The wife of Prince Harry was accused on Tuesday bullying royal aides to the points of tears, humiliation and "shaking" during her time as a working member of the British royal family.
After a pair of reports levied allegations of bullying against Meghan Markle on Tuesday, just days ahead of her scheduled sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey, the former actress and wife of Prince Harry issued a statement that she was "saddened" by the accusations.
Unnamed sources told The Sunday Times in two separate stories that Markle bullied royal aides during her time as an active member of the royal family in the UK to the point that some felt humiliated or were reduced to tears, with one claiming she "can't stop shaking" in anticipation of an encounter with Markle.
One of the anonymous former staffers told the Times that their dealings with Markle felt "more like emotional cruelty and manipulation, which I guess could also be called bullying."
The sources claimed at least two assistants left the palace of how they were being treated by the Duchess of Sussex. The primary source is reportedly a complaint made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the couple's communications secretary, on behalf of several members of the household staff.
A statement released by a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess, received by E! News andother outlets, reads, "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."
It goes on to add, "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."
It's not their first response to these specific allegations, either, as lawyers for the couple actually responded in the Times stories, as well, claiming that the outlet itself was "being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative" ahead of their Winfrey interview on March 7.
"Let's just call this what it is -- a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation," a spokesperson told The Times. "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."
While it's not entirely clear what that might mean in regards to the royal family, a source told E! News that there is a lot of tension between them and Harry's family, stating that they "are relieved they are away from it all."
Prior to these allegations, it's been widely reported by friends of Markle that she herself has been the victim of "global bullying," as it was described toPeople back in February 2019. "Meg has silently sat back and endured the lies and untruths," one friend told the outlet.
Just last week, Harry toldJames Corden on "The Late Late Show" that the "toxic" British media was "destroying [his] mental health." He told the host, "I did what any husband and any father would do. I was like, 'I need to get my family out of here.'"
In a teaser released for the special, Harry talks about how "really relieved and happy" he is to be sitting there with Winfrey, opening up about how "unbelievably tough" it has been for them. They stepped down as working royals officially in February.
In a harrowing comparison, Harry said that part of the reason the couple made the decision to step away from their duties and the heightened spotlight of the royal family was his fear of "history repeating itself." He was referring to the car accident that killed his mother in 1997 after she was chased by paparazzi.
At another point, Winfrey asks them, "Were you silent, or were you silenced?" Of course, the teaser isn't going to provide that answer, but it certainly is a tantalizing way to suggest that there could be some bombshell claims forthcoming.
After the announcement of Winfrey's interview, it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II would be addressing the country for Commonwealth Day, which happens to be the same day as Winfrey's sit-down. There is no indication the two occurrences are related.
Promising that "no subject is off limits," "Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special" is set to air Sunday, March 7 at 8 p.m. ET.