Princess Diana's chief of staff says Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal rift echoes the past - and responsibility for reconciliation lies with 'senior palace management'

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Lauren Edmonds
·4 min read
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Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and Princess Diana
Princess Diana's former aide spoke out about the royal rift ahead of "Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special." Getty Images

Princess Diana's former chief of staff and private secretary spoke out about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's rift with the royal family.

On Sunday, Patrick Jephson appeared on CNN to discuss the current royal rift ahead of Harry and Meghan's highly-anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey.

The TV event, a special two-hour interview on CBS, will be the couple's first sit-down interview since stepping down as senior royals. They are expected to address their departure from royal duties and the tensions surrounding the royal family.

Jephson told CNN that the couple's experiences mirrored those of Princess Diana.

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"Thirty years ago, we were in a comparable situation where rifts were opening up within the royal family and it was starting to escalate," said Jephson.

"There were a lot of unhappy people involved then, I'm quite sure there are a lot of unhappy people involved now," he added.

Diana faced intense media scrutiny after separating from Prince Charles in 1992 and distancing from the royal family.

He continued, "First and foremost, we should understand that this is a family rift. It has taken on a lot of the trapping of a big media PR story, but at the heart of this are real people really hurting. I hope that somewhere in the midst of the current back and forth, somebody is putting down the seeds for eventual reconciliation, which has to come."

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated in 1992 before later finalizing their divorce. Anwar Hussein /Getty Images

When questioned about who bore responsibility in re-connecting the family, Jephson said it fell to the palace management.

"The responsibility for starting to heal a lot of this damage and to put a stop to the escalation does lie with senior palace management," he told CNN.

Jephson, who served under Diana for eight years, said Prince Charles has "examples from his own history of how these things can be made worse, and how they can be made better."

Another similarity Jephson noted was that tell-all interviews for royal family members could be a misfire.

"Both Prince Charles and Princess Diana and more recently Prince Andrew have tried to put their sides of the story on TV through these sorts of interviews and in all cases, it has backfired," said Jephson.

Jephson commented on allegations that Markle bullied palace staff

Meghan Markle Getty Images
Meghan Markle attends the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 at Westminster Abbey. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Last Tuesday, a report from The Sunday Times alleged that Markle bullied two senior staff members during her time with the royal family.

The Times' Valentine Low reported that an anonymous senior staffer said Markle "humiliated" them and some were "reduced to tears."

Jason Knauf, the couple's former communication secretary, reportedly filed a complaint about Markle to the palace's HR department in October 2018.

Buckingham Palace said it would investigate the allegations, while a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex denied the accusations.

Asked if the palace ever played "political hardball," Jephson said, "I suppose if you start to employ PR experts, they will do what their job is."

"This is the way in which, combined with social media, what is essentially a family squabble turns into something potentially much more damaging," he said. "It is a matter of judgment how both sides use the media."

Prince Harry Meghan Markle Oprah
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle spoke with Oprah Winfrey for their first sit-down interview since leaving their royal duties. Handout/Getty Images

Just hours before the CBS interview, The Queen gave a Commonwealth Day speech that showed "where the royal family's priorities lie."

In the days leading up to the interview, CBS has released clips of Meghan and Harry speaking intimately with Oprah.

"Were you silent or were you silenced?" Oprah asked Markle, who's pregnant with her second child.

"Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special" premiers on Sunday, March 7 at 8 p.m. EST/PST and 7 p.m. CT.

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