By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A new clip of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, speaking out to Oprah Winfrey was released Wednesday night, just hours after Buckingham Palace announced it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against the duchess.
“I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we should still just be silent if there’s an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Meghan tells Winfrey in the promo for Winfrey’s primetime interview with Meghan and Prince Harry. “If that comes with the risk of losing things, there’s a lot that’s been lost already.”
Meghan’s use of the words “the firm” in her conversation with Winfrey seems to show just how personal things have become one year after Harry and Meghan stepped away from their roles as senior, working members of the royal family. The firm is the term used to refer to the family, not the institution, of the monarchy.
Buckingham Palace, which represents Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, announced Wednesday it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against Duchess Meghan, a move that one royal expert called “incredibly unprecedented.”
“It’s a shocker, really,” ABC News royal contributor Robert Jobson said Thursday on Good Morning America. “The fact that they’ve now opened this investigation is also a bit of a worry for the royal family going forward.”
“It’s going to open a can of worms,” he said. “If there are other people out there who want to complain, not only about Meghan but other members of the royal family, that’s something that could well unravel.”
Buckingham Palace’s announcement came one day after The Times of London reported Tuesday that Meghan faced a bullying complaint from a close adviser at Kensington Palace.
The Times reported the complaint was made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ communications secretary at the time, in a move that was reportedly intended to protect staffers after they allegedly became pressured by Meghan, who wed Prince Harry in May 2018.
According to the Times of London report, the complaint claimed that she “drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member.”
In several alleged incidents after Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding, unnamed sources told the newspaper that staff members “would on occasion be reduced to tears.” One aide allegedly told a colleague, “I can’t stop shaking,” while in anticipation of a confrontation with Meghan, according to the report.
According to the Times report, two unnamed senior staff members also claimed that they were allegedly bullied by the duchess and another aide claimed it felt “more like emotional cruelty and manipulation.”
“I was shocked by what I heard,” Valentine Low, the Times’ royal correspondent who broke the story about the allegations, told GMA. “I knew that she was difficult. I didn’t know how difficult. I didn’t know how bad it was.”
Low, who said his reporting uncovered an “intensely difficult working environment,” said he was also surprised by the palace’s decision to investigate the bullying accusations.
“To come out with a statement like that, less than 24 hours after The Times newspaper published these allegations, I mean, it’s extraordinary,” he said. “[I’ve] never known anything like it and it shows how concerned the palace is about its own reputation.”
Buckingham Palace said in its statement Wednesday its human resources team will “look into the circumstances outlined in the article.”
“We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” the palace said in the statement. “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,” according to the statement.
In response to the allegations reported in the paper, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told ABC News on Tuesday that they’ve “addressed these defamatory claims in full” in a “detailed letter” to the Times, which has not been publicly released. The spokesperson also said Meghan is “saddened” by the news.
“We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet,” a Sussex spokesperson wrote in a statement. “It’s no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years.”
“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,” the spokesperson added. “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.”
Duchess Meghan has not yet directly responded to the statement from Buckingham Palace announcing the investigation.
Harry described the environment that he and Meghan left in the U.K. as “toxic” in an interview with The Late Late Show host James Corden that aired last week.
“There was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health,” said Harry, who has recently waged legal battles with some British tabloids. “I was like, ‘This is toxic,’ so I did what any husband and any father would do, which is like, I need to get my family out of here.”
In a clip of Harry and Meghan’s interview with Winfrey released on Monday, Winfrey, who lives near the couple in California, says to them, “You’ve said some pretty shocking things here.”
In another clip, Winfrey says there was “no subject that was off limits” in the interview and asks Meghan if she was “silent or silenced.” In the same clip, Winfrey later interjects to say, “Almost unsurvivable — sounds like there was a breaking point.”
The Winfrey interview, set to air as a two-hour primetime special, is Harry’s and Meghan’s first joint interview about their decision to transition out of their working roles in the royal family.
Buckingham Palace confirmed last month that Harry and Meghan will not return as working members of the royal family.
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