When Harry and Meghan stepped down as senior royals, many questions were in the air. Where would they go? How would they make money? What would happen to their royal titles? But soon it transpired that there was another question to consider: What about their team of staff? Recently, a royal insider spoke out about that particular issue.
Harry and Meghan hired many extremely accomplished people to help them deal with royal life. And notably, the two of them were the first royals to use an all-female team. These staff members helped the Duke and Duchess out with aspects of royal life including public relations, charity projects, and program coordinating.
Having an all-female team is very in-keeping with Meghan’s values. In 2015 she gave a speech to the UN Women’s conference in which she said, “Women need a seat at the table, they need an invitation to be seated there, and in some cases, where this isn’t available, well then you know what – then they need to create their own table.”
Many of Harry and Meghan’s staff have worked for other important people too. Their American head of communications, Sara Latham, was previously a senior adviser for Hillary Clinton. And in Britain she was special advisor to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Sport and Olympics in the mid-’00s.
Heather Wong, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s private secretary, also boasts an illustrious former employer. Before going to work for Harry and Meghan, she worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President Obama. It so happens that the former president and Prince Harry have a longstanding friendship.
And the inaugural director of Sussex Royal, Natalie Campbell, previously worked for Harry’s brother William. She had the title of “director of insight and innovation” at the Cambridge’s Royal Foundation. When she switched jobs to work for Harry and Meghan instead, it caused some comment in the media.
British tabloid the Daily Mail – a publication that has come under fire for its headlines regarding Meghan – reported on the story in 2019 with the title, “Harry and Meghan take one of William and Kate’s most treasured aides one month after they quit the Cambridge’s Royal Foundation to make their own.” But there was no sign of any actual animosity.
Other members of Harry and Meghan’s team have been honored by the Queen herself. In November 2019, their Assistant Communications Secretary Marnie Gaffney gained the high honor of being made a member of the Royal Victorian Order. This award is given to those who have served the royal family or the monarch well.
And others have made headlines regarding their personal lives. Clara Madden, personal aide to Harry and Meghan, became involved in a minor scandal back in 2016. Nick Loughran, who was at the time the media advisor to Harry, William and Kate, left his girlfriend Rebecca Deacon for Madden. Deacon was Kate’s private secretary.
Since all three of the people involved were staff to the most famous family in the land, the Daily Mail ended up reporting on the story. They used the headline, “Awkward! Kate’s aide ‘seduces’ second staffer: Media adviser who split from Duchess’ ‘Girl Friday’ is now dating Prince Harry’s assistant.”
In the story itself, written by Sebastian Shakespeare, it was noted, “The couple’s media adviser Nick Loughran split last year with Rebecca Deacon, Kate’s ‘Girl Friday,’ and is now said to be courting Clara Madden, a blonde bombshell who works as Prince Harry’s assistant. ‘There must be something in the water,’ whispers my man at the palace.”
Loughran actually left his job at the palace and went to work for Freuds, a public relations company in London. But the story seemed to have a happy ending – Madden and Loughran got married in January 2017, and Madden continued to work for the royals, eventually becoming Harry and Meghan’s projects manager.
There are other important members of Harry and Meghan’s team too, people they’ve carefully selected for high-profile roles. The first trustee of their Sussex Royal Foundation was Karen Blackett, the chairwoman of Mediacom U.K. and one-time race equality business champion under Prime Minister Theresa May.
A woman named Julie Burley was made senior communications officer to the royal couple. It was she who coordinated things when Meghan went into labor with her and Harry’s first child, Archie – she sent out emails informing members of the press that they had to head for Windsor and break the story.
And Fiona Mcilwham looked after public relations for Harry and Meghan. She was a British ambassador to Albania back in 2009, one of the youngest people ever to have that role. She also has a public Twitter account and on her profile she describes herself as a “crown servant, diplomat, wannabe supermum.”
So those are some of the main members of Harry and Meghan’s staff. But of course, being royals they also have a great deal of other helpers at their disposal – hairdressers, aides, nannies and so on. And there have been rumors – no solid information, just reports – that these people don’t always get along with Meghan and Harry.
In December 2018 Meghan’s P.A. Melissa Toubati quit her job after only six months. Rumors spread that it was because Meghan hadn’t been a good boss. An anonymous source told the Daily Mirror, “Her job was highly pressurized, and in the end it became too much. She put up with quite a lot. Meghan put a lot of demands on her, and it ended up with her in tears.”
The insider went on, “She is hugely talented and played a pivotal role in the success of the royal wedding. She’ll be missed by everyone in the household. Melissa is a total professional and fantastic at her job, but things came to a head, and it was easier for them both to go their separate ways.”
A few weeks after that somebody else left the royal staff. This was Samantha Cohen, a woman with the impressive nickname of “The Panther,” who served as Meghan’s private secretary. An anonymous source told The Sunday Times, “Going forward, Meghan might need someone cut from a slightly different cloth to traditional courtiers, who is not a career civil servant or royal insider.”
That December a person described as “a source close to the family” shared to People magazine a detail about apparent tensions in the palace. They said, “The most difficult job in the royal family is to work with Meghan’s ambitions and make them realizable. She will get frustrated if she is told, ‘You can’t do this or can’t do that.’”
It was also in December 2018 that a big, but unverified, story about Meghan and palace staff was reported in The Scottish Sun. According to a person described as “an impeccable royal source,” Meghan and her sister-in-law Kate Middleton had clashed after Meghan spoke rudely to some employees.
The person claimed to the newspaper, “Her and Kate fell out when she b******ed Kate’s staff.” And after that incident, the source said, Kate told the duchess, “That’s unacceptable, they’re my staff and I speak to them.” But spokespeople for the Palace denied that such a thing had ever happened.
And other rumors have spread regarding Meghan and the people who serve her. In May 2019 royal expert Kate Nicholl told Yahoo U.K.’s The Royal Box a story about the Duchess. Allegedly, before her marriage to Prince Harry, Meghan had taken issue with some of the food presented to her as potential wedding dishes.
According to Nicholl, “[Meghan] got very upset when she felt that she could taste egg in a dish when she was told there was no egg, and she said, ‘No, I can taste it, I can taste there’s egg in this dish… I think there was a bit of an upset when suddenly the Queen walked in because of course, this was Windsor Castle; this is her home. And she just quietly took Meghan to the side and said, ‘Meghan, in this family, we don’t speak to people like that.’”
And after Meghan and Harry’s son Archie was born, the tabloids reported that the couple went through several nannies quite quickly. In June 2019 The Sun newspaper announced that the Duke and Duchess had been through three nannies in six weeks, which was perhaps a bit of a red flag.
However, a source told The Sun, “Often there are different needs at different stages of the baby’s life. The first nanny was a night nurse. But Harry and Meghan do not want to rush this or take any risks getting this decision right. It’s deeply personal and can depend on the needs of the baby and parents.”
Then at the beginning of 2020, everything suddenly changed. Harry and Meghan released a shocking statement on social media saying that they would be stepping down as working members of the royal family. And to make things worse, they apparently also did it without running it by the Queen first.
The statement was released on January 8, and it began, “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.”
It continued, “We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”
The statement concluded, “We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”
But what about their team of staff? On February 13 the Daily Mail announced that Harry and Meghan would be letting 15 of them go. An anonymous source told the paper, “While the details are still being finalized and efforts are being made to redeploy people within the royal household, unfortunately there will be some redundancies.”
One of the people going would be Marnie Gaffney, the Daily Mail confirmed. A source said, “She had the option to go back to the Palace, and they wanted her to stay. But she decided it was a natural ending after a decade with the royal household. She will receive her settlement and is looking forward to taking on some new and different challenges.”
Clara Loughran, Sara Latham and Julie Burley had all also apparently lost their jobs. Another source told the paper, “I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that these have been incredibly trying circumstances for their team, who have experienced some very difficult times of late. They are all good people, very loyal and brilliant at their jobs, and everyone feels incredibly sorry for them.”
On February 15 journalist Neil Sean spoke to news channel Fox News about it all and said, “It seems the final nail has been hammered in the separation of Prince Harry and his family thanks to the dismissals of their 15 staff members from the royal household who have been told they are ‘no longer required.’”
Sean continued, “I have been told quite a few staff members had hoped or offered to transfer over to Canada to continue a working relationship [because of] the fact they all loved Prince Harry and working for him… Insiders also note that it’s Meghan that deals with this side of things, and many believe it’s a simple case of her running the show and taking away any responsibility from Harry.”
And Kate Nicholl had something to say about the issue too. She told OK! magazine, “Of course there is the possibility that Harry and Meghan will have had no choice in all of this, given their decision to step away from royal duties, but their staff have been extremely loyal, so it’s likely they will feel let down.”
But other sources claimed that there were no hard feelings from any of the staff members. The insider who spoke to the Daily Mail said, “The team are very loyal to the Sussexes and understand and respect the decision they have taken. They are all close and supporting each other. The team are busy helping to set their Royal Highnesses up for the future and working on a series of final engagements.”
In March, Harry and Meghan apparently held a big going-away party for all their staff at London’s Goring Hotel. A source told gossip website Page Six, “Harry and Meghan have often done fun things like throwing pizza parties or hiring ice cream trucks for their staff, but they wanted to do something special going into this last week together.”
The person continued, “They toasted the team and thanked them for everything they have done. Some of the staffers cried. They’ve all been through so much together, and the staff have been working around the clock to make sure this last visit was as seamless as possible. Meghan and Harry really wanted to show their appreciation; they know how hard everyone has worked.”
It remains to be seen what the future holds for the people who have had their lives changed by Harry and Meghan’s announcement. Their inner circle of assistants are such accomplished people that probably none of them will have any trouble finding new jobs. For the royals themselves though, things remain uncertain.