The British royal family has issued a rare joint statement accusing the BBC of giving credibility to “overblown and unfounded claims” in a documentary that aired on Monday night.
The three royal households, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House, said that it was “disappointing” that the broadcaster had decided to lend “credibility” to claims that insiders from other royal households had briefed against Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Their statement was broadcast at the end of the first episode of the two-part The Princes and The Press programme, presented by the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan.
The programme explored the relationship that princes William and Harry both had with the media and included suggestions that royal sources were briefing journalists behind the scenes.
The royal households said: “A free, responsible and open press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy. However, too often it is overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources are presented as facts and it is disappointing when anyone, including the BBC, gives them credibility.”
During the programme, journalist Omid Scobie, co-author of the biography of the Sussexes, Finding Freedom, said that negative stories had been leaked about Meghan but did not name those who were involved.
He said: “There were some people who felt she [Meghan] needed to be put in her place. I think by leaking a negative story, that’s punishment. There’s been rumours for quite some time that a lot of the most damaging and negative stories…have come from other royal households or from other royal aides. From my own research and reporting, that’s exactly true.”
Journalist and GB News anchor Dan Wooton spoke in the documentary about his story on “Tiaragate”, published in November 2018. The article, published in The Sun, claimed that Meghan and members of the royal household had a row over the pick of a tiara for her wedding to Prince Harry.
He also addressed bullying claims made by Meghan’s staff about her – claims she denies and that are now the subject of a palace investigation.
Mr Wooton said: “It took six months for it to get out after the wedding so when people like to say the press are going for Harry and Meghan, you had it in for Harry and Meghan. I completely disagree.
“It was actually these people behind the scenes who started to get annoyed, before any of it was public. At that point no national newspaper had dared to really dive into this huge war that was developing behind the scenes...It did take someone like me, as an outsider and actually say ‘no I’m going to do it’.”
Jenny Afia, from the law firm Schillings, spoke to Amol Rajan on the programme about the bullying claims. She said: “Those stories were false. This narrative that no one can work for the Duchess of Sussex, she was too difficult and demanding as a boss and everyone had to leave, it’s just not true.”
Following the airing of the programme, The Sun reported on Monday that Prince William has banned aides from briefing against family members.
A senior royal source told the paper: “William was clear from the start we were never to brief and never to say anything about anyone in the other households. He’d lived through that in the 90s with his parents in the War of the Waleses and doesn’t ever want it happening again.
“He’s in a much better place [with the press] than his brother.”