What the decision by royal sources to approach media over Meghan Markle bullying claims means

The revelations in Wednesday's Times newspaper that a complaint of bullying was filed against the Duchess of Sussex is a serious allegation and comes just days before Oprah Winfrey broadcasts her big Meghan and Harry interview this weekend.But we should remember that this is more than a story about briefings and timings because there are some alleged victims at the heart of it who clearly wanted their version of events to be heard.Neither the Sussexes nor Buckingham Palace has denied that a bullying complaint about Meghan was made to the HR department at the Royal Household, nor have they denied that it was filed by the then communications secretary at Kensington Palace.

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At the time Jason Knauf was overseeing the media of both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex before the couples split their households and offices.As a Royal correspondent who spent a lot of time around the palace staff, both before and after engagements and in the more routine days in between, it was clear to me that Kensington Palace staff were under a lot of strain.That, in itself, was not unexpected.Working for two of the most talked about couples in the world was not easy and the media demands were huge during events such as Harry and Meghan's Royal wedding, the public breakdown in Meghan's relationship with her father and the news of her pregnancy.You could see the strain on the faces of the staff and at times they looked like they had been pushed to the edge.

The Duchess of Sussex Credit: Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA

But there is a big difference between staff feeling the effects of a very demanding job with a very demanding boss, and members of staff who might be victims of a bullying boss.The decision by royal sources to approach The Times suggests staff are still very bruised by their time at Kensington Palace.

In fact, I have been told this morning how those staff still suffer from what they refer to as the "trauma" of that time.In fact, those staff members are referred to as "victims" by some of the sources.Other staff, I am told, describe the "very painful" time at Kensington Palace and speak of how it was all rather "terrible".None of that is, in itself, proof that bullying happened, but it does confirm that it was a very unhappy working environment.Another source with knowledge of the feud between Princes William and Harry refers to the situation - even now - as "toxic".But those close to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex say that the bullying complaint was submitted by Mr Knauf on behalf of two other employees without their knowledge.

Another source with knowledge of the feud between Princes William and Harry refers to the situation - even now - as "toxic". Credit: PA

Those same sources say the complaint was "rescinded" when those two staff found out about it and that is why the HR department at the Palace took the matter no further.That version of events is emphatically denied by those who are close to the alleged victims.Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, has officially refused to comment on the claims.A spokesperson for Harry and Meghan said: "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 this pain and trauma".The acrimony between the Sussexes and the Monarchy was evident a couple of weeks ago when the Queen removed the patronages she had bestowed on Harry and Meghan as the two sides finalised their "divorce".But this development suggest things are much worse.And when there are alleged victims of bullying at the centre of all this - it can't simply be dismissed as bit of select briefing ahead of the Oprah interview on Sunday.

Oprah With Meghan and Harry will be broadcast in the UK on ITV on Monday 8 March at 9pm. It will also be available on ITV Hub.