It is “gaslighting to the extreme” for palace staff to deny briefing against Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, a royal reporter has claimed.

The Duke of Sussex appeared to allege that palace staff and members of the royal family leaked stories to the media about him and Meghan during the first trailer for the couple’s six-part Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan.

“There’s a hierarchy of the family,” Harry said in the trailer, released on 5 December. “You know there’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories. . . It’s a dirty game.”

In the same trailer, Harry also acknowledged his own mother, Princess Diana’s, experience as a member of the British monarchy, continuing: “The pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution, this feeding frenzy. I was terrified, I didn’t want history to repeat itself. No one knows the full truth. We know the full truth.”

The duke’s claim was not addressed in the first three episodes of the docuseries, released on 8 December, which means viewers can expect the couple to elaborate on the allegation in the final three episodes, which will air on 15 December.

However, according to Omid Scobie, royal reporter and co-author of the biography Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Royal Family, Harry’s claim is accurate.

Scobie supported the duke’s allegation that palace staff briefed against him and Meghan in an essay published in Yahoo, in which the royal reporter claimed “the damaging stories leaked by individuals within the House of Windsor were one of the main reasons the Sussexes felt a need to find a different path”.

Scobie then alleged that it was “gaslighting” for a “royal source,” which he explained is “usually code for someone at the palace who doesn’t want to go on the record,” to insist that it was inaccurate to suggest the Sussexes had been briefed against during their time as senior royals.

“It was gaslighting to the extreme,” Scobie claimed, adding: “Remember the 2018 tabloid stories moaning about Meghan’s 5am emails? The drama around her tiara? These reports, and many others, included anonymous quotes from palace sources and aides.”

Scobie also alleged that “the reality is, people working at the palace did brief against Harry and Meghan while they were working royals. Regularly”.

“And it was hardly a secret, either,” he continued.

According to Scobie, while he was working on Finding Freedom, some of the palace staff he spoke to “complained” about the “culture of leaking and negative briefings within the institution” and suggested it was out of “jealousy” of Meghan and Harry’s “unrivalled popularity at the time”.

However, he said others “shrugged and said that’s just how it goes”.

Scobie claimed also that palace aides brief “against other royals,” and that it isn’t “uncommon for an aide to look out for their boss by using information about another member of the family”.

According to the royal reporter, in addition to ensuring family members are covered in a positive light by certain outlets, the practice can also be a “useful way of sharing useful or sensitive information to journalists ahead of an engagement or important moment, or simply to deny or address a story they may not want to give oxygen to”.

Scobie’s allegation comes after Netflix released a trailer on 12 December for volume two of the duke and duchess’s docuseries, in which Prince Harry cryptically claimed: “They were happy to lie to protect my brother. They were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.”

In the same trailer, Meghan said she “wasn’t being thrown to the wolves, I was being fed to the wolves,” while Harry referred to what he called “institutional gaslighting”.

The next three episodes of Harry & Meghan will air on 15 December.

The Independent has contacted representatives for the royal family and the Sussexes for comment.


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