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Meghan accused of bullying royal staff and driving out two aides

Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent
·5 min read

The Duchess of Sussex has been accused of bullying staff and “destroying” one individual, ahead of her “tell-all” television interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The Times newspaper reported allegations that during her time as a working royal, Meghan drove out two personal assistants and staff were “humiliated” on several occasions.

There has long been speculation about the atmosphere in the Sussex household after a number of staff left, and the newspaper chronicles what it describes as “turmoil” within palace walls.

Underlying Meghan’s actions, the paper claims, was the view of a number of sources that she wanted to be a “victim” so her “unbearable experience” would convince Harry they had to leave the UK – something her lawyers have denied.

The monarchy’s “men in grey suits” have been accused of being aware of the alleged actions of the duchess and of doing “absolutely nothing to protect people”.

But Meghan’s spokesman said: “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.”

The Duke of Cambridge brought forward plans to split his office from Harry’s staff after he was made aware of the allegations, it was reported.

Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ then communications secretary, made a bullying complaint in October 2018 in an apparent attempt to force Buckingham Palace to protect staff.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Meghan and Harry are expected to ‘tell-all’ in their Oprah interview (Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese/PA)

A source told the newspaper Harry begged his senior aide not to take the matter further, but it also reported lawyers for the duke and duchess deny the meeting took place and that Harry would not have interfered with staff matters.

Questions will be asked about the timing of the allegations, made a few days before Meghan and Harry’s interview with Winfrey is aired on Sunday in America.

Royal aides will be bracing themselves for revelations from the couple after the chat show host said in a clip from the interview that nothing was “off-limits”.

But the allegations of bullying will point the spotlight at the duchess and away from the institution of the monarchy they left.

The paper reported Mr Knauf sent an email outlining the duchess’s alleged actions to Simon Case, the Duke of Cambridge’s then private secretary and now the cabinet secretary, after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of human resources.

Commonwealth Day 2020
William reportedly brought forward plans to split his office from Harry’s team, after the bulling allegations (Phil Harris/Daily Mirror/PA)

Mr Knauf left some months after making his allegations and is now a close aide to Harry’s brother, working as the chief executive of William and Kate’s Royal Foundation.

The Times reported Mr Knauf wrote 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 behaviour towards Y.”

Melissa Touabti, the second of Meghan’s personal assistants to leave, departed six months after the royal wedding after she ended up in tears, according to reports in a Sunday newspaper. Lawyers for the duke and duchess said the Sussexes believed staff to be comfortable and happy.

The duchess said “it’s not my job to coddle people”, the Times reported when her alleged treatment of staff was raised by a senior aide at a meeting attended by Harry.

Royal visit to Paris – Day 1
Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ former communications secretary, made a bullying complaint about Meghan in October 2018 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The aide told them staff should be treated well even if they fell below the standards the couple expected.

The newspaper claims a senior adviser was also targeted – Samantha Cohen, a former assistant private secretary to the Queen.

She worked as a private secretary for the Sussexes after they married and was also allegedly bullied, with a source telling the newspaper “nothing was ever good enough”.

Lawyers for the Sussexes, in a letter to the Times, have said they remained close to Ms Cohen and were grateful for her support and dedication, and have denied they bullied her.

A source suggested the attitude to the allegations was more about making them “go away” rather than “addressing” them, with the paper claiming Mr Knauf’s complaint was never progressed.

Royal visit to Cheshire
It has been alleged Samantha Cohen, in the centre behind Meghan and the Queen, was bullied by the duchess (Danny Lawson/PA)

“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,” another source told the newspaper.

“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.”

Another issued raised by the newspaper was controversial jewellery worn by Meghan at a formal dinner during the Sussexes’ visit to Fiji in 2018.

The earrings were reported at the time to have been borrowed but were a wedding gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia – likely to have approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi according to a declassified US intelligence report.

The newspaper reported lawyers for the duchess saying she was unaware of rumours alleging the Crown Prince’s involvement in the murder a few weeks before the dinner.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment. Kensington Palace has been contacted for a comment.