LONDON — In a sign of further tensions and tussles between Queen Elizabeth II and Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Buckingham Palace on Wednesday evening announced that its human resources department would investigate accusations by former employees that Meghan bullied her staff.
This highly unusual statement from Buckingham Palace stated “we are clearly very concerned about allegations” contained in an article Wednesday in The Times of London.
The newspaper reported that sources told the Times that Meghan was accused in a 2018 complaint of bullying staff, especially young women, “to the point of tears,” pushed two personal assistants “out of the household” and undermined confidence in a third.
The Buckingham statement does not endorse the newspaper’s account, but it does take it seriously enough to conclude that the palace “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article.”
This public airing of royal laundry is remarkable. In scandals past, the palace was loath to comment on anything, let alone internal investigations of how royal family members — known informally as “The Firm” — treat their courtiers and servants.
And the palace goes further, noting that “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 palace closes by advising, “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.”
All this comes as the royal family and their retinue of PR professionals brace themselves for Meghan and Harry’s appearance this Sunday on a two-hour CBS special with Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey released “teaser quotes” from her interview with the California power couple earlier this week suggesting some sensational dish was in store, promising viewers “there is no subject that is off-limits.”
“You’ve said some pretty shocking things here,” Winfrey said to the couple, who lost their royal patronages and honorary military titles last month after confirming they would not return to their lives as “senior working royals,” but instead seek financial independence and relief from the scrutiny of Britain’s freewheeling tabloids.
The Times report arose when current or former palace staff approached the London newspaper “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.”
Harry and Meghan, who have been feuding — and successfully suing the British press — were not having it, and their aides returned fire, branding the newspaper report as a preemptive hatchet job.
A spokesman for the Sussexes 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.”
The public relations aide said that Meghan “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.”
More plainly, the spokesman added, “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.”
But it does appear the defamatory portrayal is being given at least a scintilla of credibility by the queen, who seems likely to have been consulted and to have consented to the probe into alleged bullying.