The BBC last night appeared to back down on claims that Buckingham Palace briefed against Harry and Meghan after being accused of peddling ‘overblown and unfounded’ allegations.
A BBC2 documentary examining the relationship between the royal households and the media also stepped back from suggestions that William allowed aides to brief about his brother’s mental health – which was categorically denied by, and deeply offended many in, the royal household.
The two-part documentary series, fronted by BBC journalist Amol Rajan, had already drawn unprecedented censure from Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace.
The royal households believe it contains a slew of unsubstantiated and categorically inaccurate accusations about collusion with the media, particularly in connection with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex during the tumultuous period of their decision to quit royal duties, dubbed ‘Megxit’.
The households’ lawyers had been preparing to examine the final programme with a fine-tooth comb and had not ruled out a formal complaint.
But last night’s prime-time offering had seemingly been watered-down at the 11th hour, with editing going on up until the last minute. Plans for an accompanying podcast have also been postponed by the BBC.
A royal source said: ‘It is unlikely the matter will be taken further.’
It was thought the show would claim Buckingham Palace briefed against Harry and Meghan
It was also believed the episode would allege that William allowed aides to brief about his brother’s mental health
The two-part documentary series, fronted by BBC journalist Amol Rajan, had already drawn unprecedented censure
The programme did, however, give significant airtime to Meghan’s personal solicitor, who went on the attack to defend the duchess against accusations of bullying, denying she had ever ‘improperly’ used her ‘power’.
Speaking with the Duchess of Sussex’s express permission, Jenny Afia, of libel lawyers Schillings, insisted there were ‘massive, massive inaccuracies’ in claims that she had targeted and forced out several members of staff.
These claims, which were first made public earlier this year, are now the subject of an internal Buckingham Palace inquiry.
In an interview for the documentary, entitled The Princes And The Press, Miss Afia said: ‘The overall allegation was the Duchess of Sussex was guilty of bullying.
‘No, absolutely not. I think the first thing to be really clear about what bullying is.
‘What bullying actually means is improperly using power repeatedly and deliberately to hurt someone, physically or emotionally.
‘The Duchess of Sussex absolutely denies ever doing that.’
Valentine Low, a reporter from The Times who reported details of the bullying allegations earlier this year, flatly denied that William had any knowledge of or colluded with the allegations being made public.
The programme featured former BBC Royal correspondent Peter Hall among the guests
Plenty of air time was given to the Sussexes’ Schillings lawyer Jenny Afia in both episodes
But he did say those who had spoken to him were ‘very glad’ that their stories were being made public and were ‘still in tears’ two-and-a-half years later because of their experiences working for Meghan.
He said: ‘Some were still psychologically traumatised. So something went badly wrong in those days.’
Mr Rajan himself suggested that unfavourable stories about Meghan were published because of a perception she didn’t ‘behave’ as a princess should.
‘There are plenty of reasons why negative stories are written about people in the press, and often that criticism is justified,’ he told the programme.
‘But some of the criticism levelled at Meghan arose from the feeling, the sense, in some quarters that this isn’t how our princesses are supposed to behave.’
Addressing the question of whether William had ever allowed aides to ‘brief’ the media about Harry’s mental health, Johnny Dymond, the BBC’s royal correspondent, said he had spoken to Kensington Palace, who made clear William was simply worried about his brother following his 2019 documentary with ITV’s Tom Bradby.
William, who has earned plaudits for his long-standing campaign to get more support for mental health issues, is said to be particularly upset at the suggestion he would ever have encouraged or condoned this.
In fact it was Harry himself who first raised the suggestion in a 2019 television interview when he said he had experienced a resurgence of mental health issues that needed ‘constant management’.
At the time William was only reported to have been ‘concerned’ at the wellbeing of his brother and his wife, which was considered a natural and instinctive response to what he had just watched.
Meghan’s lawyer denies the Duchess of Sussex ever bullied staff in bombshell BBC documentary – saying she didn’t ‘repeatedly and deliberately hurt someone’ but adds she ‘wouldn’t want to negate anyone’s personal experiences’
Meghan Markle’s lawyer tonight issued a technical and bizarre denial the Duchess had ever bullied staff – before insisting ‘But she wouldn’t want to negate anyone’s personal experiences.’
Schillings Jenny Afia was speaking on BBC 2’s The Princes and Press on claims she inflicted ’emotional cruelty’ on underlings and ‘drove them out’.
The programme also said people connected to both the Cambridges and Sussexes briefed about the other.
Speaking to host Amol Rajan Ms Afia claimed there were ‘massive inaccuracies’ in the story, but went no further in explaining them.
Instead she launched her own technical explanation on what bullying was.
She said: ‘Massive, massive inaccuracies in that story
‘The overall allegation was that the Duchess of Sussex was guilty of bullying. Absolutely not.
‘I think the first thing is, is to be really clear about what bullying is.
‘What bullying actually means is improperly using power, repeatedly and deliberately to hurt someone physically or emotionally
‘The Duchess of Sussex has absolutely denied doing that, that said she wouldn’t want to negate anyone’s personal experiences.’
Asked if she provided evidence proving that was not the case, she admitted: ‘It’s really hard to prove a negative. If you haven’t bullied someone how do you show that you haven’t. Just denying an allegation “I didn’t beat my wife” doesn’t address the underlying problem that the allegation has been made.’
Meghan and Harry have both denied bullying through their lawyer on the BBC show
The programme also touched on the day Archie was born and a press release was sent out saying the Duchess was in labour.
In fact, by then she had already given birth – it would be three days later before a picture of him was released.
It was in stark contrast to previous Royal babies which has seen photocalls outside hospital.
Broadcaster Trevor Phillips said: ‘It became clear that they had not really grasped that in return for the fairytale you have to give the people outside the castle something, or they just decided they didn’t want to play the game.
‘The point at which you decide you’re not going to play the game, well don’t expect other people to play by the rules.’
MailOnline columnist Dan Wootton confirmed sources close to Harry and William were telling stories about the other.
He said: ‘Well obviously it was uncomfortable, because there was a lot of briefing about the private lives about both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
‘Very often by people connected to the other couple.’
Amol Rajan finished the programme with a monologue that did not quite reflect the episode
The episode seemed to have less new detail in it than the first and ended with a monologue from host Amol Rajan, which did not quite seem to fit the contents.
He ended the show with: ‘Both the monarchy and the media derive their power from the stories they tell.
‘Those stories allow each generation of our monarchy to renew its emotional contract with the people
‘The media get content the monarchy get consent
‘In Royal journalism the truth is hard to ascertain what matters is whose version of it, you, me, all of us, believe.’
It comes a week after the first episode of the controversial documentary sparked a row between the BBC and the Royal Family.
The BBC was accused of giving credibility to ‘overblown and unfounded claims’ after the broadcaster had aired allegations surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan’s departure from Britain.
The controversial documentary was also criticised for being ‘very biased’ against Prince William and Prince Charles, while painting a picture favourable to Harry and Meghan.
Royal expert Angela Levin said it was telling that the corporation’s final interview of the first episode was with the Duchess of Sussex’s British lawyer, while the Royal Family’s response was a written statement shown on screen.
Jenny Afia, Head of Legal at Schillings, who represents Meghan and was speaking with the Duchess’ permission insisted bullying claims printed about the Duchess were ‘false’ and said she rejected the ‘narrative’ that the former Suits actress was ‘difficult to work with’.
Minutes earlier, Omid Scobie, the royal journalist dubbed ‘Meghan’s mouthpiece’, had claimed that members of Royal households had briefed against Meghan and Harry during their time in the UK.
Royals are understood to have been left furious that they did not get sufficient opportunity to reply to the allegations in the show, and are said to have threatened a boycott on future projects with the BBC after courtiers were not allowed to view the programme before the first episode was aired.
In the joint statement to the show, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Clarence House last night said it was ‘disappointing’ that the broadcaster had given credibility to ‘overblown and unfounded claims’ surrounding Harry and Meghan’s departure from Britain.
The BBC was accused of giving credibility to ‘overblown and unfounded claims’ about the Royal Family last night as it broadcast a controversial documentary about William and Harry (pictured in July 2018)
In the strongly-worded joint statement given to the BBC ahead of last night’s programme, representatives for the Queen (pictured), Prince Charles and Prince William said: ‘A free, responsible and open Press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy
The Palace provided a written statement with the Queen, Prince William and Prince Charles understood to be considering collectively complain to regulator Ofcom for the first time in history.
The statement said: ‘A free, responsible and open Press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy.
‘However, 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.’
In response to ‘unfounded’ claims that Prince William and his staff briefed the media against Harry and Meghan, the royal banned the BBC from showing a charity Christmas carol concert hosted by his wife Kate and instead offered it to ITV.
But insiders have suggested that the Christmas concert could be the tip of the iceberg.
ITV insiders confirmed they were offered the show only late last week and are still negotiating a fee with BBC Studios, the production arm of the corporation making the programme.
One source said it was clear that William, who worked with the BBC over his Earthshot Prize but is protective of his staff and their reputations, would have to ‘seriously consider’ any further projects.
The episode featured Dan Wootton who spoke about his story, which became known as ‘Tiaragate’. It also featured Jenny Afia a lawyer from Schillings who works with the Duchess of Sussex
The first episode of The Princes and The Press detailed media coverage of the young royals from 2012 to 2018, when Harry and Meghan became engaged.
It included claims of ‘competitiveness’ between the different royal households. Dan Wootton, then a Sun a journalist and now a columnist at MailOnline, also spoke about his ‘Tiaragate’ article about the Duchess in November 2018.
The article carried claims of a row between Meghan and members of the royal household over her pick of a tiara at her wedding with Prince Harry. It is claimed Meghan wanted to wear an emerald tiara, but her first choice was vetoed by the Queen.
A row is alleged to have ensued, in which it is claimed Harry said: ‘What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.’
Mr Wootton also addressed bullying claims made by Meghan’s staff against her – claims that she denies and are currently subject to a palace investigation.
He 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.
‘And part of that was that no one in the royal rota was really prepared to break that story either.
‘So I did take someone like me, as an outsider, to actually say ‘no I’m going to do it’
Meanwhile, Jenny Afia, a lawyer from Schillings who works with the Duchess of Sussex spoke on camera and denied reports that Meghan was ‘difficult’ to work with.
She said: ‘Those stories were false. This narrative that no one can work with the Duchess of Sussex that she was too difficult, demanding a boss, and that everyone had to leave is just not true.’
It is understood that the BBC provided a written memo, outlining relevant allegations, but refused requests to provide an advance copy of the two hour-long episodes.