Who is Samantha Cohen? Meghan and Harry's former private secretary is 'central' to Palace's bullying probe
Samantha Cohen, who used to work as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s private secretary, is reportedly a “central” figure in Buckingham Palace's investigation into allegations that the Duchess of Sussex forced royal workers to quit. The Australia-native dubbed as 'Samantha the Panther' was earlier assistant private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II before she was assigned to work with the Sussexes. The mother-of-three reportedly wanted to leave her job at the Palace in 2018 but eventually continued to prepare the ‘Suits’ star for her royal life.
However, in 2019, Cohen from Brisbane resigned to work for a charity dedicated to reducing carbon emissions. She worked for the royals for almost two decades before quitting to join Cool Earth, a UK-based international NGO that works to protect endangered rainforests to combat global warming, protect ecosystems and provide employment for local people. At the time, it was said the reason behind Cohen leaving the job was because she was experiencing extreme stress.
Meghan Markle loses third key royal aide in months as personal secretary announces she's quit
Last week, it was reported that the Palace was to launch a probe into allegations that Meghan bullied royal staff and several of them lost their jobs due to her. The names of the workers who will be part of the investigation have not been released, but it has been said that the “internal review” by human resources could hear evidence from up to ten royal employees. Not just current staffers, but former ones will also be requested to share their experiences with the couple. The aim behind the investigation is reportedly to enhance human resource policies at the Palace.
Allegations against Meghan claim she was behind “driving out” two PAs and shattering the confidence of another member of Kensington Palace staff. Even one former worker accused the pair of being “outrageous bullies” in The Times. In 2018, the paper also reported that one of the senior aides of Meghan and Harry, Jason Knauf, then head of communications, accused the 39-year-old of bullying two PA's “out of the household” and targeting another one. At the time, Knauf also expressed concern about Cohen. “I questioned if the Household policy on bullying and harassment applies to principals (the term used to refer to a member of the royal family),” he added. The current investigation will also reportedly look into why the allegations were not taken seriously at the time despite Knauf raising it numerous times.
A spokesperson for the Palace said, “We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 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.”
Another source added, “No timeframe has been set, particularly as a number of people do not work for the palace and we have to fit around that should they wish to take part. There will be no push to rush through this. It is a very sensitive issue. The fact that we are doing this and have made clear that we are very concerned about the allegations shows how seriously this is being taken.”
The news of the probe came amid controversies created by Meghan and Harry’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. In the two-hour special, the duo made several serious revelations, including from racism and mental health to Meghan thinking of taking her life while five months pregnant with Archie. The Duchess of Sussex said she “couldn't be left alone” and told Harry she “didn't want to be alive anymore”. The soon-to-be-mother of a baby girl also accused the Palace of “perpetuating falsehoods”. “I don't know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us. And, if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I... there is a lot that has been lost already,” Meghan added.