United Kingdom

Meghan Markle's earrings 'were a wedding gift from Saudi Crown Prince'

Meghan Markle wore a pair of striking diamond earrings that were a wedding gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it was claimed today.

Kensington Palace had said at the time of the formal dinner in Fiji in October 2018 - which took place three weeks after the killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul - that the jewellery was 'borrowed', without stating from whom.  

Lawyers for the Duchess of Sussex have now told The Times that she may have stated they were borrowed, but did not say they were borrowed from a jeweller - and denied that she had misled anyone about their provenance.

The newspaper was also told by Meghan's team that every relevant member of royal staff knew who the earrings were from, and the Duchess was unaware of rumours at the time that bin Salman was involved in the killing.

Bin Salman is not thought to have met Meghan or given her the earrings in person. The jewellery is considered Crown property because it was a gift from a foreign head of state, and she would not be allowed to sell them.  

The earrings Meghan wore for the black tie reception at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, which was hosted by Fiji's president Jioji Konrote, were later revealed as being made by celebrity designer Butani. 

The Duchess was again seen wearing the earrings one month later on November 14, 2018 as she was photographed leaving Kensington Palace to attend Prince Charles's 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace. 

Washington Post columnist Mr Khashoggi died on October 2. The event in Fiji on October 23 came less than a fortnight after the first reports on October 10 from US intelligence intercepts that suggested Bin Salman had ordered an operation to lure Mr Khashoggi back to Saudi from his home in Virginia and detain him.

Then on October 20, the Saudi government revealed a preliminary investigation by prosecutors had found Mr Khashoggi died during a 'fight' after resisting efforts to return him to Saudi Arabia. By November 16, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the US had concluded that bin Salman had ordered Mr Khashoggi's assassination.

The bloggers behind Meghans Mirror eventually identified the earrings brand in January 2019, and an expert then revealed to MailOnline that the generously sized multi-tier earrings could be worth up to £500,000.

An array of celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Kate Beckinsale, Rihanna, Christina Hendricks and even Michelle Obama have also been spotted wearing the Hong Kong-based brand. It is not clear if Meghan still has the earrings.

Meghan Markle wore a pair of striking diamond earrings that were allegedly a wedding gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. She is pictured wearing them at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji, on October 23, 2018

Meghan is pictured arriving for the state dinner in Suva with Prince Harry on October 23, 2018 during their royal tour of Fiji

The Duchess of Sussex was again seen wearing the earrings one month later on November 14, 2018 as she was photographed leaving Kensington Palace to attend Prince Charles's 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (left) approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (right) in 2018

Members of the Royal Family attending official engagements are not usually seen wearing jewellery borrowed from designers. Meghan also wore a £1,095 dress by designer SAFiYAA at the dinner. 

Speaking about the opulent earrings, Deborah Papas, gemologist at Prestige Pawnbrokers of Channel 4's Posh Pawn, said in 2019: 'The Duchess of Sussex never ceases to amaze us with the beautiful jewellery she wears.

Timeline of Jamal Khashoggi's murder and Meghan's earrings (2018)

'In Fiji she chose to wear an absolutely stand-out pair of chandelier style diamond drop earrings in three strands set with white and yellow coloured diamonds. Most are round but some are pear shaped to give the stepped drop effect and all set in white gold.

'These drops appear very heavy, almost pulling down the lobe, but sparkle beautifully even with the slightest turn of the head and are truly stunning. They could easily be worth £500,000 or more.'

Explaining the etiquette on royals wearing jewellery, William Hanson told MailOnline at the time: 'For grand events like state banquets and formal dinners, royalty usually wear more lavish, priceless jewellery. For less showy daytime events the 'bling' is often toned down to something more subtle and discrete, with the exception of any engagement or wedding rings.'

He added: 'Royal women do have it very difficult - we all want them to look like royalty but if they wear anything too over the top or expensive they are criticised for being out of touch. They can't win.'

Butani was founded in 1977 by brothers Manoj and Mukesh Butani from Hong Kong. The brand is popular on the A-list circuit, with an array of celebrities seen wearing their jewellery on the red carpet.

Rihanna wore a pair of their earrings in her Love On The Brain video in 2016, which famously saw her soaking in a tub wearing nothing but jagged diamond earrings and black lipstick.

Elsewhere Ariana Grande was pictured wearing a pair of large solitaire studs to the Met Gala in 2018, while Kate Beckinsale wore a pair of diamond string earrings to the premiere of The Only Living Boy in New York in 2017.

That same year, Jennifer Lopez sported a pair of her trademark hoops embellished with diamonds by the designer for the World of Dance premiere.

The Times made further claims relating to Meghan's same official tour of Fiji when the Duchess was seen being ushered out of an official engagement to a local market, which was initially said to be due to security concerns.

In 2017 Jennifer Lopez sported a pair of her trademark hoops embellished with diamonds by the same designer, Butani

Ariana Grande (left) wore a pair of large solitaire studs by the designer to the Met Gala in 2018 (left), while Christina Hendricks (right) attended the 19th Annual Post-Golden Globes Party in the same year wearing a pair of Butani earrings

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in a programme due to be aired by CBS this Sunday 

In fact, the newspaper says, Meghan had cut short the visit because she had 'reservations' about the organisation UN Women, which had an involvement in the event. The Duchess denies these claims about the event. 

'Revelations about race' in Oprah interview... and nothing is off-limits 

Meghan Markle will talk about her experience of race issues in Britain during her interview with Oprah Winfrey, it has been revealed.

There is a growing expectation that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's talk with the US chat show queen will live up to its billing of having no subject 'off-limits'.

It was claimed yesterday that the programme will be a 'horror show' for the Royal Family.

The journalist who broke the story that the Sussexes were doing the TV interview claimed Meghan's comments about 'the issue of race in Britain' would be 'what we will all be talking about' the day after it is aired.

Chris Ship, the royal editor for ITV News, told Good Morning Britain yesterday: 'I know that she's going to mention things like mental health and the impact that being in the UK had on her mental health. I know that she's going to mention about the press intrusion... but also she's going to raise the issue of race in Britain.'

Mr Ship suggested this would be the main thing viewers discuss after watching the interview, to be broadcast in the US on Sunday night. Meghan's mother Doria is African-American and her father Thomas is white.

ITV was facing growing criticism over plans to broadcast the interview with Miss Winfrey in Britain while the Duke of Edinburgh remains in hospital. There is increasing unease about the 'horrendous' timing. There were warnings last night that the broadcast could be a 'reputational mess' for everyone, which could 'herald terrible consequences' for the royal pair.

There were calls for ITV to 'await events' before screening the programme in the UK. One critic branded the broadcaster's decision to buy up the interview rights as 'deplorable'.

ITV, which is refusing to comment on the situation, is expected to broadcast it on Monday night at 8pm, about 24 hours after it has aired on CBS in America.

According to reports, ITV saw off competition from Sky for the rights and paid in the region of £1million. Talks were reportedly completed on Monday.

Producers in the US involved in making the programme say Harry, Meghan and their charitable foundation have received no payment for the interview.

Harry's grandfather Philip, 99, was transferred to St Bartholomew's Hospital on Monday for tests on a pre-existing heart condition and treatment for an infection. This comes after the duke spent nearly two weeks in the private King Edward VII's Hospital.

Public relations and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski yesterday warned: 'The timing is just horrendous. Anybody who looks at this through the optics of a caring family, even a family who are estranged from one another, it's very uncomfortable as you edge towards Sunday.'

The PR expert said that if Philip's health declined, Harry and Meghan's fate would be 'in the lap of the gods'. He added: 'If you were strategically giving advice about mitigating reputational damage, you would show huge empathy by postponing.'

Any worsening of Philip's health will raise issues for ITV. Experts say this could lead to major problems for advertisers airing commercials during the show.

One senior TV executive said: 'The issue is whether ITV will take a big bath if advertisers don't want to be in it and also there is the wider collateral damage. Also, ITV airs a lot of royal documentaries – will the palace stop co-operating?'

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams, editor of International Who's Who for 25 years, said ITV's decision to buy the rights to the 'highly sensational' interview was 'deplorable'.

A 30-second advertising slot for the American broadcast is reportedly costing £144,000. At one point in the trailer, Miss Winfrey tells viewers: 'Just to make it clear to everybody, there is no subject that is off-limits.'

It comes as the Times dramatically claimed last night that a bullying complaint was lodged against the Duchess of Sussex by a senior member of Kensington Palace staff before she and Prince Harry quit as working royals.

The newspaper reported it was made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, who worked as communications secretary to Harry and Meghan. 

He is said to have claimed the duchess 'drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member'.

The newspaper says Mr Knauf, who now heads the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's charitable foundation, seemingly acted to get Buckingham Palace to protect staff he claimed were coming under unbearable pressure from Meghan. It further claims Harry 'pleaded' with him not to pursue the allegations.

The Times also reported a spokesman for the Sussexes vehemently denied the claims, saying they were 'the victims of a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation'.

Sensationally, the couple's lawyers told the newspaper it was 'being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative' before this weekend's interview with Oprah Winfrey.

They said the duchess was '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 Daily Mail and MailOnline also approached a spokesman for the Sussexes for comment. 

The Times said it was contacted by sources who felt a 'partial version' had emerged of Meghan's two years as a working royal.

It makes clear they wished to tell their side in advance of Sunday's 'tell all' television interview, which is likely to make uncomfortable viewing for Buckingham Palace. 

The newspaper says Mr Knauf sent his email to Simon Case, then the Duke of Cambridge's private secretary and now the cabinet secretary, after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of HR. Mr Case then forwarded it to Miss Carruthers, who was based at Clarence House.

In his email Mr Knauf also made clear he was concerned nothing had been done, or would be done in future, to protect palace staff. 

The Times quotes from his email, which is alleged to say: 'I am very concerned the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X* was totally unacceptable.' 

He added: 'The duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying Y and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behaviour towards Y.'

After Harry was told about the complaint a source insists he had a meeting with Mr Knauf in which he begged him not to pursue it, The Times says. Lawyers for the duke and duchess deny that any meeting took place.

The newspaper also claimed Meghan wore a pair of diamond earrings to a dinner in Fiji in 2018 that were a wedding gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, said by the US to have approved the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The dinner took place three weeks after the killing. At the time it was reported the earrings were borrowed. The Times says Meghan does not deny this was what she said, despite being aware of their provenance.

Lawyers for the duchess denied she had misled anyone about their provenance. The couple's lawyers told The Times it was 'being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative' before the interview. 

Buckingham Palace declined to comment when contacted by the Mail. The duchess denies bullying and her lawyers stated that one individual left after findings of misconduct.

The spokesman for the Sussexes said in a statement to The Times: 'Let's just call this what it is — a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation. We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of the Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet.

'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.' 

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