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Harry and Meghan’s’ chief of staff makes surprise departure after just 11 months in the job 


How have Harry & Meghan lost ANOTHER right hand woman? Duke and Duchess’ chief of staff makes surprise departure after just 11 months in the job

  • Harry & Meghan’s Archewell executive director stepped down in less than a year
  • Called Catherine St Laurent ‘incredible asset’ in appointment announcement
  • She will be replaced by couple’s current UK communications officer James Holt

Harry and Meghan’s right-hand woman in the US has stepped down after less than a year.

Catherine St Laurent was head-hunted by the couple from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to become their ‘chief of staff’ and executive director of Archewell, their new non-profit organisation, last April.

The couple called her an ‘incredible asset’ when they announced her appointment, adding: ‘We are excited to have her on our team.’

But yesterday it emerged that the Canadian-born mother-of-two has unexpectedly left her post.

There was no comment from her directly, but according to the New York Post, Miss St Laurent has already stepped down, although she will continue to work with Archewell in an ‘advisory’ role.

Catherine St Laurent was head-hunted by the couple from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to become their ‘chief of staff’

She will be replaced as Archewell’s executive director by the couple’s current communications officer in the UK, James Holt. 

Reports suggest they have no immediate plans to replace him, leaving the Duke and Duchess of Sussex without any official representation in Britain and all their media relations now being handled in the US.

The couple have already appointed Toya Holness as Archewell’s ‘global press secretary’. Buckingham Palace ceased to act for them after they quit as working royals last spring.

The couple called her an ‘incredible asset’ when they announced her appointment, adding: ‘We are excited to have her on our team.’

The couple called her an ‘incredible asset’ when they announced her appointment, adding: ‘We are excited to have her on our team.’

One royal insider expressed surprise at Miss St Laurent’s departure, telling the Mail: ‘She was a huge appointment for them.

CATHERINE ST-LAURENT: ‘SENIOR ADVISORY ROLE’

Catherine St-Laurent

Old position: Executive director of the Archewell Foundation

New position: A ‘senior advisory role’ at the Archewell Foundation

Catherine St-Laurent took on the position of chief of staff and executive director of the Sussexes’ non-profit enterprise the Archewell Foundation in April 2020.

The Canadian-born French speaker was previously the director at Pivotal Ventures – Melinda Gates’ women and families foundation – and held a top communications role at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

At the time of her appointment, a friend told the Mail that Ms St-Laurent  was ‘feisty, fair and up for a tough conversation’, adding: ‘But if all goes wrong, she is good for a laugh and a cocktail afterwards. 

‘She’s a good egg. She’ll bring a clean-sheet perspective.’

After her hiring last year, the Sussexes had said: ‘We are proud to be joined by Catherine St-Laurent in this next chapter with us.

‘Her leadership and proven track record working within two organizations that have tremendous impact in the world — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Pivotal Ventures make her an incredible asset and we’re excited to have her on our team.’

In a departing email to staff, she announced: ‘I am thrilled to be able to play a supporting role in realising their vision and enabling them to achieve impact on the issues that matter most to them.’

It has now been revealed that mother-of-two Ms St-Laurent will instead take on a senior advisory role for Archewell, and will ‘continue to bring high-level strategic guidance’ to the foundation, a spokesman told Page Six

‘A big hitter with a great track record, poached to head up their new working life in the US. It is really quite astonishing she has left that role after less than a year.’

Miss St Laurent is apparently launching her own new ‘social impact firm’, supported by and working with Archewell.

Harry and Meghan were dogged by a spate of departures from their ranks as working royals, losing at least two PAs as well as other key staff from their private office.

Earlier this month Buckingham Palace announced it was launching a probe into the handling of claims by their former head of communications that Meghan bullied several female members of their team, forcing at least two to quit.

A spokesman for the couple denied the claims, calling it a ‘calculated smear campaign’.

At the time of her appointment as Harry and Meghan’s most senior team member, Miss St Laurent had said she was ‘thrilled to be able to play a supporting role in realising their vision’.

She added: ‘From our very first conversation, Harry and Meghan have expressed a deep commitment to improving lives and having a positive impact on society.’

The couple have also made two high-profile new appointments.

Ben Browning, who produced the Oscar-nominated film Promising Young Woman, is now head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio as part of their multi-million dollar link-ups with Netflix and Spotify.

Mr Browning said it was a ‘unique opportunity’ and he wanted to turn Archewell into a ‘global production company that will spotlight diverse voices and share uplifting stories’.

The couple have also linked up with Invisible Hand – a ‘social impact and culture change agency’.

Intriguingly, given numerous reports suggesting Meghan has political ambitions in the US, its founder Genevieve Roth worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

She will also serve as a ‘senior strategic adviser’ to the couple.

A statement said Invisible Hand would be focusing on ‘strategic change through storytelling and community building in support of gender and racial equity’.

A spokesman for the Sussexes added: ‘They join a rapidly expanding team that’s deeply dedicated to advancing systemic cultural change and supporting compassionate communities across the world.’

A judge has ordered The Mail on Sunday to publish a statement saying it infringed the Duchess of Sussex’s copyright by publishing extracts of a letter she sent her father. 

Lord Justice Warby said it did not need to be published until the outcome of an appeal process.

He also ruled against Meghan on how large the statement needed to be printed, saying it would take up a ‘disproportionate amount of the front page’ if the font size was the same as the original 2019 headline.

Aides at the centre of palace intrigue that saw Meghan accused of bullying

Melissa Touabti (right) is pictured with Robbie Williams' wife Ayda for whom she previously worked

Melissa Touabti (right) is pictured with Robbie Williams’ wife Ayda for whom she previously worked

PA WHO QUIT AFTER WEDDING:

Melissa Touabti, the duchess’s former personal assistant, had previously worked for Robbie Williams and Madonna.

She played a key role in preparations for Meghan and Harry’s wedding in May 2018, but quit after just six months.

The Frenchwoman, 41, took a job with the billionaire Livingstone family – owners of the stately home Cliveden. 

THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR:

Jason Knauf joined the royals in 2014, having acted as a ‘crisis management expert’ at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The 36- year-old American, who completed his master’s at the London School of Economics, served as communications secretary to the ‘Fab Four’ of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan before the Cambridges and Sussexes created separate offices in March 2019.

Mr Knauf now heads William and Kate’s charitable foundation. 

THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR: Jason Knauf (left) walks behind the couple at the Invictus Games in Toronto

THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR: Jason Knauf (left) walks behind the couple at the Invictus Games in Toronto 

THE TOUGH TALKING AUSTRALIAN: 

Formerly the Queen’s assistant private secretary, Samantha Cohen had planned to quit Buckingham Palace in 2018. Instead, she agreed to stay on and help the duchess through her first months in the Royal Family.

The well-liked but tough-talking Australian became the Sussexes’ private secretary, but left in 2019 to work for the environmental charity Cool Earth. 

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Samantha Cohen) attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 in Widnes, England

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Samantha Cohen) attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 in Widnes, England 

  

Other aides who have quit the Sussexes since their wedding: 

September 2018: Senior comms secretary Katrina McKeever 

January 2019: Female royal protection officer 

March 2019: Assistant private secretary Amy Pickerell 

June 2019: Two nannies leave within weeks of each other 

January 2020: Sussex Royal charity foundation’s Natalie Campbell   

JAMES HOLT: THE NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ARCHEWELL FOUNDATION

James Holt

It was today revealed that Meghan and Harry's UK PR chief James Holt (pictured) would take on the director role

It was today revealed that Meghan and Harry’s UK PR chief James Holt (pictured) would take on the director role 

Old position: UK PR spokesman

New position: Executive director of the Archewell Foundation

James Holt previously led communications for the Royal Foundation, the charity headed by the Cambridges.

Holt has worked at Kensington Palace for several years – as well as for the Liberal Democrats – and is passionate about many of the causes championed by Harry and Meghan.

He acted as Harry and Meghan’s UK spokesman and will now take on the role of executive director of the Archewell Foundation.

Holt, a BA Journalism graduate from the University of Lincoln, rose to the position of Head of Media for the Liberal Democrats in 2010 – and stayed in the role until August 2013.

He worked as Special Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister – Nick Clegg – from June 2013 to January 2014, and moved up to become Head of Government Communications for the Deputy PM until September 2014.

He took on the voluntary position of Director of Communications for Pride in London between March 2016 and November 2017.

In October 2017 he took up the role of Senior Communications Officer for The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry – staying in the role for one year.

He then became Head of Communications at The Royal Foundation for one year, until September 2019.

BEN BROWNING: HEAD OF CONTENT FOR ARCHEWELL  

Ben Browning

Ben Browning, Head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio

Ben Browning, Head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio

New position: Head of content for Archewell Productions and Archewell Audio

Veteran producer Mr Browning has previously worked on films including The Big Sick, Arrival, Room and Late Night and is set to head up Archewell’s work with Spotify and Netflix.

Most recently,  Mr Browning worked on Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan, which was nominated for five Oscars. 

It is thought that Browning will be working closely with Spotify and Netflix to help bring Archwell’s creative partnerships to life, Harpers Bazaar reports.

Browning has been nominated for a BAFTA Award, Academy Award and PGA Award for his role in the production of Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan.

He had also previously worked as executive producer on HBO’s I Know This Much Is True, which stars Mark Ruffalo.

Browning said in a statement: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have founded a next-generation production company with best-in-class distribution partners in Netflix and Spotify, a clear agenda to inform and entertain, and an unparalleled global reach.

‘From the moment they shared their vision for Archewell as a global production company that will spotlight diverse voices and share uplifting stories, I knew I wanted to help with this unique opportunity. 

‘It’s a thrilling company to be starting.’

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