DAN WOOTTON (pictured)
Perhaps the greatest irony in the campaign by the Sussexes to present themselves as having been ‘silenced’ by the monarchy is that the very people who have the receipts to prove what really happened are themselves silenced by law.
The Sussex Survivor Squad, as they now refer to themselves, are the band of once loyal staff members who made a herculean bid to keep Meghan Markle happy as a new member of the British Royal Family, only to see their efforts burnt down time and again by the American actress and her deeply unhappy husband Prince Harry.
It’s easy to understand why many of the previously devoted courtiers are now convinced the couple were on a self-destruct mission from day one, looking for any slight, aggrievement or apparent discrimination to weaponise against the institution that was working so hard to appease them.
These staff members, many of whom had personally devastating exits from the employ of the Sussexes, have been unable to speak publicly, even to correct the record, constrained by draconian confidentiality provisions of working for the Royal Family, including the Official Secrets Act.
But over the past three days their stories have taken centre stage in the latest round of the Royal Family fighting back against the Sussexes thanks to a bombshell book by the highly respected royal correspondent for The Times Valentine Low, who has diligently covered the monarchy for a quarter of a century.
While I have long been aware of the acrimony behind-the-scenes, to read the words of the staff members, who were once prepared to dedicate much of their lives to serving the Sussexes, is still shocking.
Pictured: Oprah Winfrey interviews Prince Harry and Meghan on CBS Primetime Special
The most damning conclusion is that Meghan is a ‘narcissistic sociopath’ who ‘played’ her former advisers, but that is just the beginning of the devastating claims.
During a walkabout in Fiji, Meghan is reported to have said: ‘I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this.’
It was like ‘working for a couple of teenagers’, according to the reported words by Low of Samantha Cohen, their highly regarded private secretary who had been recommended by the Queen after years of loyal service.
And Meghan’s behaviour had apparently been difficult and demanding from the start, including when she is said to have threatened to dump Harry unless he released his first statement eviscerating the media and confirming their relationship.
A source told Low: ‘She was saying, “If you don’t put out a statement confirming I’m your girlfriend, I’m going to break up with you”.’
In fact, he reports, ‘keeping Meghan happy – and, by extension, keeping Harry happy – was an ongoing challenge.’
Pictured: Prince William, left, Kate, Princess of Wales, second left, Prince Harry, and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, right, pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II
Six months before their engagement was announced, Low claims that Meghan ominously told one of Harry’s courtiers: ‘I think we both know I’m going to be one of your bosses soon.’
Once the preparation for the wedding got under way, Meghan’s behaviour appeared to worsen. I was the first journalist to break the story of Tiaragate, where Harry was warned by the Queen about the way Meghan was speaking to close advisers, and the fact Kate had fallen out with her sister-in-law over the treatment of staff by Meghan at Kensington Palace.
Low’s book recounts one occasion where Meghan had been especially horrid to a young female staff member at a meeting, telling her: ‘Don’t worry. If there was literally anyone else I could ask to do this, I would be asking them instead of you.’
When the courtier was later reassured by Prince William that she was ‘doing a really good job’, Low reports that she burst into tears.
Meghan regularly rang staff members throughout the night, with one telling Low about a dinner on a Friday night: ‘Every ten minutes, I had to go outside to be screamed at by her and Harry. It was, “I can’t believe you’ve done this. You’ve let me down. What were you thinking?” It went on for a couple of hours. You could not escape them. There were no lines or boundaries – it was last thing at night, first thing in the morning.’
Meghan Markle, pictured above with Prince Harry at Kensington Palace in 2017, according to a palace insider, ‘thought she was going to be the Beyonce of the UK’ when she married Harry
One staff member branded Harry and Meghan ‘outrageous bullies’ to another colleague when they were considering quitting who replied: ‘That’s so dreadful. And they are bullies.’
During their time in the Royal Family, a host of staff members left the employ of Harry and Meghan.
They included private secretaries Samantha Cohen and Amy Pickerill, two PAs, including Melissa Touabti, and two nannies.
At least ten former staff members were reported to want to give evidence to the formal investigation into the Palace’s handling of complaints about Meghan’s alleged bullying, the findings of which have been hushed up by Buckingham Palace. Once again, it’s the courtiers who find themselves ‘silenced’.
That’s not the case for Meghan who described the bullying allegations as a ‘calculated smear campaign’.
Her solicitor Jenny Afia added: ‘What bullying actually means is improperly using power repeatedly and deliberately to hurt someone physically or emotionally. The Duchess of Sussex absolutely denies ever doing that. Knowing her as I do, I can’t believe she would ever do that. It just doesn’t match my experience of her at all.’
It was like ‘working for a couple of teenagers’, according to the reported words by Low of Samantha Cohen, their highly regarded private secretary who had been recommended by the Queen Elizabeth (pictured above in June this year) after years of loyal service
I feel this book is corroboration of years of reporting by myself and other top royal correspondents, which has seen us, completely unfairly, branded both racists and bullies by the Sussex Squad social media trolls simply for accurately reporting the reality of the behaviour by Harry and Meghan that culminated in me revealing their decision to Megxit in January 2020.
Looking back, such a decision was now inevitable.
Low’s book reveals Harry was terrified of becoming ‘an also-ran’ once his nephew Prince George turned 18 and stole his thunder.
Meghan, meanwhile, according to a palace insider, ‘thought she was going to be the Beyonce of the UK’.
Such a toxic combination was a recipe for disaster.
The staff were treated so badly because they were the messengers who had to try and keep their aggrieved royals happy while working within the suffocating rules of the Royal Family. In the end it proved to be an impossible task.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II (accompanied by Samantha Cohen (c), Private Secretary to Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex pictured in June 2018 in Widnes, England
But I’m of the belief that Meghan never actually wanted this to work.
In the months before Megxit, I had revealed her Hollywood team was already negotiating commercial deals, including for her children’s book.
As one former staff member told Low: ‘Everyone knew that the institution would be judged by her happiness. The mistake they made was thinking that she wanted to be happy. She wanted to be rejected, because she was obsessed with that narrative from day one.’
As we’ve seen so many times before, just because it’s Harry and Meghan’s narrative it doesn’t mean it’s true.
The real silenced parties in this tawdry tale of the Sussexes versus the Royal Family have now been heard by the world – and it sounds a lot more candid than what the couple told Oprah Winfrey.