Palace staff watched Harry and Meghan’s interview in horror as they claimed she was left completely unsupported when she joined the Royal Family, it emerged last night.
The Daily Mail can reveal there is genuine hurt that the couple have perpetuated the image that Meghan was cut adrift and left to fend for herself.
In fact, sources say, the duchess was given a string of the Queen’s most senior staff as ‘mentors’ after the couple became engaged, as well as being allowed to hand-pick her own 15-strong team of loyal and talented private office staff.
‘It is very disingenuous to make such a sweeping generalisation,’ one insider said. ‘There was a brilliant team of very experienced and loyal aides to help them. Sadly, she and Harry were willing to listen to no one. And that is the honest truth.’
The Queen even personally persuaded her long-standing and extremely popular former deputy private secretary Samantha Cohen, who had just handed in her notice after working for the Royal Household for the best part of two decades, to stay on and work for the couple.
She was their first joint private secretary, running their private and public lives rather like a chief of staff. One of her main roles was to help navigate Meghan through the wedding and prepare her for royal life.
Safe pair of hands: Samantha Cohen, centre, with Meghan and the Queen in 2018
These included regular tutoring sessions on everything from royal etiquette to diplomatic protocol at Kensington Palace.
Australian-born Mrs Cohen, a mother of three, was considered the safest pair of hands possible.
Having begun her career in the press office, rising to press secretary, and then moving to the Queen’s private office in 2010, she was the most senior woman in the household and one of the Queen’s key advisers, seen in the palace corridors as belonging to a more modern breed of royal executive.
They had a brilliant team of loyal aides
‘The Queen gave her Sam, her most trusted, her safest set of hands,’ a source said. Yet Meghan told Oprah Winfrey that while the Queen had personally been ‘wonderful’, she hadn’t received any guidance on how to behave as a royal – leaving her forced to google the National Anthem.
‘Unlike what you see in the movies, there’s no class on how to… how to speak, how to cross your legs, how to be royal,’ she said. ‘There was none of that training that might exist for other members of the family. That was not something that was offered to me.’
‘Nobody prepares you?’ asked Miss Winfrey. Meghan confirmed this adding: ‘I’m sorry, but even down to, like, the National Anthem. No one thought to say, “Oh, you’re American. You’re not gonna know that”. That’s me, late at night, googling… I don’t wanna embarrass them. I need to learn these 30 hymns for church. All of this is televised. We were doing the training behind the scenes ’cause I just wanted to make them proud.’
She also revealed that on the first occasion she met the Queen, at Royal Lodge, Prince Andrew’s Windsor home, his ex-wife the Duchess of York – with whom he still lives – had to teach her how to strike a ‘deep curtsey’ as she had no idea what she would be required to do that in private.
They just didn’t want to listen
Harry backed up his wife’s claims, saying one of the main reasons for their decision to quit royal duties was a ‘lack of support and lack of understanding’. But several sources have told the Mail that their account ‘is not one anyone recognises’.
‘No one wants to get into a tit-for-tat but it is important to stress that this idea the duchess wasn’t helped with protocol, that no one taught her to curtsey, she had to google the National Anthem herself, isn’t true,’ said one. It was alleged last week that Mrs Cohen was one of those members of staff who experienced bullying at Meghan’s hands, which has been denied by the Sussexes’ lawyers.
As well as being given the services of Mrs Cohen, Meghan was also put on speed dial to the Queen’s equerry, Ghanian-born Lieutenant Colonel Nana Kofi Twumasi-Ankrah of the Household Cavalry. Equerries are senior officers who help organise the Queen’s diary and official functions, often appearing at her side.
The Mail also understands that Meghan was able to lean on one of the Queen’s most senior ladies-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, the widow of former BBC chairman Marmaduke Hussey and one Prince William’s godparents.
She has been the loyal friend and companion to the Queen since she joined the court in 1960 following the birth of Prince Andrew.
As well as being given the services of Mrs Cohen (pictured left), Meghan was also put on speed dial to the Queen’s equerry
Like all ladies-in-waiting, Lady Susan accompanies Her Majesty on engagements and organises her diary, as well as dealing with her correspondence. She is not paid for her services.
‘Like Sam Cohen, there couldn’t have been a safer sounding board for the duchess to use,’ said a source. ‘Lady Susan is very approachable, as are all the ladies-in-waiting, and would have wanted to help in any way they could.
‘In fact it was said that all of the ladies-in-waiting came over to Kensington Palace to have tea with Harry and Meghan’s team… as a getting-to-know-you session.’
The calibre of the team made available to Meghan was, sources say, a sign of how committed Buckingham Palace was to supporting her.
‘The intimation from the interview was that Harry, and particularly Meghan, were on their own,’ one insider explained. ‘Of course no one could ever understand what it must be like being plunged into that world so quickly.
‘But that’s why this team was assembled. Contrary to what has been suggested, Buckingham Palace has learnt from the mistakes of the past and were determined to help them in any way they could. They wanted to make Harry and Meghan a success.
‘Unfortunately they didn’t want to listen.
‘Harry was intrinsically distrustful of the institution and Meghan just really didn’t want to know.’
Team Sussex: No, the duchess was abandoned
One of Meghan’s closest friends claimed yesterday that she and Harry have a collection of emails and text messages to back up their bombshell claims about the Royal Family.
Actress and musician Janina Gavankar has known the Duchess of Sussex for 17 years and was with her when she watched the broadcast of the interview on Sunday.
She insisted ‘the whole family and the whole staff’ at Buckingham Palace were aware that Meghan’s mental health was suffering. And she vowed ‘the truth’ would come out, as would evidence that had been collected which she believes proves their allegations.
She did not, however, detail which claims the messages referred to, the most incendiary of which is that a member of Harry’s family expressed ‘concern’ about ‘how dark’ their unborn son would be.
Friends: Meghan and Californian actress Janina Gavankar. She made clear she was speaking with Meghan’s knowledge. She said her friend – whom she described as ‘kind, generous and low-maintenance’ – was ‘happy’ for her to talk on her behalf
American Miss Gavankar, 40 – who took the photo of Harry, Meghan and son Archie that featured on their first family Christmas card – was speaking on ITV’s This Morning yesterday. She made clear she was speaking with Meghan’s knowledge. She said her friend – whom she described as ‘kind, generous and low-maintenance’ – was ‘happy’ for her to talk on her behalf.
Asked about Buckingham Palace’s 61-word statement on Tuesday, Miss Gavankar, who lives in LA and says Meghan tells her ‘everything’, said: ‘After reading this short Palace statement that came out from Buckingham Palace I thought two things.
‘On one side I thought I am so thankful they are finally acknowledging the experience [that Meghan had], but on the other side I know the family and the staff were well aware of the extent of it, and although their recollections may vary, ours don’t because we lived through it with them.’
She added: ‘And there are many emails and texts to support that.’
The truth will come out
Meghan alleged in her Oprah Winfrey interview that she suffered severe mental health issues and ‘just didn’t want to be alive any more’.
She even claimed senior figures in ‘the institution’ thwarted her attempts to seek help, as it would not be good for the monarchy.
Asked by Phillip Schofield whether she was saying that the ‘whole family and the whole staff’ were aware there was a woman in the palace who was ‘deeply struggling’, Miss Gavankar replied: ‘I don’t know who knew. I know the family and the staff knew.’
Miss Gavankar, who lives in LA, says Meghan tells her ‘everything’. Pictured, Harry and Meghan during their Oprah interview which aired on Sunday, March 7
Asked how that made Meghan feel, she added: ‘I think she spoke very well about how she felt. I believe she said she had no one to turn to within the institution.’ The actress confirmed Meghan had told her about it all at the time, saying: ‘Yes, she spoke to me about that. She told me what you now know.’
She also said she had spoken to Meghan about coming on TV to speak for her, adding: ‘I talk to [the Sussexes] all of the time. We watched the special together, actually.’
She also strongly denied allegations made last week that the duchess had bullied staff, claims that the Palace HR department is investigating.
Meghan’s lawyers have denied the allegations. Miss Gavankar repeated unsubstantiated claims by Meghan’s PR team that one of her accusers left due to ‘gross misconduct’.
She added: ‘The truth will come out. There are plenty of emails and texts about that.’