She must be fit to be tied, the Duchess of Sussex. I know I would be. It was reported yesterday that a Palace investigation into allegations that she bullied junior members of staff during her early unhappy years in the Royal Family is to be ‘buried’. We’re told that the results of the investigation will lead to ‘changes to the royal household’s HR policies’ – but that these changes will also not be either acknowledged or specified. Well.
Damaging accusations that the little princess behaved like a right little princess have been seeping into the public domain since 2020. Two personal assistants, it was reported, left the Palace in a matter of months and were signed up to non-disclosure agreements. One was said to have been reduced to tears by the Duchess. Palace sources spoke of the couple as ‘outrageous bullies’, described ’emotional cruelty and manipulation’ and of underlings having been ‘humiliated’ and ‘destroyed’. It’s said that in 2017 the couple were taken aside for a quiet word about their behaviour and that the Duchess retorted that it wasn’t her job to ‘coddle people’.
The couple’s communications secretary Jason Knauf made a formal complaint in 2018 to the now Cabinet Secretary Simon Case (then the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary), describing the situation as ‘very serious’ and saying:
‘The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights (and) I remain concerned that nothing will be done’.
Nothing, at the time, was indeed done. Only under pressure from leaks to newspapers did the Palace submit to an investigation into the claims.
Some will no doubt regard these as vile slanders from embittered anti-Meghanists – the Sussexes’ spokespeople, indeed, called them a ‘calculated smear campaign’ – and, perhaps, as a baleful sign of how privileged posh ‘wypipo’ react when they are confronted with a woman of colour proudly asserting herself in a space traditionally dominated by privileged posh wypipo.
Others will think that ‘calculated’ would be quite the understatement if members of palace staff are supposed to have laid the groundwork in 2017 and 2018 for a smear campaign which would not reach fruition until long after they had left their jobs. They will take the Occam’s razorish view, rather, that there’s a ring of truth in the picture they paint of a spoilt and entitled diva throwing her weight around; and that it would be an odd thing for personal assistants to chuck in their jobs en masse in order to create that impression for no reason.
Who knows which of these two accounts is the true one? I do not pretend to. Which is why it was surely in the interests of all concerned not only that it be investigated, but that the results of the investigation be made public so that those involved can get the chance to… ‘speak their truth’? I think that’s the phrase.
The investigation was conducted by a private law firm paid for by the Queen rather than publicly funded – no doubt out of consideration for the public purse rather than because doing it that way would let them keep its findings private. But private they will remain. The Palace has reportedly let it be known that they don’t want all this playing out in public in order to ‘protect the privacy of those who took part’ and ‘to limit tensions between the Sussexes and the palace’.
This is the worst of all possible worlds for the Duchess of Sussex. The public knows that an investigation into her behaviour has been, humiliatingly, conducted. And the public knows that something that the investigation turned up has necessitated changes to the palace’s HR policy. It’s possible that the investigation found that the Duchess of Sussex is a beacon of compassion and grace in a wicked world and that the claims made against her were a confection of spite, mendacity, racism and misogyny. Or it could be that the substance of those HR changes was: ‘Let’s stop hiring uppity oiks who answer back to royal princesses and snowflakes who can’t take constructive criticism.’ But in the absence of the report, many people will tend to assume otherwise.
In other words, even in attempting to ‘limit tension between the Sussexes and the Palace’, the Palace has ended up, perhaps unintentionally, participating in exactly the sort of smear campaign they have been accused of. Bury the report, fine: it’s on HM’s dime after all. Bury the report and allow it to be leaked that you’re burying the report? That leaves the reputation of the Duchess of Sussex at the mercy of speculation and innuendo. Letting it be known that it’s being done to keep the Sussexes sweet makes things even worse.
If the Palace wishes to do right by its own staff and by Prince Harry and his wife, it must make the findings of its investigation public. A fearless truth-teller like the former Meghan Markle should welcome that. Here is the one document that will undo, as she sees it, a cruel lie spun by an establishment that hates her. She should make a public statement calling for it to be published in full so her good name can be vindicated.
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