Fun fact: I don’t know Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. We’ve never met, and have no mutual friends or family (that I know of). In fact, aside from both attending Northwestern University at some (but not the same) point in our lives, we have little to nothing in common (aside from being light-skinned Black women—and I’m not even biracial). While I’ve been on the Meghan Markle beat since before she became the Duchess of Sussex and typically write about her favorably, I can’t even characterize myself as a fan (just not an asshole). And though I write about her on the regular and it’s an entertaining beat and interesting narrative, if it wasn’t part of my job to do so, I’m honestly not sure I’d be paying that much attention to the details of her life (you know, because I have my own).
I’m guessing most of you don’t know Meghan, Duchess of Sussex either, so none of us know for sure what she’s like to live with, be married or related to, or work for. All of that said, I’m still side-eyeing new reports that Meghan “bullied” two senior royal staffers into leaving their jobs—especially when she ultimately left her royal job for the same reason.
For background: On Tuesday evening, Page Six published an article referencing accusations of Meghan “bullying at least two palace aides during her short tenure as a senior British royal”—that is, according to the Times of London, which wrote:
The sources approached The Times because they felt that only a partial version had emerged of Meghan’s two years as a working member of the royal family and they wished to tell their side, concerned about how such matters are handled by the palace. The complaint claimed that she drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member.
It was made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the couple’s communications secretary at the time, seemingly in an effort to get Buckingham Palace to protect staff who he claimed were coming under pressure from the duchess. Prince Harry pleaded with Knauf not to pursue it, according to a source.
The Times was approached by sources who stated that they wanted to give their account of the turmoil within the royal household from Meghan’s arrival as Harry’s girlfriend in 2017 to the couple’s decision to stand down as working royals last year.
“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,” Knauf reportedly wrote in his email, adding: “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 behavior towards Y.”
Obviously, this report was strategically timed to drop ahead of Meghan and Harry’s highly anticipated, no-holds-barred interview with Oprah on March 7, and just after the again-expectant couple made their departure from royal life official. The Times acknowledges as much, reporting: “[Sources] believe the public should have insight into their side of the story before watching the couple’s much-publicized interview with Winfrey, due to be televised in the United States on Sunday.”
Their side of the story? What side are they concerned she’s going to tell, over a year after the fact? “The institution just protected Meghan constantly,” a source claims, which would directly refute Meghan and Harry’s stance that not much was done to protect her from derision and public abuse.
More from the Times:
Sources say they were concerned that nothing was done at the time to investigate the situation, and nothing done since to protect staff against the possibility of bullying by a member of the royal family. Aides also insist that behind the scenes they did more to welcome Meghan and help her to find a role than has been publicly acknowledged.
So, you mean to tell me that in the two years that Meghan Markle resided as a full-time member of the British royal family—a monarchy that dates back to the 10th century and was a major player in the transatlantic slave trade in addition to being a proud colonizer throughout the world—this lone American woman of color was so intimidating to palace staff that they were forced out of their good government jobs?
Also—are these reports really new or revelatory? We seem to recall Meghan being branded “Duchess Difficult” some time ago; a moniker at least one of her biographers rightly called out as “clichéd”—and frankly, racist.
“Meghan hasn’t really been able to step away from that ‘Duchess Difficult’ character, and it leaned into some really clichéd stereotypes that I think are quite dangerous to still use,” Omid Scobie, co-author of Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, told Insider in August 2020. “Particularly when we’re talking about successful women of color—being called too difficult, too demanding, too ambitious...these are things we hear time and time again.”
Nevertheless, the Times reports their sources allege that “staff would on occasion be reduced to tears; one aide, anticipating a confrontation with Meghan, told a colleague: ‘I can’t stop shaking.’” They further reported:
Two senior members of staff have claimed that they were bullied by the duchess. Another former employee told The Times they had been personally “humiliated” by her and claimed that two members of staff had been bullied...Another aide claimed it felt “more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying.”
Conveniently, as Oprah’s sit-down with the Sussexes was a pre-taped affair edited into a two-hour special, Meghan will not be able to address these allegations directly in her interview. However, the couple has issued a denial, as well a statement from their lawyers that one of the aforementioned staff left due to findings of misconduct; claims The Times was unable to corroborate.
“A spokesman for the Sussexes said they were the victims of a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation,” the Times reports, adding, “They said 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.’”
The couple’s lawyers added that The Times is “being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative” ahead of the interview.
In other news, via their Archewell Foundation, the couple offered a list of 20 suggestions on how to honor the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8 (h/t Vanity Fair), titled “Women Deserve Recognition—and also Support,” adding, “let’s unleash a groundswell of real acts of compassion for the women in your life and in your community.”
We’re guessing this latest round of indictments, innuendos and insinuations ain’t what they had in mind.