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UPDATED, 1 PM: Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it is launching an investigation into allegations that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, bullied her staff at Kensington Palace. In an official statement obtained by UK media, Buckingham Palace said it was “very concerned” about the allegations outlined in The Times of London report.
“Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article,” the statement said. “Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.”
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“The Royal 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,” the statement concluded.
PREVIOUS, Meghan Markle is said to be “saddened” by an explosive report in The Times Of London, which has seen an email sent by her former Kensington Palace communications secretary raising concerns about her “bullying” behavior.
The Times’ report, which comes just days before CBS broadcasts a no-holds-barred interview with Markle and her husband Prince Harry, also claimed that the Duchess of Sussex wore earrings gifted to her by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman weeks after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Markle’s spokesman told the newspaper that the report was a “smear campaign” and that the Duchess of Sussex was upset by the claims because she has been “the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.”
The Times obtained an email sent in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, a former communications executive for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who now works as the CEO of the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. He sent the message to Simon Case, then Prince William’s private secretary, and it was forwarded to Samantha Carruthers, the former head of HR for Prince Charles.
According to the Times, which redacted the names of those involved, Knauf 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.”
He added: “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 email, Knauf is reported to have said that Carruthers “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious,” and he raised concerns that nothing would be done about the matter. “I questioned if the Household policy on bullying and harassment applies to principals,” he is reported to have written. The complaint did not progress, according to The Times, and Knauf quit the month after it was sent.
Deadline has contacted Markle’s reps for comment. A spokesman for the Duchess of Sussex said: “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.”
Separate to the bullying allegations, the Times claimed that Markle wore earrings to a formal dinner in Fiji in 2018 that were a wedding gift from Mohammed bin Salman. At the time of the dinner, it was reported that the jewelry was borrowed. A source told the Times that Markle asked aides to tell the media that they were borrowed when they briefed journalists about her outfit for the state dinner. Her lawyers denied that she had misled anyone about the earrings’ provenance.
The report comes ahead of Oprah Winfrey’s sit-down interview with Markle and Prince Harry, in which they are set to open up about their bitter relationship with the British press. The interview special will air on CBS on Sunday night, while ITV is poised to announce that it has secured the UK rights. Since the couple have relocated to California, they have signed lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify.
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