Did courtiers bury bullying claims to PROTECT Meghan? Duchess claims she is the victim of a cruel Palace conspiracy – but, as RICHARD KAY reveals, the truth is far more tantalising
- Meghan Markle is the subject of bullying complaints from her former royal aides, in leaked email to the Times
- Jason Knauf alleges Duchess of Sussex forced two assistants out of jobs amid claims of ’emotional cruelty’
- Buckingham Palace is launching an unprecedented investigation into the allegations, deepening the crisis
- Last night, a new promotion video for Harry and Meghan’s Oprah Winfrey talk was posted on social media
- In the video, Meghan alleges ‘The Firm’ is playing ‘active role in perpetuating falsehoods’ about her and Harry
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
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.
Meghan takes side swipe at ‘The Firm’ as she accuses Royal Family of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ in her TV onslaught
By Rebecca English, Royal Editor for the Daily Mail
Palace aides were braced for an explosive fallout from the Duchess of Sussex’s ‘tell-all’ Oprah interview last night after the first full clip showed her accusing the Royal Family of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ about her and Harry.
In the clip released by CBS, the US broadcaster that will air her two-hour bombshell talk with chat show host Oprah Winfrey, Meghan makes it clear she will not be ‘silenced by The Firm’, a catch-all term for the Royal Family.
To a background of dramatic music, Miss Winfrey asks her: ‘How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?’
Stony faced, Meghan replies: ‘I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.’
In the clip released by CBS, the US broadcaster that will air her two-hour bombshell talk with chat show host Oprah Winfrey, Meghan makes it clear she will not be ‘silenced by The Firm’, a catch-all term for the Royal Family
Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview to be broadcast in 70 countries in deals experts say are worth ‘a king’s ransom’
By Daniel Bates in New York for the Daily Mail
Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey will be broadcast in more than 70 countries in deals experts say will be worth ‘a king’s ransom’.
Sources close to the couple yesterday said the interview will go out in America on Sunday night as planned, despite calls for it to be postponed while the Duke of Edinburgh is seriously ill in hospital.
US television network CBS announced that it is syndicating the two-hour special to dozens of countries.
Countries that will screen the show include Britain, Australia, Canada, about 40 nations in sub-Saharan Africa and even Iceland.
More countries will be announced in the coming days under arrangements that experts say could earn tens of millions of pounds for CBS. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are not being paid for the interview and will not receive a slice of the syndication profits, the production company, owned by Miss Winfrey, said.
CBS is said to be charging advertisers £150,000 for a 30-second slot – meaning they could rake in millions over the course of the broadcast alone.
PR insider Mark Borkowski said: ‘With 70 countries, a conservative estimate is that this is going to make tens of millions. I can’t see anything less than that.
‘You’re looking at a king’s ransom and it’s going to be a massive payday for CBS. The last event on a scale like this was probably Meghan’s own wedding.
‘If it had been outside of Covid and the ravages of that on the ad industry it might have been a bigger deal, but it’s still going to be a huge piece of content to have.’
The scale of the sale means that hundreds of millions of people around the world could see the interview, the kind of audience associated with events such as the Olympics. It will first be seen on CBS on Sunday night. In Britain, ITV is said to have paid £1million to show the interview here on Monday night.
A source close to the couple said the timing of the broadcast was now out of their hands. The source said: ‘There are a lot of people who are going to talk about this until the programme airs, but the programming and all the rest of it is ultimately up to CBS. We’re not involved in that side of things.
‘As it stands, I don’t think there is any intention from the programme maker to change its air date.’
Tory MP Bob Blackman said the interview was simply ‘inappropriate’.
He added: ‘To be doing a tell-all interview screened in the UK when Philip is in hospital…they are badly advised, to put it mildly.
‘None of these royal interviews have gone well…and I can’t see this going any better.’
Speaking in the garden of a friend’s Californian mansion, she adds: ‘And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I … there is a lot that has been lost already.’
The prime-time interview will be aired in more than 70 countries, including the UK where ITV is believed to have spent close to £1million to broadcast it.
Palace aides were already preparing to ‘hide behind the sofa’, fearful that Meghan will use the interview to settle perceived scores with the monarchy.
They knew that senior courtiers – the so-called ‘men in grey suits’ – would very much be in the line of fire. The couple have already loudly complained about what they perceived as their lack of support and even wildly accused them of actively plotting their downfall.
But sources close to the Sussexes had been also busily briefing, anonymously, that Meghan did not intend to disrespect the Queen.
However, it now appears it could have an impact reminiscent of Princess Diana’s infamous ‘there were three of us in the marriage’ Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, which caused a full-scale Royal Family crisis.
While the Palace has refused to comment on Meghan’s decision to speak about her time as a working royal, saying it does not wish to get involved in the ‘circus around a media interview’, it is clear that senior officials are angry at the suggestion that anyone in the royal household – let alone senior royals – ever set out to malign her.
On Wednesday they also reacted angrily to further suggestions by a spokesman for the Sussexes that they were behind a ‘calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful information’ which saw accusations of bullying levelled against Meghan in The Times by former aides.
The paper revealed a complaint that the duchess had ‘driven out’ two PAs with her behaviour and targeted other members of staff was raised by her own head of communications in October 2018. But nothing, it appears, was ever done.
One of the senior aides who was made aware of the bullying accusations was Simon Case, who was then Prince William’s private secretary and is now Cabinet Secretary.
Downing Street said yesterday that Boris Johnson had full confidence in Dr Case. A spokesman said it was ‘a matter for the Palace’.
The Sussex team have sensationally claimed The Times was ‘being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative’ ahead of her Oprah interview.
Sources have told the Daily Mail the ‘disgusting’ suggestion is ‘absolute untrue and utterly baseless’.
The Queen has ordered an unprecedented inquiry into the claims that her grandson and his wife inflicted ‘emotional cruelty’ on staff.
Palace insiders are particularly frustrated by recent events as they believe they did everything they could to support the couple – giving them a hand-picked team of loyal staff, millions in funding and even allowed them to chose whatever home they wanted.
They are also all too aware, sources say, of how Meghan and Harry have accused ‘pretty much everyone they have come into contact with’ of leaking stories against them at one time or another.
This, remarkably, includes senior royals such as the Duchess of Cambridge and Harry’s stepmother, the Duchess of Cornwall, to senior officials in every royal household – including their own close-knit and loyal team. ‘All absolutely false,’ one source said.
On Wednesday they also reacted angrily to further suggestions by a spokesman for the Sussexes that they were behind a ‘calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful information’ which saw accusations of bullying levelled against Meghan in The Times by former aides
The Sussex team have sensationally claimed The Times was ‘being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative’ ahead of her Oprah interview
One insider said: ‘It is all a bit unedifying and ridiculous. If anyone in the Palace was orchestrating or peddling a campaign of misinformation to smear them they would think of something better than accusations of bullying that the institution itself doesn’t come out well from. Buckingham Palace are determined to try to maintain a dignified silence on the interview and the furore around it.’
But writing for Harper’s Bazaar, a US magazine that prides itself on publishing positive coverage of Meghan, Omid Scobie, the author of the Sussexes’ controversial biography Finding Freedom, this week accused Palace staff of a ‘takedown’ of Meghan’s character.
He quoted a friend as saying: ‘Harry and Meghan knew that it would get ugly in the run-up [to the Oprah special], but seeing such an obvious attempt at destroying her character was distressing and upsetting.’
Charity boss who worked closely with Duchess is besieged for saying ‘hurting the Queen in public is really low’
By Rebecca English, Royal Editor for the Daily Mail
A charity executive who has worked closely with the Duchess of Sussex was hounded on Twitter yesterday after posting: ‘Hurting the Queen in public is really low.’
Kate Robertson, who founded One Young World, said the duchess should sort out her grievances ‘in person privately’ and praised the monarch for being the ‘world’s most stunning example of public service’.
But Mrs Robertson deleted her tweet three hours later after she was trolled by ‘fans’ of the Sussexes and said she had been ‘unduly critical of people I admire, care about and have worked with for a long time’.
Her first message – after the Sussexes took a swipe at Buckingham Palace – was posted at 8.18am and read: ‘Not having any of it. The Queen is the world’s most stunning example of duty and service.
‘The Sussexes have grievances but should sort out in person privately. Hurting the Queen in public is really low.’
Meghan’s biographer, Omid Scobie, who wrote last summer’s controversial Finding Freedom, then highlighted the message, saying: ‘It seems like that not everybody will be watching [Oprah] on Sunday, including the founder of One Young World, a youth-focused global forum that the Duchess of Sussex has been involved with for years.’
His message sparked a social media ‘pile-on’ with Mrs Robertson being bombarded with angry messages from fanatical admirers of the duchess.
She subsequently deleted the Tweet and posted: ‘I am so sorry. I sent a tweet this morning that was unduly critical of people I admire, care about and have worked with for a long time.
‘People have called me out on it and they were right to do so – we should all choose to contribute to a culture of kindness. Everyone has the right to tell their story – that’s what our work is about. This was a good lesson: commenting on people’s personal lives is wrong. I’m truly sorry.’
Worryingly, even her apology was subject to hundreds of messages of abuse from social media users bizarrely calling themselves ‘the Sussex Squad’, including several demanding her resignation.
Mr Scobie’s tweet that quoted her message was later removed. The duchess has supported One Young World for a number of years, both before and after her marriage to Harry, and appeared with Mrs Robertson at several events.
They made headlines in 2019 when Mrs Robertson greeted the duchess on stage with a curtsy, while Meghan went in for a warm hug, resulting in an awkward clash.
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