Prince William's Ex-Aide From Meghan 'Bullying' Era Fights to Keep New Job

Prince William's former aide from the era when Meghan Markle was accused of bullying staff is under pressure to quit his job at the top of the British government.

Simon Case began his career in politics before moving to Kensington Palace as William's private secretary—his most senior advisor—in July 2018. He played a key role in the saga of Meghan's relationship with her staff after he was sent an email accusing her of bullying by then-communications secretary Jason Knauf in October 2018.

Case is also widely understood to be the man Prince Harry nicknamed "The Fly" in his book, Spare because he had spent much of his career "adjacent to" the "offal of government."

Currently the Cabinet Secretary and head of the Home Civil Service, Case has now been dragged into a different scandal relating to former U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock's WhatsApp messages. The saga may be of interest to royal watchers because it speaks to Case's professionalism, which has some relevance to the debate about what went wrong at Kensington Palace in 2018.

Meghan Markle With William, Simon Case
Meghan Markle is seen at Government House in Wellington, New Zealand on October 28, 2018. Prince William's private secretary Simon Case [inset left] is under fire over his WhatsApp messages. Samir Hussein/WireImage

Simon Case's WhatsApp Messages

Hancock was in charge of the Department of Health during much of the COVID-19 pandemic but quit in the summer of 2021 after having an affair with an aide in his ministerial office.

He subsequently published a ghost-written memoir with a political journalist who is an outspoken critic of lockdowns, which he implemented during his time in government. The move backfired when she handed over a trove of Hancock's WhatsApp messages, which he had supplied her, to The Daily Telegraph.

Many of his conversations had been with Case, who had in unguarded moments spoken in a manner some felt was unbecoming of a senior civil servant. In one message, Case suggested it was "hilarious" that passengers flying into Britain had been "locked up" in quarantine hotels.

He also said that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, then the country's treasury chief, was "going bonkers" about covid testing being tightened up for bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues.

Quoted in The Guardian, Jill Rutter, a former senior civil servant, said: "I'm not sure even in a private office you would expect quite this degree of informality and chattiness. I can see that these were exceptional times, but the bit that struck me even more than casualness, the bit that really jarred, was saying it was 'hilarious' that people are being banged up in quarantine hotels."

"That is the sort of thing you really don't expect civil servants to be saying because they are supposed to be serving the public," she added.

What's more, U.K. newspapers including The Independent have reported more messages may come to light in the future via a public inquiry into the pandemic. Sources have been briefing the press that Case may have to resign.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said in a statement: "As the Prime Minister has said, he and the Cabinet Secretary are working closely together to deliver the Government's agenda. The Cabinet Secretary's focus is on leading the Civil Service to deliver that work."

What Simon Case's WhatsApp Messages Have to Do With Harry and Meghan

While on the face of it, the Hancock debacle is unrelated to Case's time at the palace it may still be interesting to royal watchers due to the specific defense Prince Harry offered against the allegations Meghan bullied her staff.

In Spare, Harry confirmed that there was a "poisoned" atmosphere at Kensington Palace in 2018 and that staff had at points been hunched over desks weeping.

He said Prince William blamed Meghan for the breakdown in staff relations at their private office, while Harry blamed staff his brother had brought in from the government.

Former Comms Chief Jason Knauf
Former Kensington Palace Communications Secretary Jason Knauf, shown above, sent an email accusing Meghan Markle of bullying to Simon Case, Prince William's private secretary, in October 2018. "The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights," Knauf wrote in the email. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

"In such a climate there was no such thing as constructive criticism. All feedback was seen as an affront, an insult," Harry wrote. "More than once a staff member slumped across their desk and wept. For all this, every bit of it, Willy blamed one person. Meg. He told me so several times, and he got cross when I told him he was out of line.

"He was just repeating the press narrative, spouting fake stories he'd read or been told. The great irony, I told him, was that the real villains were the people he'd imported into the office, people from government, who didn't seem impervious to this kind of strife—but addicted to it.

"They had a knack for backstabbing, a talent for intrigue, and they were constantly setting our two groups of staff against each other."

Case moved from Downing Street to the palace in July 2018, around the time that Harry first begins talking about problems in the private office in Spare. Knauf, who worked for Harry, Meghan, William and Kate Middleton at the time, made his allegations of bullying in a private email to Case later that year.

He wrote: "I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year. The treatment of X [name removed] was totally unacceptable."

"The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights," Knauf added. "She is bullying Y [name removed] and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behavior towards Y [name removed]."

Knauf also had a background in politics, though in his slightly more distant past, having quit the U.K. Treasury in 2010 for a new career doing communications for the Royal Bank of Scotland. He joined Kensington Palace in 2015.

Christian Jones also crossed from the civil service into the palace, initially as deputy communications secretary, but only later in December 2018 after the bullying allegation against Meghan had already been made.

The scandal over Case's WhatsApp messages may not definitively answer the question of who was right in the long-running question of whether Meghan bullied her staff.

However, supporters of Harry and Meghan may view the revelations as a point in their favor.

Jack Royston is the chief royal correspondent at Newsweek, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jack_royston and read his stories on Newsweek's The Royals Facebook page.

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