The Duchess of Sussex did not understand the point of royal walkabouts and said during a tour of Australia: “I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this,” a new book claims.
The Duchess was feted by cheering crowds as she and the Duke of Sussex visited the Commonwealth realm in 2018, but behind the scenes Meghan “screamed at” her staff and accused them of failing her, it is alleged.
On another occasion, the Duchess was said to be unhappy with an assistant who followed strict protocol by refusing to accept free gifts of clothes and jewellery sent for the Duchess by businesses.
The claims are made in the book Courtiers: The Hidden Power Behind the Crown, by Valentine Low, which is being serialised in The Times newspaper.
It contains fresh details of the Duke and Duchess’s relationship with their staff, which led to repeated claims of bullying and several departures before the couple stood down as working members of the Royal family and moved to America.
The “I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this” comment allegedly occurred during the couple’s first official overseas tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. On the same tour, the couple’s private secretary, Samantha Cohen, was “screamed at before the flight [from Tonga to Sydney] and during”, after which Ms Cohen is said to have told other staff to stay away from the Duke and Duchess for the rest of the day.
By 2019, the year after the couple’s wedding, plans were already in place for an interview on US television with Oprah Winfrey, the book claims. When the Duchess was interviewed by ITV’s Tom Bradby during a tour in Africa (when she thanked him for asking if she was OK “because not many people have asked if I’m OK”), it is claimed she was adamant she and her husband could not be interviewed together or be in the same shot as it could jeopardise any future agreement with Winfrey. The interview eventually aired more than a year later, in March 2021.
In October 2016, near the start of the couple’s relationship, the Duchess is reported to have threatened to “dump” Prince Harry if his staff did not put out a statement confirming she was his girlfriend, and condemning the racist and sexist undertones of some of the media coverage. In the spring of the following year, more than six months before the couple were engaged, she told one of the Duke’s advisers: “I think we both know I’m going to be one of your bosses soon.”
The book suggests that some of the tension between Meghan and royal staff was a result of cultural differences between America and the UK, with the Duchess’s direct, sometimes blunt way of speaking regarded as normal in the US. However the author also points out that an official complaint about the Duchess’s behaviour was filed by the couple’s then communications secretary, Jason Knauf, who is himself American.
Her treatment of staff was raised informally with her in late 2017, after the couple’s engagement, to which she is said to have replied: “It’s not my job to coddle people.”
One of those who left their employment in the couple’s household was Melissa Touabti, who quit as Meghan’s PA after six months.
Low claims that “the clashes between Meghan and Ms Touabti centred on the free gifts that some companies would send to Meghan. Deliveries were constantly arriving at Kensington Palace.” They included “clothes, jewellery, candles, it was absolutely non-stop”, according to a source quoted in the book.
Ms Touabti was “punctilious” about following the rule that members of the Royal family cannot accept free gifts from commercial organisations but “her approach did not go down well with Meghan”.
The Duchess has always denied bullying, and her lawyer Jenny Afia has said that the allegations do not “match my experience of her at all”.
The book says the Duke complained that courtiers were suffering from “palace syndrome”, a shorthand for staff who he thought allowed the media to get away with too much rather than going into battle for the member of the Royal family they worked for.
The book also claims that Prince Harry worried that he had a limited time to make an impact on the issues closest to his heart, such as conservation, because he believed he would be upstaged by Prince George once he reached adulthood.
Low writes that Prince Harry would talk about his “shelf life” and would compare himself with the Duke of York, who no longer carries out official duties and had been sidelined for years. He believed he would become an “also-ran” once Prince George turned 18, though his staff assured him that would not be the case and that he was a very different prospect than Prince Andrew.