Meghan accuses ‘The Firm’ of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’

Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent
·5 min read

The Duchess of Sussex has accused the royal family of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Harry in the latest dramatic footage released from her Oprah Winfrey interview.

Meghan defended her decision to speak to the chat show queen suggesting she could not “stay silent” while “The Firm” was working against the couple.

The latest salvo in the worsening relationship between the Sussexes and the monarchy came hours after Buckingham Palace announced it is to investigate allegations of bullying made against the duchess by former royal staff.

The couple’s interview with the US television host is expected to lift the lid on their short period working for the Firm – as the royal family is sometimes known – before they stepped down last March and moved to America.

In the 30-second clip, from the interview recorded in mid-February before any recent royal developments, Winfrey asks the duchess: “How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?”

She 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.

“And, if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I…there is a lot that has been lost already.”

A palace source said: “We’re not getting involved in the drama around the interview.”

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It is not clear what “falsehoods” Meghan is referring to but court documents from her recent legal action against Associated Newspapers, over articles which featured parts of her letter to her estranged father, shed light on her views about the monarchy.

The legal papers claimed the duchess was left “unprotected by the Institution” of the monarchy when attacked by the media and “prohibited from defending herself”.

There have been calls this week for the two-hour primetime CBS special, which airs in the US on Sunday night, to be rescheduled in light of the Duke of Edinburgh’s heart treatment in hospital.

A source close to the Sussexes said the screening of the couple’s Oprah Winfrey interview was still expected to go ahead.

The source told the PA news agency: “As it stands, I don’t think there is any intention from the programme maker to change its air date.”

Duke of Sussex libel case
Harry and Meghan moved to the US last year (Simon Dawson/PA)

Buckingham Palace has said it is “very concerned” by the bullying accusations made by former royal staff against Meghan, and reported in the Times newspaper, and would be launching an investigation.

Past and present employees are to be invited to speak in confidence about their experiences of working for the duchess, after it was alleged she drove out two personal assistants and that staff were “humiliated” on several occasions.

To fully examine the allegations Meghan would be needed to be part of the proceedings but it is not clear at this early stage what role if any she will play in the process.

A source close to the Sussexes said about palace’s announcement made on Wednesday night: “The first we heard about this was via the press – this is a whole tit-for-tat scenario. It’s not a complaint we haven’t heard anything but it’s very hard to know what the process is.

“If this was a private company we’ve effectively already been fired and I’m not entirely sure what any process could be.”

Royal visit to Paris – Day 1
Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ former communications secretary, raised concerns about Meghan’s bullying (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

There has long been speculation about the atmosphere in the Sussex household, after a number of staff left, and the Times chronicles what it describes as “turmoil” within palace walls.

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.

The Times reported Mr Knauf 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 royal aide 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.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Duchess of Sussex during her interview with Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Productions /Joe Pugliese/PA)

“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.”

Mr Knauf left a few months after making his allegations and is now a close aide to Harry’s brother, working as the chief executive of William and Kate’s Royal Foundation.

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.”