Palace Hiring Outside Lawyers to Look into Meghan Markle Bullying Claims: Report
Buckingham Palace has reportedly decided to call on outside counsel for their inquiry into bullying allegations made against Meghan Markle by palace staffers — a claim which her office has strongly refuted.
An independent team of lawyers will be brought in to run the probe, although the palace initially indicated it would be conducted in-house, according to The Sunday Times which also reported that Meghan and Prince Harry have written to the palace about taking part in the inquiry.
Buckingham Palace previously said that the Sussexes will not be part of the initial inquiry.
"Our commitment to look into the circumstances around allegations from former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex is being taken forward but we will not be providing a public commentary on it," a palace spokesperson tells PEOPLE.
Earlier this month, the palace announced they would launch a probe into the allegations.
"We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex," the palace said. "Accordingly, our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. 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."
"The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace," the statement continued.
Buckingham Palace said they were not classifying the inquiry an "internal investigation," but rather an examination of the allegations and an opportunity for those involved to participate.
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The Duchess of Sussex has denied the allegations.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE after The Times published their story on Mar. 2, a spokesperson for Meghan and Harry said, "The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma. She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."
The complaint, which The Times reports was made in October 2018 by the couple's former communications secretary Jason Knauf, claimed that Meghan drove two personal assistants out of the household and undermined the confidence of a third staff member.
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In response to a legal letter to The Times which reportedly said the newspaper was "being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative" before their Oprah Winfrey interview, a source told PEOPLE, "It is unfair, untrue and disingenuous to say that the palace is coordinating this."
There "are far more important things we are focusing on," a source added, referring to Prince Philip's illness and his ongoing care following a heart procedure, the calls that the Queen has been making about vaccinations and the ongoing business of state.
During the Oprah interview, Meghan said she was "silenced" by the institution, denied help when she was suffering a mental health crisis and that there were "concerns and conversations about how dark [Archie's] skin might be when he's born" voiced by a member of the royal family.
"The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan," read a statement from Buckingham Palace, which was released on Tuesday by Buckingham Palace on behalf of Queen Elizabeth.
"The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning," the statement continued. "While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members."