Meghan Markle is still trying to make sense of the media scrutiny she’s enduring just days before her sit-down with Oprah Winfrey is scheduled to air.
On Thursday, royal expert and “Finding Freedom” author Omid Scobie told Harper’s Bazaar that the Duchess of Sussex was “speechless” when her team informed her that a small group of palace aides contributed to a “takedown” of her character in The Times London.
“Harry and Meghan knew that it would get ugly in the run-up [to the Oprah special], but seeing such an obvious attempt at destroying her character was distressing and upsetting,” a friend of the royal couple told the outlet.
“I know that Meg would feel awful if she knew that someone felt that way about working with her, but I also know that no one ever approached her about anything like this at all during that time,” said another pal. “I have never known her to be anything but kind and considerate to her friends and colleagues.”
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On Tuesday, The Times in the U.K. alleged that the 39-year-old faced a bullying complaint made by one of her close advisers.
According to The Times, the complaint was first made in October 2018, by Jason Knauf, the couple’s former communications secretary. The complaint alleged that the former American actress drove two personal assistants out of the household and undermined the confidence of a third staff member.
The outlet reported that Knauf submitted the complaint in an effort to protect palace staffers who alleged they were being bullied by Markle. Some claimed they were even reduced to tears.
One royal aide allegedly told a colleague: “I can’t stop shaking.”
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A source alleged that Prince Harry, 36, pleaded with Knauf not to pursue the complaint. However, attorneys for the couple deny that the meeting took place or that Harry interfered with any staff matters.
The outlet said Knauf allegedly sent an email to Simon Case, who served as Prince William’s private secretary at the time. The email was then forwarded to Samantha Carruthers, head of human resources. In the email, Knauf claimed Carruthers “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious,” adding, “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”
One of Markle’s pals said the accusations towards the duchess — who is currently expecting her second child after a miscarriage — are cruel.
“I hate to say it, but find me a woman of color in a senior position who has not been accused of being too angry, too scary, too whatever in the workplace,” the pal told Scobie. “It’s sad that it’s happening, but I’m not surprised. These claims are so far from the woman I know.”
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Scobie pointed out that Markle was previously accused of being “difficult” for possessing a more American work ethic that the palace aides weren’t accustomed to. The British tabloids immediately pounced on the allegations made towards the former American actress.
While Buckingham Palace announced they were “clearly very concerned” by the allegations, Scobie said they refused to answer a list of questions about the story, including how working aides were allowed to contribute to the article.
“You can’t ignore the timing of this,” said another friend. “This has been done to undermine her character or undermine the topics that they [will] discuss on Sunday. They have had everything and the kitchen sink thrown at them this week, but ultimately nothing will stop them from sharing their truth.”
Markle’s team has strongly refuted the claims.
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“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,” a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said in a statement sent to Fox News on Wednesday.
“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,” the statement added.
On Feb. 15, CBS announced Harry and Markle will be speaking with Winfrey. It’s the couple’s first major television interview since stepping back as senior members of the royal family and buying a home last year in the U.S.
The sit-down, titled “Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special,” will air on March 7. Winfrey, 67, attended their wedding in 2018 and lives near them in Montecito, California.
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Markle married Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son Archie was born a year later.
Markle and Harry stepped away from full-time royal life in March 2020, unhappy at media scrutiny and the strictures of their roles. They cited what they described as the intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess, who is African American.
It was agreed the situation would be reviewed after a year. On Feb. 19, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the couple will not be returning to royal duties and Harry will give up his honorary military titles — a decision that makes the couple’s split from the royal family formal and final.
The pair verified “they will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family. “
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A spokesperson for the couple also hit back at suggestions that Markle and Harry were not devoted to duty.
“As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role,” the spokesperson said in a previous statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.