Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have insisted they should be involved in any ‘formal’ investigation over allegations that they bullied their staff, a source has claimed.
The probe, which is currently being billed as an ‘internal review’ by human resources, could hear evidence from up to 12 ten royal aides who worked for the couple.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have not yet been contacted about the probe, which will be led by a human resources manager from the Royal Household.
Past and present staff will be invited to speak about their experiences, with the aim to improve human resources policies at the palace and see if lessons can be learnt.
However a palace aide told the Daily Telegraph that the Sussexes are unlikely to be involved or even told about the process, which has been labelled an ‘internal review’.
And a source close to Harry and Meghan said the couple, who now live in Montecito, California, had not been told about the probe and knew nothing of its scope.
The source said: ‘If it was an investigation into them, of some description, there would have to be a formal process where we would have to be involved. A formal HR investigation involves formal accusations.’
The Queen, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on the Buckingham Palace balcony in July 2018
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey will air on Sunday in the US
The probe will be led by the Royal Household HR team. Buckingham Palace is seen on Monday
The investigation may not release its findings until next year, with royal sources saying there is no set no timeframe after the explosive allegations were made.
There could be as many as eight to 12 people wishing to give evidence, although it has not yet been confirmed who any of them may be.
Sources connected to a group of aides ready to give evidence told the Daily Mirror how there were ten former Kensington Palace staff who want to be involved.
Meghan accuses Royal Family of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ in interview
Palace aides are braced for an explosive fallout from the Duchess of Sussex’s ‘tell-all’ Oprah interview after the first full clip showed her accusing the Royal Family of ‘perpetuating falsehoods’ about her and Harry.
In the clip released by CBS, the US broadcaster that will air her two-hour bombshell talk with chat show host Oprah Winfrey, Meghan makes it clear she will not be ‘silenced by The Firm’, a catch-all term for the Royal Family.
Oprah asks her: ‘How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?’
Stony faced, Meghan 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.’
Speaking in the garden of a friend’s Californian mansion, she adds: ‘And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I … there is a lot that has been lost already.’
The interview will be aired in more than 70 countries. In the UK, ITV is believed to have spent close to £1million to broadcast it.
Palace aides were already preparing to ‘hide behind the sofa’, fearful Meghan will use it to settle perceived scores with the monarchy.
They knew that senior courtiers – the so-called ‘men in grey suits’ – would be in the line of fire.
The couple have complained about what they saw as a lack of support, and even wildly accused them of actively plotting their downfall.
But sources close to the Sussexes had been also busily briefing, anonymously, that Meghan did not intend to disrespect the Queen.
But it now appears it could have an impact reminiscent of Princess Diana’s infamous ‘there were three of us in the marriage’ Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, which led to a Royal Family crisis.
The Sussexes strongly deny the accusations of wrongdoing.
One royal source said up to ten people wanted to assist, adding: ‘A group of people are queuing up to be involved. They have been silent for too long and there is much to talk about.’
The review is likely to focus on a specific time frame and give staff a chance to talk about their experiences of working with the Sussexes, reported the Telegraph.
Royal sources also stressed that any changes to workplace practices as a result of the probe would be made public in their annual Sovereign Grant report.
However they cannot yet say whether it will be in this year’s review or the next.
On Wednesday night, the Queen launched an historic probe into the behaviour of her own grandson and his wife following allegations in The Times that they inflicted ’emotional cruelty’ on aides and ‘drove them out’.
The couple were labelled ‘outrageous bullies’, with ‘broken’ royal aides feeling ‘humiliated’, ‘sick’ and ‘terrified’ and even reduced to tears by the duchess.
The newspaper reported that in October 2018 an official complaint was made by one of their most senior aides, Jason Knauf, then head of communications, who alleged that Meghan bullied two PA’s ‘out of the household’ within the space of a year and was targeting other female staff.
Part of the probe will examine why his concerns were apparently not acted upon despite them being raised with several senior royal household staff at the time.
Mr Knauf himself said in an email leaked to the newspaper that he was concerned that ‘nothing would be done’.
‘I questioned if the Household policy on bullying and harassment applies to principals [members of the Royal Family],’ he said.
In response the palace announced: ‘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.’
The Mail has been told that palace officials are happy to let the review take as long as necessary, particularly as a number of those who may wish to give evidence no longer work for the Royal Household.
The Oprah interview will first air on CBS on Sunday evening, and then on ITV on Monday night
Harry and Meghan’s interview will be shown in at least 70 countries
Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey will be broadcast in more than 70 countries in deals experts say will be worth ‘a king’s ransom’.
Sources close to the couple yesterday said the interview will go out in America on Sunday night as planned, despite calls for it to be postponed while the Duke of Edinburgh is seriously ill in hospital.
US television network CBS announced that it is syndicating the two-hour special to dozens of countries.
Countries that will screen the show include Britain, Australia, Canada, about 40 nations in sub-Saharan Africa and even Iceland.
More countries will be announced in the coming days under arrangements that experts say could earn tens of millions of pounds for CBS. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are not being paid for the interview and will not receive a slice of the syndication profits, the production company, owned by Miss Winfrey, said.
CBS is said to be charging advertisers £150,000 for a 30-second slot – meaning they could rake in millions over the course of the broadcast alone.
PR insider Mark Borkowski said: ‘With 70 countries, a conservative estimate is that this is going to make tens of millions. I can’t see anything less than that.
‘You’re looking at a king’s ransom and it’s going to be a massive payday for CBS. The last event on a scale like this was probably Meghan’s own wedding.
‘If it had been outside of Covid and the ravages of that on the ad industry it might have been a bigger deal, but it’s still going to be a huge piece of content to have.’
The scale of the sale means that hundreds of millions of people around the world could see the interview, the kind of audience associated with events such as the Olympics.
‘No timeframe has been set,’ said a source, ‘particularly as a number of people do not work for the palace and we have to fit around that should they wish to take part.
‘There will be no push to rush through this. It is a very sensitive issue.
‘The fact that we are doing this and have made clear that we are very concerned about the allegations shows how seriously this is being taken.’
The closest situation to the one currently facing Buckingham Palace was the ‘cash for gifts’ scandal of the early 2000s when it was alleged that official gifts given to the Prince of Wales were being handed over to staff who then sold them.
A non-statutory inquiry was launched by his then private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, in conjunction with an independent QC, the findings of which were made public and recommendations put into place.
It seems that Buckingham Palace have no plans to go down the same route and are not even confirming the remit of the inquiry or who will lead it.
But any changes that the HR team feel need to be made will be publicly recorded in their annual palace review, which is normally published around July each year.
A source said: This is a ‘lessons learned’ exercise, to educate us about what happened, [to discover] if there things could have been done differently that we need to take account of in our policies.
‘When we are ready, details will be published our Sovereign Grant report. But as as we are not doing it to deadline, I can’t tell you whether it will be this Sovereign Grant or the next one.
‘But policies will clearly change should it be found that they need to.’
Asked why more detailed findings would not be made public, they added: ‘People need to be able to come forward and be clear they can talk freely – not worry that anything they say will be put into a public report. It is a very sensitive subject. ‘
Harry and Meghan, who strongly deny the accusations and have accused Buckingham Palace of orchestrating a ‘calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful information ‘ will not be asked to contribute at this stage.
This has been strongly denied by royals insiders who have lambasted the claims as ‘absolutely untrue’ and wholly ‘disingenuous’.
They admitted that it was ‘clearly very concerning that, two years on, the complaint [by Mr Knauf] against the Sussexes was unresolved’.
‘And we need to find out why this is the case,’ a source added.
Royal aides who are at the centre of Buckingham Palace intrigue
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
Simon Case in Dundee in 2019
THE WHIZ-KID WHO RUNS WHITEHALL:
Simon Case became the youngest head of the civil service for over a century when he took the post at the tender age of 41.
The Cambridge history graduate – a noted fan of tweed suits and Barbour jackets – had previously been the principal private secretary to successive Tory prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May. He also worked at spying centre GCHQ as a ‘director of strategy’.
His most recent role before becoming Cabinet Secretary last year was serving as private secretary to Prince William.
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
THE PRINCES’ HR HEAD HONCHO:
Experienced human resources director Samantha Carruthers worked for De Beers and investment bank Lazard before joining the royals.
Head of HR for Prince Charles and Prince William until 2019, she is now deputy chairman of the board of trustees for child bereavement charity Winston’s Wish.
Samantha Carruthers worked for De Beers and investment bank Lazard before joining the royal