Allegations that the Duchess of Sussex had “bullied” two members of staff at Kensington Palace were “absolutely not” leaked with Prince William’s tacit approval, according to the journalist who reported them.
The final part of a controversial BBC documentary on the relationship between Prince William, Prince Harry and the media examined allegations of a briefing war between the brothers.
The bullying claims, which the duchess has denied and which are the subject of an ongoing inquiry at Buckingham Palace, emerged just days before Harry and Meghan’s interview with talkshow host Oprah Winfrey.
The BBC presenter Amol Rajan asked the Times journalist Valentine Low if he believed the people who leaked the bullying allegations to him had been licensed to do so by the Duke of Cambridge. “Did you think that the people speaking to you had his tacit approval?” Rajan asked. “Absolutely not,” Low replied.
The Sussexes’ lawyer, Jenny Afia, told the documentary, The Princes and the Press, that the bullying story was untrue and had “massive, massive inaccuracies”. But, she said, it was difficult to refute. “‘It is really hard to prove a negative. If you haven’t bullied anyone, how do you show that you haven’t ?” she said.
She also defended the Sussexes against newspaper criticism that they demanded privacy, and fought for it through the courts, while at the same time speaking out to others. She said: “It’s not them who have said they want privacy. It’s something that the tabloids have said about them that’s latched on.
“They have taken steps when there have been blatant violations, unlawful violations of privacy, of course. Then they have challenged it,” she added. “Because that’s in line with their values.”
But that did not mean they had to take a vow of silence, she said, adding that privacy was the right to choose what information they shared.
Rajan’s documentary had been hugely hyped in some newspapers, who alleged it could reveal if royal households, in particular the Duke of Cambridge’s, supplied negative briefings against his brother and sister-in-law, an allegation that is firmly denied by aides.
Newspapers also criticised the BBC for reportedly not allowing senior royal aides to view the programme before it aired.
In the end, when the first part aired last Monday, it included just one quote on the rumours that anti-Meghan briefings were conducted by royal aides, when Omid Scobie, the Sussexes’ biographer, told the programme: “From my own reporting and research, that is exactly true.”
The BBC came under further attack following a joint written statement from Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace, shown at the end of the programme, which said: “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.”
Headlines interpreted the statement as a direct attack on the BBC. Shortly afterwards, William and Kate’s decision to give ITV the broadcast rights to their charity Christmas carol services was seen as his revenge on the corporation. William has previously been vocal in his criticism of the BBC following the controversy over how Martin Bashir obtained his world exclusive Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
There has also been sustained attack on Rajan in some quarters of the media, who questioned his impartiality to host the documentary by referring to a 2012 article he wrote for the Independent in which he declared: “I’m a republican because I’m a patriot.”