.
American-born with a liberal outlook, he was educated at the London School of Economics and a university in New Zealand.
If anyone could understand how difficult it could be for a modern, opinionated and socially aware young woman like fellow American Meghan to adjust to royal life, it surely would be Mr Knauf.
The fact that she should end up antagonising him, an instinctive supporter, suggests the duchess’s behaviour was worthy of censure.
Not long after he sent his email, a restructuring of Harry and Meghan’s staff – which seemed to happen regularly – another American figure arrived to replace him.
This was Sara Latham, a former aide to Hillary Clinton who had worked at the highest level in the UK Government. With dual British and US citizenship, she seemed ideal – not just to manage Meghan’s PR, but as a sounding board as the duchess adjusted to life as a royal.
But it too proved not to be a successful relationship. For palace old hands, courtiers cannot be blamed.
‘Meghan arrived having no idea of monarchy and how it rests on public approval and carefully calibrated deference,’ says a figure close to Charles.
‘When she met Harry his popularity was soaring. She had no idea she would be playing second fiddle or even third fiddle after Charles and William and Kate.
‘She thought she was marrying the equivalent of Robbie Williams in his Glastonbury days after his split from Take That. But the royals aren’t Hollywood and celebrity, respect has to be earned and she didn’t like that.’
A spokesman for the Sussexes told The Times they were the victims of a ‘calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful information’ adding that the duchess was ‘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’.
As for Simon Case, there must be the queasiest of feelings that those silky skills honed in the civil service could have been put to better use to prevent a petty royal drama turning into an existential crisis that today threatens the very fabric of the monarchy.