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PM has 'full confidence' in Cabinet Secretary Simon Case amid Meghan row

Downing Street said Boris Johnson has 'full confidence' in Cabinet Secretary Simon Case (pictured) amid claims he was told about bullying allegations against the Duchess of Sussex in 2018

Boris Johnson has 'full confidence' in Cabinet Secretary Simon Case amid claims he was told about bullying allegations against the Duchess of Sussex in 2018, Downing Street said today. 

The PM's spokesman signalled support following reports that Mr Case, formerly the Duke of Cambridge's private secretary, had been aware of the accusations.

Buckingham Palace has now launched an investigation into claims that the Duchess bullied former royal staff - something she vehemently denies.

Asked whether Mr Johnson was concerned about claims that Mr Case had covered up allegations of bullying, the spokesman said: 'It is a matter for the Palace.'

But pressed on whether Mr Johnson had confidence in his senior official, the spokesman said: 'Yes, he does.'

The Prime Minister's press secretary Allegra Stratton said Mr Johnson and Mr Case wrote to Government ministers last year in the wake of the Priti Patel row making it clear there was 'no place for bullying' in government.

Asked whether that extended to public life more broadly, she said: 'The particular case you are talking about is a matter for the palace.'

Today new claims emerged that royal staff say they are members of the 'Sussex Survivors' Club' after working for the couple, with some claiming they have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety because of their treatment by Harry and Meghan. 

And senior palace sources said aides are 'incandescent' the Sussexes claimed they were orchestrating a 'smear campaign' against the Duchess.

One told the Mirror: 'It is totally disingenuous, frankly ludicrous and wholly untrue to suggest anyone at the Palace has been peddling disinformation and has been briefing on these matters. There are far, far more important things going on right now than the circus surrounding a media appearance'.

Meghan and Harry were today accused of being disrespectful to the Queen and her husband after it emerged they won't delay the release of their Oprah Winfrey interview despite Prince Philip's health problems. 

In a new teaser clip Meghan is seen accusing the Royal Family of 'perpetuating falsehoods' about her and Harry. 

Ramping up her war of words with the royals, the Duchess of Sussex calls her husband's family 'The Firm' in the 30-second trailer released by CBS today and blames them for speaking out in a show set to be watched by millions around the globe.

The couple are under huge pressure to ask Ms Winfrey to delay the broadcast in the US on Sunday night and across the world on Monday after it was revealed Harry's 99-year-old grandfather underwent heart surgery yesterday. 

Critics including several MPs have warned them they are 'badly advised' to go along with the plan - but the couple insist that it is up to CBS, who don't have 'any intention' to delay the show set to make them millions of dollars in sales and advertising revenue.  

Meghan suggests she has no fears about losing her royal privileges by speaking out, claiming: 'If that comes with risk of losing things, there is a lot that has been lost already'

Meghan and Harry's war of words with his family and the royal household has stepped up a gear after Ms Markle said that they were 'perpetuating falsehoods' about them in a clip released hours after the Queen launched an inquiry into claims she bullied staff out of their jobs

Meghan Markle spoke to Oprah Winfrey for the interview, which will air on Sunday, and is asked whether she had contemplated what the reaction would be from Buckingham Palace to the interview

The royal aides at the centre of palace intrigue

Melissa Touabti (right) is pictured with Robbie Williams' wife Ayda for whom she previously worked

PA WHO QUIT AFTER WEDDING:

Melissa Touabti, the duchess's former personal assistant, had previously worked for Robbie Williams and Madonna.

She played a key role in preparations for Meghan and Harry's wedding in May 2018, but quit after just six months.

The Frenchwoman, 41, took a job with the billionaire Livingstone family – owners of the stately home Cliveden. 

THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR:

Jason Knauf joined the royals in 2014, having acted as a 'crisis management expert' at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The 36- year-old American, who completed his master's at the London School of Economics, served as communications secretary to the 'Fab Four' of William, Kate, Harry and Meghan before the Cambridges and Sussexes created separate offices in March 2019.

Mr Knauf now heads William and Kate's charitable foundation. 

THE AMERICAN SPIN DOCTOR: Jason Knauf (left) walks behind the couple at the Invictus Games in Toronto 

Simon Case in Dundee in 2019 

THE WHIZ-KID WHO RUNS WHITEHALL: 

Simon Case became the youngest head of the civil service for over a century when he took the post at the tender age of 41.

The Cambridge history graduate – a noted fan of tweed suits and Barbour jackets – had previously been the principal private secretary to successive Tory prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May. He also worked at spying centre GCHQ as a 'director of strategy'.

His most recent role before becoming Cabinet Secretary last year was serving as private secretary to Prince William.

THE TOUGH TALKING AUSTRALIAN: 

Formerly the Queen's assistant private secretary, Samantha Cohen had planned to quit Buckingham Palace in 2018. Instead, she agreed to stay on and help the duchess through her first months in the Royal Family.

The well-liked but tough-talking Australian became the Sussexes' private secretary, but left in 2019 to work for the environmental charity Cool Earth. 

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Samantha Cohen) attend a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 in Widnes, England 

THE PRINCES' HR HEAD HONCHO: 

Experienced human resources director Samantha Carruthers worked for De Beers and investment bank Lazard before joining the royals.

Head of HR for Prince Charles and Prince William until 2019, she is now deputy chairman of the board of trustees for child bereavement charity Winston's Wish. 

Samantha Carruthers worked for De Beers and investment bank Lazard before joining the royal 

A source close to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex today confirmed that the screening on Sunday night is still expected to go ahead, claiming the decision now lies with the broadcasters set to make millions from the two-hour show.

'There are a lot of people who are going to talk about this until the programme airs, but the programming and all the rest of it is ultimately up to CBS, we're not involved in that side of things', the source said, adding: 'As it stands, I don't think there is any intention from the programme maker to change its air date'.

There is growing anger over the broadcast going ahead, with royal experts, fans and MPs calling for its postponement.

Tory MP Bob Blackman told MailOnline: 'The reality is I don't think the interview is appropriate at all. The less they say the better, irrespective of the state of health of the Duke of Edinburgh. But to be doing a tell-all interview screened in the UK when he is in hospital – fortunately he appears to have had a successful operation – they are badly advised to put it mildly. None of these royal interviews have gone well... and I can't see this going any better.'

Mr Blackman said ITV has 'got a choice to make'. 'I don't think they should be showing it,' he said. 'Everyone's sympathies should be for the Queen, a remarkable lady who has given a lifetime of service.' Another Tory MP, who did not want to be named, said of Harry and Meghan: 'One day I hope those two discover what it is really like to have problems.'

In a clip set to dramatic music, Ms Winfrey asks her: 'How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?' And an emotional Meghan replies: 'I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us'.

The Duchess adds: 'And, if that comes with risk of losing things, there is a lot that has been lost already.'

It is not known what 'falsehoods' Meghan is talking about because the interview was recorded before she was accused of 'driving out' two PAs and shattering the confidence of another member of Kensington Palace staff - with one former aide branding Prince Harry and his wife 'outrageous bullies' in The Times yesterday. She denies the allegations.

Hours after she made the claims, Buckingham Palace revealed the Duke of Edinburgh has undergone a 'successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition' and will remain in hospital for 'treatment, rest and recuperation for a number of days'.  

Prince Philip, 99, had the operation yesterday at St Bartholomew's Hospital in the City of London, where he was transferred to on Monday after spending 14 days at King Edward VII Hospital in Marylebone due to an infection. 

Harry's grandfather's ill health will again increase calls for the couple to postpone its broadcast on CBS in the US on Sunday and on ITV1 in the UK on Monday.   

Meghan Markle will talk about her experience of race issues in Britain during her interview with Oprah Winfrey.

And in dramatic promotional clips released on Monday, Miss Winfrey is seen asking Meghan if she was 'silent or silenced', with the duchess' answer not revealed.

In response to a comment by the duchess, the presenter says: 'Almost unsurvivable. Sounds like there was a breaking point?'

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,' as Meghan nods in agreement.

The clip then cuts to Harry, 36, in a grey suit and white shirt with no tie, as he says: 'My biggest fear was history repeating itself.'

The teaser then shows Harry and Meghan sitting side by side holding hands as Miss Winfrey says: 'You have said some pretty shocking things here'.

In a second clip, also set to dramatic music, Prince Harry compares his mother's situation to the one he says he and Meghan found themselves in.

As he speaks, a picture is shown of him with his mother when he was a little boy.

'For me, I'm just really relieved and happy to be sitting here talking to you with my wife by my side, because I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago because it's been unbelievably tough for the two of us. But at least we have each other,' he says.

Today's clip with Meghan's views on 'The Firm' came as Buckingham Palace announced they will launch an investigation into allegations that Markle bullied royal aides.  

The Queen launched the unprecedented inquiry into allegations that Meghan and Harry bullied their staff - leaving royal employees 'shaken' by 'unhappy memories' being brought up about a 'toxic period'.

Devastating claims that the Duchess of Sussex inflicted 'emotional cruelty' on underlings and 'drove them out' were 'very' concerning, Buckingham Palace said. She denies being a bully.

It came as a royal insider scotched hopes they could one day return for royal events such as Trooping the Colour, saying: 'I can't ever see those two back on the balcony.'

Buckingham Palace has released more details about how the royal family will celebrate the Commonwealth in a special programme to be screened just hours before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's Oprah interview in the US.

The palace said: 'In Her Majesty's annual Commonwealth Day message, the Queen will pay tribute to the way in which communities across the family of nations have come together in response to the pandemic.'

A Celebration for Commonwealth Day will be broadcast on BBC One at 5pm on Sunday March 7 - a few hours before Meghan and Harry's sit-down with Oprah is shown.

The Prince of Wales has recorded a message for the programme addressing 'the universal devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic'.

Prince Charles will also celebrate the 'critical work' being carried out by nations across the Commonwealth to combat climate change and protect its unique landscapes, marine environments and biodiversity.

Harry and his wife were both labelled 'outrageous bullies', according to sensational claims reported yesterday.

'Broken' royal aides told of feeling humiliated, 'sick', 'terrified', left 'shaking' with fear, and being reduced to tears by the duchess.

The Duchess of Sussex is accused of 'driving out' two PAs and shattering the confidence of another member of Kensington Palace staff - with one former aide branding Prince Harry and his wife 'outrageous bullies' in The Times on Wednesday.

It also claimed the monarchy's 'men in gray suits' were aware of the purported actions of the duchess - but did 'absolutely nothing to protect people'. 

Meghan has denied the allegations and accused the newspaper of being 'used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative' about her. 

Royal officials initially refused to comment, with sources telling MailOnline that aides and senior family members are focused on Prince Philip's health problems in hospital.

But on Wednesday night, the Palace confirmed that its HR team will 'look into' the allegations, saying it 'does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace'.

A  spokesman said: 'We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.  

'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.' 

The bullying claims emerged in a 2018 email sent by Harry and Meghan's press chief Jason Knauf, who now works for Prince William. This sparked an extraordinary chain of events where the Sussexes accused Buckingham Palace of smearing them. The Queen then launched an inquiry into the bullying claims

A royal source told the Daily Mail last night that the emergence of the bullying claims yesterday had 'shaken' many staff, both past and present, and brought up 'many unhappy memories' about a particularly 'toxic period'. 

There is no timetable to the investigation but it is understood that any changes in policies and procedures will be shared publicly in an annual review expected later in the year. 

Meghan said The Times is being 'used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative based on misleading and harmful misinformation' about her treatment of staff after former aides accused her of 'emotional cruelty and manipulation', reducing them to tears and leaving them 'shaking' with fear.

Her lawyers said the former actress 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'. 

Jason Knauf - the Sussexes' then communications secretary who now heads the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's charitable foundation - made a bullying complaint in October 2018 in an apparent attempt to force Buckingham Palace to protect staff.

A source told the newspaper Harry begged his senior aide not to take the matter further, but it also reported lawyers for the duke and duchess deny the meeting took place and that Harry would not have interfered with staff matters.

Knauf reportedly sent an email outlining the duchess's alleged actions to Simon Case - the Duke of Cambridge's then private secretary and now the cabinet secretary - after conversations with Samantha Carruthers, the head of human resources. 

Case then forwarded it to Carruthers, who was based at Clarence House. 

The Times reported Knauf wrote in his email: 'I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X was totally unacceptable.

'The duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. 

'She is bullying Y and seeking to undermine her confidence. 

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, three weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul

'We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behavior towards Y.' 

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

He said Carruthers 'agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious', but added: 'I remain concerned that nothing will be done'. 

Melissa Touabti, the second of Meghan's personal assistants to leave, departed six months after the royal wedding after she ended up in tears, according to reports.

Lawyers for the duke and duchess said the Sussexes believed staff to be comfortable and happy.  

Revealed: Meghan's £500,000 diamond earrings were NOT 'borrowed' but a 'wedding gift from Saudi Crown Prince' - and worn by duchess three weeks after assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in consulate 

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

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 jeweler - 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 article came as ITV1 confirmed the ViacomCBS show, called Oprah With Meghan and Harry, will be broadcast in the UK between 9pm and 11pm on Monday night, almost 24 hours after it is shown in the United States. 

Staff told The Times they have spoken out to give their story before the couple's tell-all interview, claiming that when Meghan was urged to support palace staff she replied: 'It's not my job to coddle people.' 

It is also claimed that the couple's treatment of aides worried Harry's brother William so much, because some staff were shared, that he and his most senior advisor, Case, hastened the split between the Sussex and the Cambridge households and the destruction of their joint foundation. 

Other extraordinary revelations in The Times include claims Meghan wore a pair of £500,000 diamond earrings to a dinner in Fiji in 2018 that were a wedding gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, three weeks after the US claims he approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

And in a further twist Markle, a campaigner for women's rights, told aides they were borrowed from a jeweler, rather than a present from a regime known for human rights abuses and the oppression of women. 

Lawyers for the Duchess of Sussex have 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 claims that on the same official tour the duchess was seen being ushered out of an official engagement to a local market due to apparent security concerns. 

In fact, it says, Meghan had cut short the visit because she had 'reservations' about the organization UN Women, which had an involvement in the event. 

Daily Mail Royal Editor witnessed the aftermath and wrote today: 'I was there at the time and witnessed Meghan turn and 'hiss' at a member of her entourage, clearly incandescent with rage about something, and demand to leave.

'I later saw that same – female – highly distressed member of staff sitting in an official car, with tears running down her face. Our eyes met and she lowered hers, humiliation etched on her features'. 

Describing life working for Meghan and Harry, aides have claimed they 'bent over backwards' to help her when she arrived after the couple became engaged in 2017.

A source told The Times: 'Everyone knew that the institution would be judged by her happiness'.

According to the Times their sources say two 'senior' members of royal staff were bullied by the duchess. An ex-employee alleged they had been 'humiliated'.

Another aide described the experience of working for the Sussexes as 'more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying'.

Staff claimed they had occasion been reduced to tears after dealings with Meghan and one aide told a colleague 'I can't stop shaking' as they anticipated a row with the duchess. 

Meghan's lawyers vehemently deny she is a bully and said that one person had left the job because of misconduct. The Times said it could not corroborate that claim before publication earlier this week.

The Mail 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. 

A 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'.

Insiders told The Times that despite Knauf's intervention nothing was done to investigate the situation or to protect staff from bullying from senior royals in the future.

One source told The Times: 'I think the problem is, not much happened with it. It was, 'How can we make this go away?', rather than addressing it'.

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, it was dramatically claimed on Tuesday

The Duchess of Sussex (pictured with the royal family) is accused of 'driving out' two PAs and shattering the confidence of another member of Kensington Palace staff - with one former aide branding Harry and his wife 'outrageous bullies' in The Times today

On Wednesday night, the Palace confirmed that its HR team will 'look into' the allegations, saying it 'does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace'

Meghan's friends accuse Royal aides of painting Duchess as an 'angry woman of colour' with 'bullying' allegations in an 'ugly' bid to 'destroy her character' ahead of tell-all Oprah interview

Meghan Markle's friends have rushed to her defence amid the Buckingham Palace 'bullying' row - with one claiming the dramatic fallout has been fuelled by racism.

Omid Scobie, author of the Finding Freedom biography of the Sussexes, quoted a series of Meghan's friends standing up for her in a report for Harper's Bazaar.

One friend said Meghan was another example of a 'woman of colour in a senior position… accused of being too angry, too scary, too whatever in the workplace'.

The author was also told Meghan and her husband Prince Harry have found the claims 'distressing and upsetting', and that she is always 'kind and considerate'.  

Omid Scobie, royal editor at large for Harper's Bazaar and author of the Finding Freedom biography of the Sussexes, quoted a series of Meghan's friends who have stood up for her

Meghan is pictured during her interview with Oprah Winfrey set to air on ITV next Monday

Omid Scobie: Harper's Bazaar royal editor who left Heat after allegedly being called a 'P**i' 

Omid Scobie started his career on the celebrity magazine Heat before moving on to cover the royals. 

He is now royal editor at large for Harper's Bazaar.

Born to a Scottish father who runs a marketing agency and an Iranian mother who works in child welfare, he said he left Heat after an executive is alleged to have called him a 'P**i'.

He is a royal contributor for Good Morning America and host of ABC's royal podcast, 'The Heir Pod'.

Mr Scobie has boasted of his exclusive access to Prince Harry and Meghan. 

Mr Scobie is co-author of Finding Freedom, a biography about Harry and Meghan

He is described in the blurb for the Sussexes biography Finding Freedom as 'an authoritative voice on the lives and philanthropic endeavors of the Royal Family's younger members and maintains strong access to the Sussexes' working world'.

Mr Scobie, the royal editor of Harper's Bazaar, regularly stands up for Meghan on social media and last night retweeted a series of positive messages backing her. 

In an article he also claims that the couple, who deny helping him with his book, 'knew that it would get ugly in the run up' before their Oprah Winfrey interview.

The 'tell-all' two-hour conversation will be broadcast in the US on CBS this Sunday night at 1am UK time, before being shown in Britain on ITV on Monday from 9pm.

Writing in Harper's Bazaar, Mr Scobie quotes a anonymous friend of Meghan saying: 'I hate to say it, but find me a woman of colour in a senior position who has not been accused of being too angry, too scary, too whatever in the workplace. It's sad that it's happening, but I'm not surprised. These claims are so far from the woman I know.'

Another said: 'Harry and Meghan knew that it would get ugly in the run up but seeing such an obvious attempt at destroying her character was distressing and upsetting.'

It comes as the Duchess said she could not be expected to stay silent if the royal family played a part in 'perpetuating falsehoods' about her and Harry.

A clip of Meghan making the remarks to Oprah Winfrey was released in the early hours of today, in which the Duchess added 'a lot ... has been lost already'.

The couple's interview with the US chat show queen is expected to lift the lid on their short period as working royals before they stepped down for a life in America.

In the 30-second clip released on social media, Oprah asks the Duchess: 'How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?'

She replies: 'I don't know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.

'And, if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I ... there is a lot that has been lost already.'

'The Firm' is widely considered to be shorthand for the institution of the royal family.

The clip was released just hours after Buckingham Palace said last night it had launched an investigation into claims that the Duchess bullied former royal staff.

Past and present employees are to be invited to speak in confidence about their experiences of working for Meghan, after it was alleged she drove out two personal assistants and that staff were 'humiliated' on several occasions.

The Times newspaper has reported that the duchess 'destroyed' one member of staff and another was left in tears before she departed. Meghan's lawyers have vehemently denied she is a bully.

The Queen, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on the Buckingham Palace balcony in July 2018

Mr Scobie last night retweeted a series of positive messages backing the Duchess of Sussex

Kate Middleton's mother Carole asks publishers of Good Housekeeping not to promote her cover interview to avoid being 'insensitive' to Prince Philip, 99, 

Kate Middleton's mother Carole has asked the publishers of Good Housekeeping magazine not to promote a cover interview with her over fears it will look 'insensitive' while Prince Philip is battling ill-health in hospital. 

Carole Middleton, who runs party supply company Party Pieces, interviewed with the magazine in January but has reportedly asked its publishers not to promote it as Prince Philip, 99, is still in hospital.

The news comes ahead of a 'tell-all' interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Oprah Winfrey which is set to air in the UK on Monday night, despite criticism of its timing.

Kate Middleton's mother Carole turned down publicity for  an interview in Good Housekeeping magazine because she did not want to be 'insensitive' while Prince Philip, 99, was in hospital

Respectful: Carole Middleton, pictured on the cover of Good Housekeeping, discusses her business and family life in the interview which features in the April issue and is out now

A source told the Sun: 'Carole is incredibly proud of her company and all the hard work that goes into it.

'But whilst backing the business, she didn't want to turn any news into a media circus because she is so respectful and sensitive to Catherine, and the royal family.

 'She always gets William's go-ahead before any interview like this, and he is incredibly supportive.

'But the more the PR machine rolled out in Los Angeles with Meghan and Harry, the more sensitive Carole became.

'She decided she didn't want to do any PR for the interview - even if it cost her thousands in potential lost marketing.'

In the interview, which features in the April issue and is out now, Carole shares insights into her company Party Pieces as well as her family life.

She appears on the cover of the magazine wearing a £375 Seventies-inspired floral print dress from Wyse London, befitting the arrival of spring. 

Revenge of the Sussex survivors' club: The extraordinary inside story of how a fairytale turned into a nightmare of 'traumatised' staff - by Royal Editor REBECCA ENGLISH, who saw so much of it herself

It is the one royal group that no one wants to join. Referred to only half-jokingly as the 'Sussex Survivors' Club', its membership is sadly rising.

But its select band of members have one thing in common: all have worked for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and lived to tell the tale.

Joking aside, some even believe they may have a form of post-traumatic stress, defined by doctors as an anxiety disorder caused by distressing or frightening events.

Such experiences, of course, are now widely acknowledged not to be limited to soldiers who have undergone traumatic experiences on the battlefield, but also to people at work.

Even if that work is in a palace.

And today, many former palace staff look back on the moment that Prince Harry introduced to the world his beautiful, intelligent and passionate bride-to-be as the beginning of one of the most traumatic periods in their lives.

Let us be clear: Harry is a complex man but one with a strong sense of natural justice and charity, given to acts of compassion and kindness.

'He wears his heart on his sleeve and genuinely wants to do good in the world,' one admirer tells me.

But he is also equally capable, say those who know him well and like him, of behaving 'like an absolute brat'.

It had been clear for years to anyone he came into contact with that he wasn't happy working with the palace machinery – or, particularly, the British media (sometimes understandably so).

He was, they say, always capable of self-destructively 'pressing the nuclear button' on his royal life.

Meghan, they stress, was simply the catalyst.

But the result was more toxic, more personally harmful, than anyone could ever have imagined.

To begin with, however, the atmosphere at Kensington Palace was heady and exciting.

Here was a glamorous couple, clearly deeply in love. Meghan was the missing piece of the jigsaw that poor, motherless Harry had been searching for all those years.

Famously she once paid for an ice cream stand for her new staff at Kensington Palace, with the event later – surprise! – being breathlessly revealed in People, a 'pro-Sussex' American magazine, as the 'best day of work, ever'.

More than that, they were a couple determined to do good on a world stage – at the same time sprinkling a little stardust on Britain's 'fusty' old Royal Family.

And their small team of loyal staff believed in them – until, that is, the scales fell from their eyes.

Notoriously, within a few weeks of Meghan's arrival in England and the announcement of the couple's engagement in November 2017, word was leaking out about the couple's 'autocratic' and 'difficult' behaviour.

Occasionally it slipped into print: that Meghan (a claim robustly sourced by the Mail) had refused to wear a hat on her first official engagement with the Queen in Chester, despite being strongly advised it would be appropriate and respectful to do so.

Then came the famous row over which tiara she wanted to wear to the couple's wedding, resulting in Harry publicly admonishing one of the Queen's most senior members of staff, Angela Kelly: 'What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.'

There were also claims that the Duchess of Cambridge had told Meghan she shouldn't speak to her staff so dismissively and that there was so much friction at a pre-wedding bridesmaid fitting that Kate was left in tears.

The Times has reported that the 'febrile' atmosphere within Kensington Palace saw staff, on occasion, weeping. Two say they were bullied by the duchess, a third that they had been 'humiliated' by her.

The paper quotes one aide, who was anticipating a confrontation with Meghan, as saying: 'I can't stop shaking.' At first, my sources tell me, Harry tried to keep the peace, gently placating his wife and quietly apologising to staff.

On one occasion described to me by several sources, he even gently admonished Meghan about the way she behaved with palace staff – many of whom work long hours for relatively little money out of pride for the institution – after a particularly explosive encounter.

The details are subject to conjecture (and have become something of a palace legend) but resulted in Harry speaking to one of his close protection officers, who confirmed his fiancee's behaviour.

But as the weeks went on, the prince became increasingly hostile to his once-loyal aides.

Rebecca English with Prince Harry to learn about the work of his new charity Sentebale in Lesotho in 2006

The Times has claimed Harry knew of a complaint made by the couple's former communications secretary, Jason Knauf, that Meghan had driven two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member. Harry is said to have had a meeting with Mr Knauf in which he begged him not to pursue it. The Sussexes deny this.

They also describe the allegations as 'old', 'distorted' and aimed at 'undermining' Meghan. It has been suggested by others that staff may have 'misunderstood' Meghan's more direct, American style. But I have personally witnessed more than one member of staff driven to tears by the treatment they were subjected to by the duke and duchess before the couple acrimoniously quit as working royals.

One person sobbed down the phone to me after a particularly harrowing day. They clearly felt emotionally broken and could no longer cope with the pressure they were being subjected to.

Others have indicated to me they were being asked to behave in a manner they did not feel professionally comfortable with, particularly in their dealings with the media. Several aides have also told me that Meghan in particular was very good at 'drawing' staff into her confidence, flattering them as if they were the only person in the world she could trust and asking them to help her with various duties.

Often these were things that were far beyond the scope of their normal work – in one case being instructed to make plans for her father Thomas to be flown from his home in Mexico before the wedding and taken to a fully-stocked 'safe house' in LA for a few days in order to fool any waiting media.

And then, when things didn't go to plan, the sun would no longer shine on them. It was made 'horribly clear' they were out of favour.

Toxic, hostile, distrustful, poisonous: all words I have heard regularly used over the past few years to describe people's experiences working in the Sussexes' household.

The Times reports matters became so bad that Mr Knauf, an experienced PR operator who cut his teeth defending the bank RBS at the height of its financial scandal, decided to put his strongly held concerns in writing.

He made clear in October 2018, little more than six months after the couple married, that he believed the duchess had already driven two members of staff out and another was being targeted.

'I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of [redacted] was totally unacceptable,' he wrote.

'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.'

The Times has chosen not to match incidents to individual names, but the members of staff leaving the Sussexes' employment were all women and all seasoned professionals. A well-placed source said: '[One woman's] job was highly pressurised and in the end it became too much. She put up with quite a lot. Meghan put a lot of demands on her and it ended up with her in tears.' One member of staff, a seasoned professional, was initially said to have left on good terms.

But I have since been told that this popular aide was deeply unhappy about her experience working for the duchess and had been 'desperate' to get out as long as she could professionally put a brave face on it. Likewise a third member of staff. Mr Knauf makes clear in his email, as reported by The Times, that he was also concerned about the couple's hugely experienced deputy private secretary, Samantha Cohen. She had worked for the Queen for more than 20 years and was personally persuaded by the monarch to stay on and help the couple navigate their first few years of royal life.

He indicated that she was experiencing extreme stress and said: 'I questioned if the Household policy on bullying and harassment applies to principals [the term used to refer to a member of the royal family].'

One source tells me wryly, with an eye to Meghan's much-hyped championing of female empowerment: 'Note that everyone concerned was a woman.'

Another adds: 'Sam always made clear that it was like working for a couple of teenagers. They were impossible and pushed her to the limit. She was miserable.'

The Times also makes reference to an incident during the couple's tour to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga in 2018, which was a particularly difficult one for all concerned, Meghan included. She was, of course, pregnant at the time.

The newspaper reports how Meghan cut short a visit to a market in Fiji because she was concerned about the presence of a UN organisation promoting women, with which she had worked before and made clear she no longer wished to have anything to do with.

At the time officials had suggested that it was because it was humid and the crowd was oppressive in the market.

I was there at the time and witnessed Meghan turn and 'hiss' at a member of her entourage, clearly incandescent with rage about something, and demand to leave.

I later saw that same – female – highly distressed member of staff sitting in an official car, with tears running down her face. Our eyes met and she lowered hers, humiliation etched on her features.

At the time I was unable to document anything as I couldn't conclusively link the two incidents together, despite my suspicions. I have subsequently found out from other sources that my instincts were right.

It should be stressed that lawyers for the duchess said she met other leaders from UN Women later on the tour and denied she left for the reason alleged.

So why has this all come out now, you might ask?

The Times makes clear that these aides have 'hit back' before Meghan's bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey this Sunday.

The newspaper says it was approached by sources because they felt 'only a partial version had emerged of Meghan's two years as a working member of the royal family and they wished to tell their side'.

They were also concerned at how such matters were handled by the palace.

One source put it more succinctly to me yesterday. 'Those concerned are fed up with the sheer hypocrisy of it all. The suggestion that they [the Sussexes] were being bullied and forced out when others were experiencing that very treatment at their hands!' exclaimed the source.

Another insider told me they believed some staff had even sought psychological therapy over their experiences – something that Harry, who moved the nation when he revealed how he had himself sought professional help to cope with the emotional fall-out over his mother's death and has long campaigned on mental health issues, should know all about.

'People have been broken by this, genuinely so. Absolutely traumatised,' I am told.

Lawyers for the duchess say she wished to fit in and be accepted and had left her life in North America to commit to her new role.

What a sad, sorry mess.

The irony, another source says, is that no one wanted a battle. But the Sussexes have waged this war and enough is enough.

Those aides who have broken the royal omerta say they refuse to sit by and watch Harry and Meghan's 'duplicitous' behaviour, especially when 'good people and brilliant professionals' are having their reputations unfairly traduced. One source warns: 'The royals cannot fight back. 'Never complain, never explain.' But they can.'

A spokesman for the Sussexes has told The Times that they are the victims of a 'calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful information'.

They have said 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.'

Royals' Meghan 'bully' crisis: As Buckingham Palace launches an unprecedented investigation into sensational bullying claims against Meghan, make no mistake this is a crisis that echoes the Abdication, writes RICHARD KAY

When Jason Knauf left the Treasury to go and work for RBS — the bank that had been bailed out with £45 billion of taxpayers' money following the 2008 financial crisis — he was dubbed 'gamekeeper turned poacher'.

But his silky skills in crisis management were never tested there as they were in his next big job — working for Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex.

Yesterday, the quietly spoken American was revealed to have been the author of a sensational bullying complaint against former actress Meghan, which threatens a new royal crisis every bit as divisive as the War of the Waleses.

That, of course, was the bitter and acrimonious battle for public sympathy waged between Princess Diana and Prince Charles throughout the 1990s.

A sensational bullying complaint against former actress Meghan threatens a new royal crisis every bit as divisive as the War of the Waleses

The crisis has echoes of the dramas that followed the Abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 after he chose to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson (pictured)

Mr Knauf's email, alleging that the Duchess's intimidating behaviour had driven two personal assistants out of the household, reopens a rift far more critical and damaging for the future of the monarchy: the split between Harry and his brother, Prince William.

But last night the email had an even more shocking immediate effect.

Stung by Meghan's astonishing statement in response to allegations of bullying — that she was the victim of a 'smear' and that the newspaper that published the email was 'being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative' — the Queen hit back.

Announcing an inquiry into the claims about the two employees who left their jobs and a third whose confidence was said to have been undermined is an astonishing development.

Never before has the Palace held a member of the Royal Family to account, and its move represents a serious blow to the Duchess's carefully curated status of victimhood.

It also shows that the Queen's deep reserve of patience for her grandson, Harry, has reached a tipping point.

The move was not just a result of the incendiary remarks of the Sussexes' American public relations team, but also because of the implications that the Palace could face legal action over nothing being done when the complaints were first raised. In other words, a cover-up.

I also understand that individuals who fear their reputations will be damaged in the Sussexes' upcoming Oprah Winfrey TV interview have demanded the protection of the Palace.

'The Palace is taking the gravity of the situation extremely seriously,' I am told.

Even to the most neutral and fair-minded of observers, the bombshell revelations coming just four days before the Oprah interview is broadcast, represent a moment of potential danger for the Royal Family.

It has echoes, too, of the dramas that followed the Abdication of Edward VIII in 1936, when the Queen's father reluctantly took the throne as George VI, triggering years of hostility between the brothers and, crucially, their wives.

The Queen Mother blamed, and never forgave, the Duchess of Windsor — the former Wallis Simpson — for the premature death of her husband.

The Queen's father (pictured) reluctantly took the throne as George VI, triggering years of hostility between the brothers and, crucially, their wives

Just who leaked Mr Knauf's 2018 email to The Times scarcely matters. Its very existence suggests an escalation in the fraught relationship between William and Harry.

The reason? Mr Knauf's current job as the Duke of Cambridge's right-hand man.

For more than two years he has worked exclusively for Prince William, and is now chief executive of the Cambridges' Royal Foundation.

His email was one of a series of claims about Meghan's treatment of staff after former aides accused her of 'emotional cruelty and manipulation', which had reduced them to tears and left them 'shaking' with fear.

The fact aides had managed to keep a lid on these troubling claims for so long demonstrates the unease over what might be unleashed when the Oprah interview is broadcast in the U.S. on Sunday night.

It is also a sign that the Palace will not sit back and allow the Sussexes' partial and highly selective account of their brief life as working royals to go unchallenged.

Yesterday, royal officials were insisting that the complaints about Meghan, which began to surface within weeks of her and Harry's starry Windsor wedding, were not being orchestrated by Buckingham Palace or by members of the Queen's family.

Their focus, they said, was on 99-year-old Prince Philip, who remains a patient at Barts Hospital in London.

Complaints about Meghan began to surface within weeks of her and Harry's starry Windsor wedding. Pictured: Harry and Meghan at Ascot in July 2018

All the same, some courtiers are privately describing developments as 'the Crown getting its revenge in first'.

Whatever the case, you don't have to be much of a conspiracy theorist to see a pattern in the revelations.

For on any reading of the claims, what appears to emerge is a streak of wilfulness in Meghan and a pusillanimous Harry torn between his family and his wife.

As someone who has reported on the royals for 35 years, I have heard of complaints about the failings of the royals' internal human resources departments on a number of occasions — and they were a key factor in the war of words between Charles and Diana.

This probably accounts for Mr Knauf's pointed observation in a 2018 email leaked to The Times this week. It said that while the household's head of human resources, Samantha Carruthers, had 'agreed with me on all counts that the situation was serious . . . I remain concerned that nothing will be done'.

The intervention of the Queen last night indicates that was almost certainly true.

Sources quoted by The Times claim HR attitudes were 'How can we make this go away?', rather that addressing it.

The Queen Mother blamed, and never forgave, the Duchess of Windsor — the former Wallis Simpson (pictured) — for the premature death of her husband

According to insiders, senior figures in all the major royal households knew of the reports that young women were being bullied to the point of tears.

'The institution just protected Meghan,' it was claimed.

How ironic that it should be 'the men in grey suits' — the very people whom the Duchess of Sussex has complained had been so hostile to her — who protected her from these sulphurous claims.

By now stories of Meghan's behaviour were circulating openly. One story that reached my ears was of a very junior assistant who had gone from being Meghan's favourite to being told that she had become 'over familiar'.

Another was how morning staff meetings over coffee, which Harry himself made, had stopped when Meghan apparently engaged a butler, ending the informality at a stroke. Harmless enough, you may think, but there were other accounts, too.

One figure, working in a different part of the royal estate, was alleged to have been reprimanded for giving Harry a present to mark his engagement.

And there have been claims that behind the glowing headlines of the couple's first big overseas tour, in October 2018, all was not well at Admiralty House, Australia's governor general's residence which hosted Harry and Meghan.

The bombshell revelations coming just four days before the Oprah interview (pictured) is broadcast represent a moment of potential danger for the Royal Family

How conflicting this must all have been for Harry, who had been brought up by both his mother and father to respect the staff who work for the Royal Family.

But it was Mr Knauf's devastating conclusion about bullying by 'principals' that was to have the greatest impact.

Prince William was appalled by the reports that reached his ears, and many now wonder whether it was this that ultimately led to the split between the brothers.

Initially, I understand, Harry acknowledged that something was not right, but he swiftly backed his wife.

At the time William and Harry shared their staff, but the issue of their treatment became so acute that William and his aides accelerated the process of splitting the household in two. 'What was a long-term plan became an immediate plan,' said a source.

Suddenly the 'Fab Four', as the two couples had been dubbed, were no longer quite so fabulous.

Harry and Meghan moved out of Kensington Palace and went to live at their new home, Frogmore Cottage in Windsor, taking their own staff with them.

Mr Knauf, meanwhile, took up a job as an adviser to the Duke of Cambridge.

To the public, the unravelling of the special relationship of two brothers who had been so close because of adversity — as well as their unique circumstance — was as perplexing as it was heartbreaking.

The picture of the princes and their wives barely acknowledging one another at last year's Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey could not have contrasted more than with that joyful Christmas Day at Sandringham in 2017, when all four had been wreathed in smiles.

William has looked on with mounting dismay as his brother and sister-in-law have used their new Californian pulpit to wage war on the Press and, more recently, on their own family and the institution that serves it.

His hope that Harry, who more than anyone else knows the burdens William faces as the future king, would be at his side has vanished to be replaced by a fear that his disgruntled brother and sister-in-law are morphing ever more into a modern-day version of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

That may also indicate William's hand in last night's Palace intervention. Bullying and remedies to prevent it, are, after all, at the heart of his mental health charity, Heads Together.

Even when such damaging allegations are made on the Palace's own doorstep, doing nothing is not an option. 

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

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will discuss race is Britain in the 21st century with Oprah Winfrey and open up about her experience as a mixed race woman, it has been claimed

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 on Tuesday: '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.'

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 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'.

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