Meghan sends lawyer to defend her against 'difficult boss' claims on BBC documentary

·5 min read
A spokesman for the Sussexes did not comment on whether they had also complained or had concerns about the programme - Andrew Kelly/Reuters
A spokesman for the Sussexes did not comment on whether they had also complained or had concerns about the programme - Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The Duchess of Sussex has dispatched her lawyer to appear on a BBC documentary to deny claims she had been a "difficult or demanding" boss and drove staff to leave.

The Duchess authorised Jenny Afia, of Schillings, to appear on camera in the Princes and the Press, a two-part documentary exploring the relationship between Prince William, Prince Harry and the media.

No other member of the Royal family cooperated with the programme, with Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace left frustrated by claims it believes staff did not have a proper chance to respond to.

Instead, they provided a pointed joint statement to the show, shown on screen in writing at the end, saying it is "disappointing when anyone, including the BBC" gives credibility to "overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources".

The Duchess, however, authorised her lawyer - who has represented her in her court case against the Mail on Sunday - to appear on screen to respond to claims in the press that she had been "difficult" to work with, resulting in staff leaving her household.

The stories about the treatment of staff appeared in 2018.

Amol Rajan, who presented the programme, said: "The Duchess's lawyer spoke to me with Meghan's permission."

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Asked about reports of the Duchess's behaviour behind palace doors, which are now the subject of an internal palace investigation, Ms Afia said: "Those stories were false.

"This narrative that no-one could work for the Duchess of Sussex, that she was too difficult or demanding a boss, and that everyone had to leave, is just not true."

In a trailer for part two of the documentary, Ms Afia explained: "The overall allegation is that the Duchess of Sussex is guilty of bullying."

When asked "and is she?" by Rajan, she added: "Absolutely not"

The two-part BBC Two programme has caused frustration at the palaces, which have threatened a boycott of the corporation over what they see as its refusal to allow them to fully respond to claims.

Insiders fear the show will propel unsubstantiated rumours about the Royal family and their staff to credibility by broadcasting them on prime time television.

The second instalment of the programme is expected to include claims that the members of the royal household briefed journalists about the breakdown of relationships between the Sussexes and the rest of the Royal family, and eventually leaked the bombshell news that they were leaving in order to undermine Prince Harry's negotiations.

Peter Hunt, the BBC's former royal correspondent who left the role before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding, said briefings from inside palaces about other households "did not happen during the chunk of time I was there".

"You have to assume they've only done it if they have the approval of the principal," he said of briefing by current or former staff.

"So you have to assume they've done it with the knowledge of whoever they were working for.

"And I guess it's an indication of what at that point wasn't in the public domain, which was the fracturing of the relationship between these two brothers."

Omid Scobie, the author of a biography the Sussexes authorised staff to cooperate with, said: "There's been rumours that a lot of the most damaging and negative stories about Harry and Meghan that have appeared in the press have come from other royal households or other royal aides or courtiers.

"And from my own reporting that is exactly true."

The first episode of The Princes and the Press, which was aired on Monday night, detailed the media coverage of younger members of the Royal family from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were considered the bright future of the monarchy.

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It tracked positive media coverage up to and around Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018, and explores the Princes’ relationship with the press including phone hacking.

The second episode, due for broadcast on November 29, is expected to go through some of the key newspaper stories uncovering fractured relationships behind closed doors, with allegations of palace insiders briefing the media.

Much of it was filmed many months ago, and edited at the last minute after it needed to be updated with details of the Duchess of Sussex’s court case against the Mail on Sunday.

In a trailer for the accompanying podcast, Rajan said he wanted viewers to question how they had formed opinions on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex based on the media lens they are reported through.

A source said the programme is intended as a “cerebral” look at the palace and press and was not intended to be “incendiary”.

The three households of the Queen, the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge have united to complain to the corporation about its lack of transparency about what is in the documentary.

No previews were available before the programme aired on Monday night, with next week’s episode expected to air allegations that the palace have never previously given enough credence to to comment.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “The programme is about how royal journalism is done and features a range of journalists from broadcast and the newspaper industry.”

BBC guidelines require all news and current affairs documentaries to offer “right of reply” to anyone implicated in their journalism.

A joint statement from Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace said: "A free, responsible and open press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy.

"However, too often overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources are presented as facts and it is disappointing when anyone, including the BBC, gives them credibility."

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