Buckingham Palace has announced its HR team will investigate the allegations of bullying against Meghan Markle following a bombshell story published in The Times of London yesterday.

The newspaper revealed the Duchess of Sussex had been the subject of an official bullying complaint in October of 2018, which accused her of mistreating her staff.

"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 a statement today.

"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."

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Harry and Meghan earlier accused the Palace of orchestrating a "calculated smear campaign" against them, in an extraordinary broadside days before their much-hyped interview with Oprah Winfrey is scheduled to air.

Responding to The Times' story, the Sussexes' lawyers told the newspaper it was "being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative".

"Let's just call this what it is: a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation," a spokesperson for the couple added in a statement.

"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.

"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.

"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."

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The Sussexes’ interview with Oprah airs on Sunday, US time. Picture: CBS
The Sussexes’ interview with Oprah airs on Sunday, US time. Picture: CBS

Pro-royal sources have since pushed back on the Sussexes' claims in both The Daily Mail and The Sun.

"That is patently not the case. It is untrue and disingenuous," a source told The Sun.

"Quite frankly, there are far more important things going on in the world than the circus going on around a television interview."

"Senior royal sources told The Mail that complaints being made by ex-staff members were not in any way being orchestrated by the Palace or members of the royal family, who are focused on Prince Philip's health problems," The Mail reported.

The bullying complaint at the centre of this latest blow-up was made by Jason Knauf, who worked as Harry and Meghan's communications secretary at the time.

Mr Knauf alleged that Meghan's treatment of her staff had already driven two personal assistants out of the household, and that the Duchess was actively "undermining the confidence" of a third.

He wrote an email to Prince William's private secretary, Simon Case, stressing that both he and the Palace's head of HR Samantha Carruthers thought "the situation was very serious" and he was "concerned that nothing will be done".

"I am very concerned that the Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year," Mr Knauf wrote.

"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. We have report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behaviour towards Y."

Mr Knauf stopped working for the Sussexes a short time later, and is now chief executive of William and Kate's Royal Foundation.

The Times spoke to several sources, who said "the public should have insight" into their side of the story before the Sussexes' interview with Oprah airs on Sunday, US time.

"Staff would on occasion be reduced to tears; one aide, anticipating a confrontation with Meghan, told a colleague: 'I can't stop shaking,'" the paper reported.

"Two senior members of staff have claimed that they were bullied by the Duchess. Another former employee said they had been personally 'humiliated' by her and claimed that two members of staff had been bullied.

"Another aide claimed it felt 'more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying'."

Ultimately, the complaint didn't lead to any action. This was a source of frustration for The Times' sources.

"I think the problem is, not much happened with it. It was, 'How can we make this go away?' rather than addressing it," one source said.

"Senior people in the household, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, knew that they had a situation where members of staff, particularly young women, were being bullied to the point of tears," said another.

"The institution just protected Meghan constantly. All the men in grey suits who she hates have a lot to answer for, because they did absolutely nothing to protect people."

The interview with Oprah was prerecorded before the story was published, so these bullying claims will not come up during Sunday's broadcast on CBS.

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The high turnover rate among the Sussexes' staff during their time in the United Kingdom did not go unnoticed in the British press.

Most notably, there was "shock" when Meghan's closest aide suddenly quit her prestigious job just six months after the couple's wedding.

Naturally, these bullying allegations have prompted more scorn from Harry and Meghan's critics, including yet another scathing column from British TV host Piers Morgan.

Writing for The Mail today, Morgan described the claims in rather flamboyant terms, saying the Duchess stood accused of waging a "systematic reign of bullying terror against her personal staff".

"To play the compassionate women-empowering victims of bullying on prime time TV, when they've now been accused of their own shocking compassion-devoid bullying towards multiple women, is both beyond the pale and beyond parody," he wrote.

"Take the hypocritical halos off, your royal highnesses. They're cracked."

Originally published as Palace launches investigation of Meghan

As it was prerecorded before The Times’ story was published, the bullying claims will not come up. Picture: CBS
As it was prerecorded before The Times’ story was published, the bullying claims will not come up. Picture: CBS

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