The Queen launched an unprecedented inquiry last night into allegations that Meghan and Harry bullied their staff.
Devastating claims that the Duchess of Sussex inflicted ’emotional cruelty’ on aides and ‘drove them out’ were ‘very’ concerning, Buckingham Palace said.
Harry and his wife were both also labelled ‘outrageous bullies’, according to sensational claims reported yesterday.
‘Broken’ royal aides told of feeling humiliated, ‘sick’, ‘terrified’, left ‘shaking’ with fear, and being reduced to tears by the duchess.
In an extraordinary statement, Buckingham Palace announced a formal probe into the allegations surrounding the Queen’s grandson and his wife. Members of staff will be invited to contribute in confidence.
The Palace said: ‘We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
‘Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Royal Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.
The Queen (pictured with the couple in 2018) launched an unprecedented inquiry last night into allegations that Meghan and Harry bullied their staff
Devastating claims that the Duchess of Sussex (pictured during her Oprah interview airing next week) inflicted ’emotional cruelty’ on aides and ‘drove them out’ were ‘very’ concerning, Buckingham Palace said
‘The household has had a dignity at work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.’
It does not appear that the duke and duchess will be consulted at this stage. However, Harry, 36, and Meghan, 39, have strenuously denied any bullying.
In response to the reports, they accused the Queen’s staff of orchestrating a ‘calculated smear campaign’ ahead of their explosive two-hour ‘tell-all’ interview with Oprah Winfrey being broadcast this weekend.
In an extraordinary statement (pictured), Buckingham Palace announced a formal probe into the allegations surrounding the Queen’s grandson and his wife. Members of staff will be invited to contribute in confidence
Daily Mail scoop that signalled a scandal
The first sign there was a problem within the Sussexes’ household came in a Daily Mail story from November 2018.
This newspaper’s Eden Confidential diary column reported that Meghan’s personal assistant had ‘quit suddenly’ just six months after the duchess married into the Royal Family.
The aide was later named as Melissa Touabti.
But Palace sources last night slapped down the smear claim as utterly ‘disingenuous’.
The allegations and resulting probe – as well as accusations by the duchess that Buckingham Palace, and therefore the Queen, are deliberately moving against her – sees a new low in relations between the two parties.
When the couple acrimoniously quit last year as working royals, the elderly monarch made clear her regret and made a point of saying they were still much loved members of her family.
Aides said the hope was that they could still return for family events such as Trooping the Colour, the official celebration of the Queen’s birthday when royals gather on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, and other important occasions.
Last night a royal insider commented: ‘I can’t ever see those two back on the balcony.’
There is no timetable to the investigation but it is understood that any changes in policies and procedures will be shared publicly in an annual review expected later in the year.
Palace officials will be asked why the initial claims of bullying that were made in October 2018 were not acted on at the time.
The Times revealed allegations that the duchess (pictured in a trailer for her Oprah interview with Harry) bullied two assistants and shattered the confidence of another member of staff, and ‘drove them out’ of Kensington Palace. It published a litany of alleged bullying and ’emotional cruelty’
In October 2018, an official complaint was lodged by Jason Knauf, (pictured on Meghan and Harry’s wedding day) himself one the couple’s most senior advisers
A royal source told the Daily Mail last night that the emergence of the bullying claims yesterday had ‘shaken’ many staff, both past and present, and brought up ‘many unhappy memories’ about a particularly ‘toxic period’.
The Times revealed allegations that the duchess bullied two assistants and shattered the confidence of another member of staff, and ‘drove them out’ of Kensington Palace. It published a litany of alleged bullying and ’emotional cruelty’.
A Palace source told the paper: ‘There were a lot of broken people. Young women were broken by their behaviour.’ The source described one member of staff as ‘completely destroyed’.
A former aide branded both Harry and his wife ‘outrageous bullies’. Another source claimed that Samantha Cohen, the couple’s private secretary, had also been picked on.
In October 2018, an official complaint was lodged by Jason Knauf, himself one the couple’s most senior advisers.
Mr Knauf, who worked as communications secretary to Harry and Meghan and now heads the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charitable foundation, sent his 2018 email of complaint to Simon Case (left), then William’s private secretary and now the Cabinet Secretary at Downing Street
He wrote: ‘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].’
Harry and Meghan, whose ‘no holds barred’ CBS interview with Miss Winfrey will be broadcast on Sunday in America and in the UK on Monday at 9pm on ITV – which reportedly paid £1million – hit back at the allegations in The Times. A spokesman claimed the newspaper was being ‘used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative’ before the interview.
Yesterday a senior Palace source told the Mail: ‘This is absolutely untrue. We haven’t been ‘peddling’ anything. It’s disingenuous [to suggest that]. There are far more important things going on in the world [a reference to the pandemic and Prince Philip’s hospitalisation] that have been focusing our attention, rather than the circus around a media interview.’
Another source added: ‘The Palace has 100 per cent refused to discuss in any way, shape or form the interview.
‘Every journalist that has been asking them about it for the last week or so knows that.
‘The view from the start is that nothing good is to be gained from doing that. Their view has not changed. The suggestion that this is a Palace-orchestrated smear campaign is deeply offensive and patently false.’
Mr Knauf, who worked as communications secretary to Harry and Meghan and now heads the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charitable foundation, sent his 2018 email of complaint to Simon Case, then William’s private secretary and now the Cabinet Secretary at Downing Street.
Mr Case, who is said to have had no managerial responsibility for Harry’s staff but took a keen interest in what was happening, passed it to human resources director Samantha Carruthers.
Harry had ‘pleaded’ with Mr Knauf (pictured left with the duke) not to pursue the allegations, The Times claimed. Lawyers for the couple deny this happened
According to the report in The Times, Mr Knauf, who had already consulted Miss Carruthers, said in his email that she ‘agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious’.
Harry had ‘pleaded’ with Mr Knauf not to pursue the allegations, The Times claimed. Lawyers for the couple deny this happened.
The newspaper said it had been approached by former staff to tell their story before the couple’s interview with Miss Winfrey. They claimed that when Meghan was urged to support Palace staff she replied: ‘It’s not my job to coddle people.’
Meghan’s lawyers have vehemently denied she was a bully and claimed that one of the staff had left the job because of misconduct.
They said the former actress 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’. They added: ‘Let’s just call this what it is – a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation.’