The Duchess of Sussex was last night criticised by a lawyer fighting for justice for murdered Jamal Khashoggi over her decision to wear diamond earrings given to her by the man accused of ordering the brutal killing.
Michael Eisner, who heads a human rights group founded by Mr Khashoggi three months before his death, said the stunning chandelier earrings were ‘bought with blood money’ by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He said he was ‘baffled’ that the Duchess did not know the Prince, known as MBS, was linked to the murder when she wore the earrings at a State dinner, or his appalling human rights record.
The Duchess of Sussex attends Prince Charles, Prince of Wales’ 70th Birthday Party
‘Those earrings were bought with blood money and given to her by a murderer,’ said Mr Eisner, chief operating officer of Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn). ‘She has no business wearing them.’
The Chopard earrings were presented to the Queen by the Crown Prince as an official gift for Meghan on her wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.
The Duchess wore them on the first night of a visit with her husband to Fiji on October 23, 2018 – three weeks after Mr Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and when there were prominent media reports linking MBS to the shocking assassination.
The Duchess’s lawyers last week insisted that at the time of the dinner she was unaware of speculation that MBS was involved in Mr Khashoggi’s murder. However, well-placed sources last night claimed the Duchess ignored advice from aides not to wear the jewellery.
FIRST OUTING: The Duchess wears the earrings in Fiji
BRUTAL DEATH: Journalist Jamal Khashoggi
How come the campaigning duchess didn’t know saudi ruler was murder suspect?
Fearless dissident Jamal Khashoggi was last seen alive entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the afternoon of October 2, 2018. Within two hours he was killed by a Saudi hit squad, who dismembered his body using a bone saw.
Mr Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime and suspicion quickly grew that the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, was involved.
On October 18, The Times reported how a close circle of officials and security officers around MBS were the focus of the murder probe. A day later, The Sun told how one of MBS’s bodyguards was suspected of the brutal killing.
Later that day Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, told the BBC’s World at One radio programme that ‘all the evidence points to [the killing] being ordered and carried out by people close to Mohammed bin Salman’. Sir John’s damning comments were reported widely.
The Duchess of Sussex wore the earrings given to her as a wedding gift by MBS to a state dinner in Fiji on October 23. Ten days later, on November 2, the BBC’s respected security correspondent Frank Gardner wrote an article on the BBC News website entitled: ‘Khashoggi murder: Is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed finished?’
He wrote: ‘Official Saudi denials that he himself had anything to do with the murder – in a plot hatched from right within his inner circle… have been met with profound scepticism.’
On November 14, the Duchess wore the earrings again at Prince Charles’s 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace.
At the time, the Kensington Palace press office told the media that the earrings had been ‘borrowed’ but did not say from whom. While the Royal Family’s guidelines regarding the acceptance and ownership of gifts were adhered to, The Mail on Sunday has learned that Palace aides were frustrated that the earrings were worn.
‘Nowhere in the gift policy does it say you have to wear them,’ one source said.
It is understood the diamond earrings were presented by MBS as a wedding gift for Meghan during his three-day State visit to Britain in March 2018. Court Circular records show he had lunch with the Queen and Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace on March 7, 2018. There is no suggestion he gave the earrings to the Duchess in person, or indeed has even met her.
It is understood the earrings were logged on an official register of gifts and that Meghan was informed about them in July 2018. They were then selected as part of the jewellery collection to accompany the Duke and Duchess on a 16-day tour of Fiji, Tonga, Australia and New Zealand.
Every detail on such tours is meticulously planned months in advance, including the clothes and jewellery to be worn at each event. The couple were accompanied on the Fiji and Tonga leg of their tour by the hugely experienced Sir David Manning, a former British ambassador to the US and Tony Blair’s former foreign policy adviser.
On October 18 – five days before Meghan wore the earrings – The Times newspaper reported how a close circle of officials and security officers around MBS had emerged as the focus of the investigation into what had happened to Mr Khashoggi.
Lawyers for Meghan last week told The Times that although she may have said they were borrowed, every relevant member of staff knew who they were from. They added that she was unaware of the rumours at the time that the Crown Prince was involved in the murder.
Lauren Kiehna, author of royal jewellery blog The Court Jeweller, said: ‘What was unusual was the statement the jewels were ‘borrowed’ without explaining who owned them. When jewels are borrowed from the Queen, the Palace generally says so.’
The Duchess wore the earrings for a second time on November 14, 2018 – to Prince Charles’s 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace. This prompted an aide to confront Harry about the earrings, according to The Times. The Prince was reported to have looked ‘shocked’ that people knew where the earrings came from.
Mr Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. His body has never been recovered. An explosive CIA report released by US President Joe Biden nine days ago claimed MBS approved Mr Khashoggi’s murder.
The Crown Prince, who is Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Prime Minister and day-to-day ruler, has said he bears responsibility for the murder ‘because it happened under my watch’, but has denied prior knowledge of the execution.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The Dawn human rights group and Hatice Cengiz, Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee, last year filed a lawsuit against MBS and 20 alleged co-conspirators in a US court.
Mr Eisner, a former lawyer at the US State Department, said it was important for Royals to keep up to date with major world events. ‘She [Meghan] should inform herself as a member of the Royal Family of current events and politics and what’s going on.’
He added that he was particularly surprised that Meghan did not know about MBS’s alleged involvement given that she was photographed two years earlier alongside Loujain al-Hathloul – a Saudi human rights activist who campaigned for women’s rights to drive in her home country – at a summit in Canada.
‘It’s baffling that she would not know the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi’s murder and understand that MBS had blood on his hands,’ he said.
‘Loujain al-Hathloul’s case is extremely prominent but if she knows about that, I would be very surprised that she wouldn’t follow other events in Saudi Arabia – the biggest event in the last decade – and know of MBS’s involvement in that murder.’
He suggested that the Duchess should donate the earrings to human rights victims, although such a decision would need to be approved by the Palace.
According to Royal biographers Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, Meghan turned down a free stay at London’s five-star Dorchester hotel, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, before she married Harry amid concerns over the treatment of LGBT people in the country.
Meanwhile, in an extraordinary twist, it emerged yesterday that Mr Khashoggi was the cousin of Dodi Fayed, who was in a relationship with Princess Diana, the Duke of Sussex’s mother, at the time of her death in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Mr Fayed’s mother Samira Khashoggi was Jamal Khashoggi’s aunt.
Meghan STILL has the tainted diamond earrings from the Saudi Crown Prince in her collection
- Duchess of Sussex still has responsibility for the controversial diamond earrings
- Meghan was gifted the jewels by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
- The Saudi royal family has regularly given jewellery to their British counterparts
By Jo Macfarlane for The Mail On Sunday
The controversial diamond earrings gifted to the Duchess of Sussex by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman remain her responsibility, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Gifts from foreign heads of state are officially considered Crown property, according to Royal protocol, which may explain why reporters accompanying Harry and Meghan on their 2018 tour to Fiji were told they had been ‘borrowed’.
But wedding gifts given to senior Royals are not loaned out in a conventional sense from a central collection. Instead, the recipient has responsibility for them and can keep them before they are returned to the Crown after their death.
Meghan Duchess of Sussex attends a reception and dinner hosted by the President of Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva, Fiji, October 2018
Female members of the Royal Family are regularly loaned priceless jewellery by the Queen.
For example, Princess Beatrice, for her marriage to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in 2020, was lent Queen Mary’s diamond fringe tiara – the headpiece the Queen wore on her wedding day to Prince Philip in 1947. The Queen also lent another of Queen Mary’s tiaras to the Duchess of Sussex on her wedding day.
There are strict guidelines around accepting gifts as a member of the Royal Household. The official policy, in place since 2003, makes clear that Royals should think carefully about the reason for the gift and not accept it if it could be seen to put them under obligation to the donor, or if the donor expects something in return. This might include clothing which, if worn, could commercially benefit an individual.
Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry attend a reception and dinner hosted by the President of Fiji, October 2018
Members of the family can only receive personal gifts, which they can keep, if they meet strict conditions. They must be given by people known privately to the member of the Royal Household and not in connection with any public duty; or they must be worth less than £150 and come from bodies or individuals with whom the member of the Royal Household has an established relationship. Otherwise they are classed as ‘official’ gifts, which are not the personal property of individual Royals.
The Saudi royal family has regularly given jewellery to their British counterparts. Royal jewellery expert Lauren Kiehna said Princess Diana received a suite of diamond and sapphire jewels from Crown Prince Fahd as a wedding present in 1981, and the Duchess of Cornwall received three suites of jewellery during her official visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2006.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not respond to requests for comment.
How Meghan’s fearless Saudi activist friend who campaigned for women’s rights was jailed by the regime as Duchess sported earrings from the Crown Prince
- Meghan met activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, 31, at summit in Canada, October 2016
- Ms Al-Hathloul was detained in 2018 and sentenced to over five years in prison
- Last month she was granted probation by a judge in Riyadh and allowed home
By Mark Hookham for Mail On Sunday
Meghan met activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, 31, at the One Young World humanitarian summit in Canada in October 2016.
Vanity Fair published a picture of the pair standing in front of a dramatic lake in Ottawa, alongside former Irish president Mary Robinson and Pakistani poet Fatima Bhutto.
Vanity Fair published a picture of the pair standing in front of a dramatic lake in Ottawa, alongside former Irish president Mary Robinson (centre) and Pakistani poet Fatima Bhutto (second) and Loujain al-Hathloul (right)
Within months of the picture being taken by acclaimed American photographer Jason Schmitt, Meghan was revealed to be dating Prince Harry.
But life for Ms Al-Hathloul took a very different turn.
She and other activists were detained in 2018 on charges including contact with groups hostile to Saudi Arabia and last December she was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
Loujain al-Hathloul. She and other activists were detained in 2018 on charges including contact with groups hostile to Saudi Arabia
Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul is pictured on her way to the state security court in the Saudi capital Riyadh on March 2, 2021
Last month she was granted probation by a judge in Riyadh and allowed home to her family, subject to a travel ban, and a suspended sentence if she breaks the terms of her release.
The 2016 One Young World summit gathered 1,300 young campaigners from 196 countries.
Writing at the time on her lifestyle blog The Tig, Meghan said: ‘One Young World invites young adults from all over the world who are actively working to transform the socio-political landscape by being the greater good.’