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Travel Guides – Sussexes never intended to ‘become Trappist monks and take vow of silence’

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex – Craig Ruttle/AP

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex never intended to “become Trappist monks and take a vow of silence” when they stepped back from their public roles, their lawyer has insisted.

Jenny Afia, from law firm Schillings, appeared on BBC2 programme The Princes and the Press on Monday night to defend the couple against various claims made against them in the tabloid media.


She insisted that the Duchess was “absolutely not” guilty of bullying her staff within the royal household, but added that Meghan “wouldn’t want to negate anyone’s personal experiences”.

Ms Afia, who was authorised to appear on camera by the Duchess, also claimed that the Sussexes had never said they wanted privacy, suggesting it was simply a tabloid construct.

Rather, she argued, they had simply taken steps to challenge “blatant violations” because it was in line with their values.

“But that doesn’t mean, just because you assert your human rights that you then become some kind of Trappist monk, take a vow of silence and you’re not allowed to discuss anything,” she said.


“That’s not how privacy works. Privacy is about the right to own and control what personal information you choose to share with somebody.”

The two-part documentary, presented by BBC media editor Amol Rajan, explored the relationship between Prince William, Prince Harry and the media, and the battle to control the narrative.

Alongside the royal correspondents interviewed, were several members of “Team Sussex” including Ms Afia, the couple’s biographer Omid Scobie and Prince Harry’s close friend JJ Chalmers.

The programme has angered the royal households for presenting “overblown and unfounded claims” as fact.


In a rare move, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace joined forces to release a strongly worded joint statement to the programme, expressing disappointment that the BBC was giving such claims credibility.

They turned down an offer to cooperate with the show on the basis that they were not given enough information about the allegations being made and who was making them.

Story continues

An accompanying five-part podcast presented by Rajan, due to be released on Monday with further episodes coming weekly, has been delayed amid concerns about the Royal family’s reaction.

Amol Rajan, presenter of BBC2 documentary The Princes and the Press

Amol Rajan, presenter of BBC2 documentary The Princes and the Press

BBC sources said the podcast would now be released as a box set at a later date.

The second episode focused on the Sussexes’ departure and featured claims that stories about the personal lives of the Cambridges and the Sussexes were briefed “by people connected to the other couple”.

Omid Scobie, the co-author of the Sussexes’ biography Finding Freedom, claimed that Prince Harry had not received the same level of support from courtiers as his brother would have done because he was “the spare” and was “technically collateral damage”.

The Duchess of Sussex's layer Jenny Afia appears in the documentary

The Duchess of Sussex’s layer Jenny Afia appears in the documentary

Ms Afia appeared on screen to respond to claims in the press that Meghan had been “difficult” to work with and had bullied her staff, resulting in employees leaving her household.

The claims appeared in 2018 and are the subject of an ongoing review at Buckingham Palace.

Duchess ‘wouldn’t want to negate anyone’s personal experiences’

However, Ms Afia claimed that there were “massive, massive inaccuracies” in the story.

“What bullying actually means is improperly using power repeatedly and deliberately to hurt someone physically or emotionally,” she said.

“The Duchess of Sussex has absolutely denied ever doing that.

“That said, she wouldn’t want to negate anyone’s personal experiences.”

Ms Afia acknowledged that it was “really hard to prove a negative” and to show you had not bullied someone simply by denying it.

Elsewhere, the episode looked at the coverage of Meghan’s trip to New York for a baby shower, the Sussexes’ use of private jets and the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, the couple’s home in Windsor, which Jonny Dymond, the BBC’s royal correspondent, said was “used as a tremendous stick to beat Harry and Meghan”.

Mr Scobie claimed someone had once asked him whether he was on team Sussex or Cambridge, adding: “Sometimes you have to pick, because the narrative that you’re reporting goes against the narrative that another household or aide wants out there.”

He added: “You have to remember the person that puts the story out gets to shape the narrative.”

Ms Afia said she had never seen any evidence that “personal agendas or animosity” in the way the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were portrayed but noted that they were “good business” and claimed negative headlines did better online.

“I think all of that feeds into the coverage,” she said.

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