Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, wore earrings given to her by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, soon after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, The Times of London reported.
A report on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, detailed accusations of bullying at Buckingham Palace by the duchess dating back to 2018, which she and her husband, Prince Harry, have denied.
The paper also reported that at a formal dinner in Fiji that year, the duchess wore a pair of earrings that were a wedding gift from the Saudi crown prince.
The dinner was three weeks after Washington Post columnist Khashoggi had been murdered at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
A spokesperson for the Sussexes told The Times that the couple’s lawyers had written to the paper, calling the allegations around the earrings “spurious.”
The Times reported that Markle was aware of the earrings’ provenance at the time.
Suspicions around the crown prince’s involvement in the killing began almost immediately after Khashoggi’s death, though it took much longer for certainty to build around his involvement. A source close to the couple told Insider that she had not been aware of these rumors at the time.
About six weeks later, the CIA concluded that the crown prince had ordered the killing, sources told The Washington Post, which was reported at the time but not immediately confirmed by US officials.
US intelligence pointing to Salman’s involvement was declassified by the Biden administration last week. The crown prince denies ordering the killing.
The Times reported that at the time of the dinner, the duchess briefed staff that the earrings were borrowed from a jeweler.
Lawyers for the Sussexes denied to the paper that she had misled anyone about their origin.
People magazine reported that neither Markle nor Harry was present when the gift was given on March 7, 2018, at Buckingham Palace. As with all gifts to the royal family, the earrings would belong to the institution of the British monarchy rather than to any person.
“In a detailed legal letter of rebuttal to The Times, we have addressed these defamatory claims in full, including spurious allegations regarding the use of gifts loaned to The Duchess by The Crown,” a spokesperson told the paper.
The report comes a few days before the broadcast of an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
In teaser clips, Harry compared his experience to that of his mother, Princess Diana, adding that he had feared “history repeating itself,” seemingly a reference to the intense media coverage that preceded Diana’s death in a car crash while fleeing photographers.
In a response to all the allegations in The Times’ report, a spokesperson for the couple told the paper it was “no coincidence” that the report, which they deny, was published just before the CBS interview.
He said: “Let’s just call this what it is — a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation.
“We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet.
“It’s no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years.”