Buckingham Palace is “very concerned” about allegations the Duchess of Sussex bullied former royal staff and has launched an investigation into the claims.
Past and present employees are to be invited to speak in confidence about their experiences of working for Meghan, after it was alleged she drove out two personal assistants and staff were “humiliated” on several occasions.
The Times newspaper has reported the duchess “destroyed” one member of staff and another was left in tears before she departed.
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”.
The disclosure of the allegations comes a few days ahead of Meghan and Harry’s keenly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, which is expected to lift the lid on their short period as working royals before they stepped down for a life in America.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “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 household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.
“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.”
It is believed to be the first time the actions of a member of the royal family have been investigation by the royal household’s human resources (HR) department.
Meghan and Harry will not be part of the process as they are not staff, and it is understood the palace hopes to start the investigation soon.
Any changes in policies or procedures will be shared in the Sovereign Grant report which is published annually and documents royal accounts for the year.
Royal commentators have suggested the allegations may shed light on the troubled relationship between Harry and his brother the Duke of Cambridge – who at the time of the claims were moving away from a joint office and setting up their own households.
Penny Junor, an author of royal biographies, said: “This perhaps explains more about the rift between Harry and William. It was a small office before it was split – William would be aware of what was going on.”
She added: “So many royal stories are never nailed down. This is the first time I’ve heard a courtier actually speaking out to the press about what’s gone on behind closed doors in the palaces.”
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.
A source told the newspaper Harry begged his senior aide not to take the matter further, but it also reported that lawyers for the duke and duchess deny the meeting took place and that Harry would not have interfered with staff matters.
Mr Knauf reportedly 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.
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.
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.
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.”