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An official investigation into the handling of bullying allegations made against the Duchess of Sussex will be kept secret, with even those who participated kept in the dark about its findings, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.
The decision, confirmed by aides, has raised serious questions about transparency at the publicly funded institution and its responsibility towards members of staff working closely with the Royal family.
A small number of aides who worked for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were interviewed as part of the investigation, and have been informed only that it has now concluded and unspecified changes to internal policies have been made.
Senior palace aides had previously indicated that any findings that resulted in changes to HR procedures would be made public in the Sovereign Grant Report, the annual financial review published by Buckingham Palace.
But as the latest report is due to be published on Thursday, there is no mention of bullying.
“Recommendations will be taken forward, but we will not be commenting further,” a senior source said, citing the confidentiality of those who took part in the independent review. “Lessons have been learned.”
It is understood that only a small number of current and former staff were asked to contribute, with others who worked with the Sussexes when they were at the Palace never approached.
The allegations were first made in writing in Oct 2018, when the couple’s press secretary at the time wrote to their private secretary, outlining his concern “that the Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year”.
Calling the treatment of one member of staff “totally unacceptable”, Jason Knauf said there had been “unacceptable behaviour” towards a second, including “bullying” and “seeking to undermine her confidence”.
The complaint remained under wraps, only emerging in March 2021 shortly before the Duke and Duchess were interviewed by Oprah Winfrey to lay bare their grievances against the Palace and Royal family.
The Duchess has always denied the allegations, with a spokesman calling it a “smear campaign” and saying she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself”.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said at the time that they were “clearly very concerned” about the allegations.
He said: “Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.”
On Wednesday, at a briefing for the annual report, Sir Michael Stevens, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, declined to deliver the findings.
“There is nothing on this in the report,” a source added. “As we said last year, this work was undertaken privately and had no Sovereign Grant money spent on it.
“I can confirm, though, that it was a review of the handling of the allegations aimed at enabling the royal households to consider potential changes to policies and procedures.
“The review has been completed and recommendations on our policies and procedures have been taken forward, but we will not be commenting further.”
A spokesman for the Sussexes did not comment. They did not respond to suggestions that the Duke and Duchess’s lawyers have been in touch with the palace throughout the process.
It is understood that members of the Royal family are “aware” of HR bullying policies, with members of staff able to access current guidance on the intranet known as “Coronet”.
A source said that bullying and harassment policies were “constantly” being updated, but could not confirm whether there had been specific changes following the review.
They also could not explain how ordinary members of staff could find out about how procedures had changed should they find themselves mistreated at work in the future.
One source critical of the review raised questions about transparency at the public institution, wondering “what was the point?” of the investigation.
The 2021-22 financial report boasts of the royal household’s wellbeing programmes and family-friendly policies, spelling out its aim of being an “outstanding workplace” promoting “pride in work, a sense of teamwork, inclusivity, trust and collaboration”.
It offers counselling and support for staff, with trained mental health first aiders.
An update on diversity figures found Buckingham Palace has 9.6 per cent of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds, with Clarence House – the home of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall – at 10.6 per cent and Kensington Palace – the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – at 13.6 per cent.
Overall, the monarchy cost the taxpayer £102.4 million during 2021-22, an increase of £14.9 million, or 17 per cent, on the previous financial year largely owing to property maintenance.