The Daily Telegraph

Fashioned to fail: how internal rivalry doomed this sisterhood from the off

Tensions between Meghan and Kate grew when Duchess found herself down pecking order for a favourite designer

- By Camilla Tominey ASSOCIATE EDITOR

More negative headlines appeared because the histrionic­s were being witnessed by all and sundry

It didn’t help that Meghan seemed intent on reminding staff that she was ‘different from other girlfriend­s’

Prince Harry gives various explanatio­ns as to why the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Sussex did not get on “from the get go”. His autobiogra­phy, Spare, confirms reports of two very different women who never really hit it off. The prince’s revelation that his brother and sister-inlaw were never “expecting me to get … into a relationsh­ip with someone like Meghan who had a very successful career” speaks to the culture clash between the royal wives.

Harry has accused both the palace and the press of pitting Kate and Meghan against each other. While there may be some truth to that, what he fails to mention in his memoir is the internal rivalry that doomed the royal sisterhood from the start.

And like the tearful wedding row, dresses played a central part.

As a self-made woman with her own successful TV career and website, The Tig, Meghan entered the royal fray having already secured paid partnershi­ps with the likes of Neiman Marcus, the designer goods company, in the US. Aided by her close friend Jessica Mulroney, a Canadian stylist, the glossy website proved the perfect platform for product placements – from clothes to makeup to home furnishing­s.

Naturally, when Meghan became engaged to Harry in November 2017, she would have expected to receive even more preferenti­al treatment from hand-picked suppliers than she had already grown used to. But as with the family hierarchy, there was a pecking order: and the problem for Meghan was that Kate always appeared to get first dibs on designers.

Erdem Moralıoğlu was one of Meghan’s absolute favourites, but even after Harry had put a ring on it, Kate, who was already a client, continued to get priority.

Meghan loved Erdem, the Montrealbo­rn, Bethnal Green-based designer, having worn the Davina dress from his 2015 autumn/winter collection for a fashion segment on NBC’S Today programme in early 2016, before she met Harry. When she and Harry attended a wedding in Jamaica in March 2017, eight months before their engagement, she wore another Erdem dress from designer’s pre-fall collection – before it was even available to the public, suggesting she had a relationsh­ip with the couturier.

Yet while Kate was regularly stepping out in Erdem, Meghan – as a royal – did not wear the brand on an official engagement until Commonweal­th Day in March 2019.

Resentment also grew over Meghan’s mistaken belief that Kate’s parents Michael and Carole Middleton were cashing in on their royal connection­s to get special treatment.

Wrongly convinced Kate’s family had free use of the Windsor Suite, the VIP lounge at Heathrow, Meghan insisted that her mother Doria use it when travelling to the UK, allegedly citing the risk to her safety. In fact, no one can recall the Middletons using the Windsor Suite – although William and Kate do use it whenever they travel through the airport. Doria was spotted there en route to Windsor for Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May 2018.

Meghan was also said to be upset that Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton initially declined to invite her to her wedding to James Matthews in May 2017, perhaps fearing she would be upstaged by Harry’s girlfriend. She later relented and invited her to the evening reception “to keep the peace”.

When it came to Harry and Meghan’s own wedding a year later, it is fair to say the planning proved stressful for all involved. In Spare, Harry confirms an argument with Angela Kelly, the late Queen’s closest aide, over Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara she borrowed for the big day. Although he denies saying “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets”, there is a sense that this was the unofficial slogan of the nuptials.

He also confirms a row between Kate and Meghan over bridesmaid­s’ dresses, despite describing it as a “sci-fi fantasy”.

The French couture dresses did not fit any of the bridesmaid­s properly and, contrary to Harry’s suggestion that Kate was the only one who made a fuss, Meghan told staff at the time she had complained to the designer and that several of the mothers were angry. The row didn’t actually happen at a fitting but when Kate went round to Meghan’s to discuss it.

Ironically, it was Meghan herself who acknowledg­ed to the then

Cambridges’ staff that Kate “had left in tears” – in a plea for help to smooth it over. That’s why the palace couldn’t demand a retraction. “‘Kate had only just given birth to Prince Louis and was feeling quite emotional,’ said one insider.” (It was The Sun who splashed the headline: “Meghan Made Kate Cry” the following day, with a piece written by Jack Royston, now Newsweek’s chief royal correspond­ent and one of the Sussexes’ cheerleade­rs). Those who were party to the fallout from the incident were left stunned when Meghan turned the tale on its head in their Oprah Winfrey interview – only for Harry to double down.

Harry insists the bridesmaid­s dress story was briefed by the palace, claiming Kate told Charles and Camilla about the altercatio­n over dinner.

But more negative headlines started appearing after the wedding precisely because the histrionic­s staff had grown well used to were now being witnessed by all and sundry. The palace could no longer keep a lid on it.

The Duchess is alleged to have spoken particular­ly harshly to a young member of the team in front of her colleagues after criticisin­g a wedding plan she had drawn up, saying: “If there was literally anyone else I could ask to do this, I would be asking them instead of you.” When William heard of the incident, he took the woman aside and said: “I hope you’re okay. You’re doing a really good job,” prompting her to burst into tears.

Harry’s insistence that their joint communicat­ions secretary Jason Knauf put out a statement in November 2016, claiming his “girlfriend” had been “subject to a wave of abuse and harassment” at the hands of the media created early unease between the brothers.

Yet having already warned him to “take as much time as you need to get to know this girl” (a descriptio­n that apparently offended Meghan), the rashness of the

statement rang alarm according to Valentine Low’s book Courtiers. In the spring of 2017, he writes, six months before the couple were officially engaged, Meghan told one of Harry’s advisers: “I think we both know I’m going to be one of your bosses soon.”

As she never shied from reminding aides, she already had a public profile thanks to starring in the legal drama Suits. “Her approach was: I know everything but I want you to control me so I can rebel against it,” said someone familiar with her modus operandi. She didn’t seem to fully understand how the monarchy worked, however. At one point during the Sussexes’ tour of Australia in 2019, according to Low, she allegedly declared: “I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this.” On another occasion, she asked those involved with the Royal Foundation why they weren’t doing more to “monetise” the Invictus Games, Harry’s charitable initiative for wounded ex-service personnel. Contrary to Harry’s suggestion he was unsupporti­ve, it was the Prince of Wales “in

Meghan told one of Harry’s advisers: ‘I think we both know I’m going to be one of your bosses soon’

‘I am very concerned that the Duchess was able to bully two PAS out of the household’

fix-it mode” who agreed that experience­d and highly profession­al Amy Pickerill be moved from the press office to become Meghan’s deputy private secretary following her engagement to Harry.

Yet shortly after the announceme­nt, a senior aide discreetly raised with the couple the difficulti­es caused by their treatment of staff who were “bending over backwards” to help them. The Duchess is said to have replied: “It’s not my job to coddle people”.

Then there was the ongoing confusion over “freebies”. His claim that Meghan “shared all the freebies she received, clothes and perfumes and make-up, with all the women in the office”. Not only is this disputed, but if it were true it would amount to a serious breach of the rules on the receiving and registerin­g of gifts.

Members of the Royal family are not allowed to accept any gift unless it is for a major royal occasion such as a birth or marriage. And then it needs to come from a Royal warrant holder.

Royals are expected to pay for their wardrobe – official and unofficial. Yet when she first came on the scene, Meghan’s expectatio­n was that she could keep some of the dresses she had been lent.

One example that demonstrat­ed Meghan’s confusion over the issue was when she wore a pair of diamond earrings given to her by Saudi prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) to a state banquet in Fiji in October 2018, just days after his regime admitted killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi. At the time, the palace claimed they had been loaned by Chopard. Only later did it transpire that they were a wedding gift from MBS. Meghan’s lawyers, Schillings, initially said: “At no stage did the Duchess tell staff that the earrings were ‘borrowed from a jeweller’, as this would have been untrue and therefore any suggestion that she encouraged them to lie to the media is baseless.”

Two days later, Schillings added: “It is possible she said the earrings were borrowed, which is correct, as presents from heads of state to the Royal Family are gifts to Her Majesty the Queen, who can then choose to lend them out to members of the family.” Yet if the earrings were lent by the Queen, staff would have said so. Nor would they have been described as “loaned” if they were a wedding gift. Schillings also claimed Meghan had no knowledge of Khashoggi’s murder. Rumours of “tensions” then went into overdrive when The Sunday Times reported on Oct 28 2018, that the brothers would be separating their “courts” under the headline: “Harry and William to call it a day for their double act” (the official announceme­nt wouldn’t be made until March 2019). Unbeknowns­t to the press at the time, just two days earlier, on Oct 26, Mr Knauf had written an email to his immediate boss Simon Case, who succeeded Miguel Head as William’s private secretary, saying he had spoken to the head of HR at the palace about “some very serious problems” with Meghan’s behaviour. He wrote: “I am very concerned that the Duchess was able to bully two PAS out of the household in the past year… The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying X and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptab­le behaviour towards X despite the universal views from her colleagues that she is a leading talent within the household who is delivering first rate work.” He went on to describe the couple’s tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, which was still going on, as “very challengin­g” and “made worse by the behaviour of the Duchess” and revealed that Samantha Carruthers, then the head of HR, “agreed with me on all counts that the situation was very serious”, adding: “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”

Although well meaning, Ms Carruthers had grown close to Meghan. Both shared a love of dogs and it was Ms Carruthers in whom the Duchess later confided when she was suffering mental health problems. Ms Carruthers had also arranged for her own PA, Laura Groutides, to become executive assistant and office manager to the Sussexes’ then private secretary, Samantha Cohen.

Meghan used to refer to both women as “The Sams”. (Ms Cohen, a longstandi­ng and highly respected royal aide who only agreed to work for Harry and Meghan because the late Queen had personally requested it, resigned in October 2019 after being “treated harshly” and likening the job to “working with teenagers”, according to Low.) Rightly or wrongly, disgruntle­d employees therefore questioned Ms Carruthers’ ability to get to the bottom of the complaints.

The Duchess vehemently denies bullying anyone and, on Netflix, the couple claimed to have submitted a 25-page rebuttal to the allegation­s. The findings of a subsequent independen­t investigat­ion have never been published by the palace.

When, in early December 2018, news broke that Meghan’s personal assistant Melissa Toubati had also resigned, after just eight months in the role, more reports emerged about “dictatoria­l” Meghan. The couple claim her exit acted as a catalyst for the negative publicity – but others point out that Harry and Meghan’s reputation suffered because she was no longer there to smooth things over with the various people they seemed to rub up the wrong way. Ms Pickerill handed in her notice in March 2019, swiftly followed by Mr Knauf. Both now work on Prince William’s Earthshot Prize.

In Spare, Harry describes the claims as “rumours and lies” from staff whose “Team Cambridge and Team Sussex… rivalry and jealousy…poisoned the atmosphere.”

He also suggests that employees couldn’t take “constructi­ve criticism” saying “all feedback was seen as an affront, an insult.” He claims William’s staff had “a knack for backstabbi­ng, a talent for intrigue and they were constantly setting our two groups of staff against each other”. He insists Meghan “spread kindness” with baskets of food and flowers, “bought pizza and biscuits” and “hosted tea parties and ice-cream socials”. Yet when an ice cream van was sent to Kensington Palace, it apparently came with Meghan’s strict instructio­ns that it should only be enjoyed by the Sussexes’ crew and not the Cambridges, their staff or even their children.

After the Duchess left, her staff called the rest of the household insisting they share in the spoils. One former employee explained that Meghan’s generosity made her unpleasant behaviour even harder to manage: “One minute she’d be buying you flowers, the next she’d be blanking you.” So when William claimed Meghan was “difficult”, “abrasive”, “rude” and “alienating half the staff ” during the dog bowl row at Nottingham Cottage in 2019, he wasn’t “parroting” the media, as Harry claims. In fact, he was all too aware of Meghan’s reputation well before the nickname “Duchess Difficult” started appearing in the press.

Justifying his decision to bare his soul to the world, Harry told ITV’S Tom Bradby in an interview on Sunday night: “Silence only allows the abuser to abuse. I don’t know how staying silent is ever going to make things better. That’s genuinely what I believe.”

The statement has naturally raised eyebrows among those asked to sign NDAS preventing them from discussing their time working for the Sussexes and other royals. So many confidence­s now appeared to have been shattered.

Throughout Spare, Harry peddles unsubstant­iated theories that the media had an agenda against him and Meghan – and that royal aides colluded in this by leaking and placing negative stories about them. He also accuses both the press and the palace of trying to pit them against other royals in a bid to elevate the public image of those further up the pecking order.

Yet among those who witnessed, first hand, the rise and fall of Harry and Meghan, it is fair to say that another of the late monarch’s statements applies: “Recollecti­ons may vary.”

Erdem and Archewell declined to comment.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? bells with William. It then didn’t help that Meghan seemed intent on reminding staff that she was “different from other royal girlfriend­s”,
bells with William. It then didn’t help that Meghan seemed intent on reminding staff that she was “different from other royal girlfriend­s”,
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? The designer Erdem Moralioglu, left, is a favourite of the Duchess of Sussex and the Princess of Wales; both pictured in his creations, right
The designer Erdem Moralioglu, left, is a favourite of the Duchess of Sussex and the Princess of Wales; both pictured in his creations, right
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom