Meghan Markle Controversy Around Saudi Prince's Gifted Earrings Explained

Meghan Markle wore earrings given as a wedding present by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid mounting criticism over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, The Times has reported.

The Duchess of Sussex wore the jewelry to a state dinner during a royal tour of Fiji on October 23, 2018, and again at Buckingham Palace a few weeks later.

Khashoggi was killed on October 2 and reports about his death began to appear around October 7.

As early as October 9, The New York Times reported that Turkish officials were blaming the Saudi leadership for murdering Khashoggi, with the crown prince—known as MBS—one of those said to have denied the allegations.

The revelations have emerged just days before Meghan and Harry's tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey is broadcast on Sunday, March 7.

Meghan Markle's Earrings Gifted by Saudi Prince
Meghan Markle attends a state dinner in Fiji on October 23, 2018. Her earrings were a gift from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, worn weeks after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty

The Earrings

Meghan wore the chandelier earrings to a state dinner at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji, on October 23, 2018, during a 16-day tour that also took in Australia, Tonga and New Zealand.

At the time, royal correspondents asked Kensington Palace where the earrings had come from. Reporter Emily Andrews posted on Twitter: "The mystery of Meghan's earrings... all KP will say is that they're 'borrowed'.

The mystery of Meghan’s earrings... all KP will say is that they’re “borrowed”. From whom, they will not say. Most likely the Queen. Quite frustrating when earlier in the day they’re happy to say jewellery that has been given both by her & Prince Charles... pic.twitter.com/oom7cPu0qT

— Emily Andrews (@byEmilyAndrews) October 23, 2018

"From whom, they will not say. Most likely the Queen. Quite frustrating when earlier in the day they're happy to say jewellery that has been given both by her & Prince Charles..."

The earrings were given to Meghan by the crown prince ahead of her wedding in May 2018, after Queen Elizabeth II had lunch with him in March.

There is no suggestion that Meghan has ever met the crown prince in person.

The Times reported that palace staff in London were concerned on noticing the earrings and alerted their counterparts on the royal tour, who chose not to raise the issue until the couple returned to Britain.

Meghan wore the jewelry again to an event for Prince Charles' 70th birthday at Buckingham Palace on November 14.

The Allegations

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that MBS ordered the murder of Khashoggi, according to a declassified report released last week.

Meghan may not have encountered such an assessment when she wore the earrings, but allegations against the Saudi leadership were widely reported at the time.

Jeremy Hunt, then the British foreign secretary, made a statement to the House of Commons the day before the Fiji dinner, in which he said Khashoggi "had indeed suffered a violent death and the Saudi foreign minister has since described it as murder."

Hunt confirmed Liam Fox, then the international trade secretary, had cancelled an appearance at a conference in Riyadh.

The foreign secretary cast doubt on Saudi Arabia's official version of events, telling parliament: "The government condemn Mr Khashoggi's killing in the strongest possible terms."

He added: "I will say frankly to this House that the claim that Mr Khashoggi died in a fight does not amount to a credible explanation. There remains an urgent need to establish exactly what happened on 2 October and thereafter."

Meghan and Saudi Arabia

The Times points out that Meghan was photographed with Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul in October 2016, after she started dating Prince Harry but before the public learnt of their relationship.

The pair met at the One Young World summit in Ottawa, Canada, where Meghan was a counselor, and did a photoshoot together for Vanity Fair.

Hathloul, who campaigned for the right of women to drive, was arrested and sent to jail in Saudi Arabia four days before Meghan and Harry's wedding in May 2018, The Times reported.

She was released last month, but her family said she had been tortured and still faces a travel ban and probation.

After the summit, Meghan wrote on her former lifestyle blog The Tig: "One Young World invites young adults from all over the world who are actively working to transform the socio-political landscape by being the greater good.

"They are delegates who are speaking out against human rights violations, environmental crises, gender equality issues, discrimination and injustice. They are the change."

"Building compassion around the world"

The claims about the earrings came to light at the same time as palace sources briefed The Times about historic bullying allegations against the duchess.

A spokesperson for Meghan 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."