Just before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Oprah interview aired in March 2021, Kensington Palace dropped their huge smear package on Meghan specifically. This was the birth of the “bullying investigation” and all of the stories of how Meghan made KP employees sob constantly because she assigned them tasks to complete in a timely manner. There was another, more disturbing and carefully worded smear within the oppo dump though: that in 2018, Meghan had purposefully worn diamond earrings gifted to her by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when she knew that MBS had likely ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
It was a pretty bold smear, and it came from not just KP, it came from Angela Kelly, the Queen’s dresser and keeper of the Royal Collection jewelry. Because… those Saudi earrings were a wedding gift, and as such, they belong to the Royal Collection, not Meghan personally. The only way Meghan would have gotten those earrings is if they were given to her by Angela Kelly. Meghan and Harry also didn’t receive the earrings directly – it’s likely that Mohammed bin Salman gave the earrings to Charles and William, especially given that Charles and William met MBS in early 2018. It’s also likely that Meghan was told that the earrings were a gift from the Saudi royal family in general, not MBS specifically. I bring all of this up because the story/smear about the earrings is also included in Valentine Low’s book, Courtiers. Low broke the story originally, and again, it’s so curious to see how information is framed in a Mail excerpt from the book:
During their tour, Harry and Meghan spent 48 hours in Fiji. On the first night, they attended a state dinner hosted by the president, at which the Duchess wore an eye-catching pair of diamond earrings. Kensington Palace said they were loaned, but refused to say from whom. Even by Palace standards, this struck reporters covering the tour as unnecessarily unhelpful.
The reason for this reticence would not become apparent until more than two years later, when I revealed that the chandelier earrings had been a wedding gift from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. At the time of the wedding, there was nothing controversial about the gift. However, on October 2, 2018, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a leading dissident, was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was murdered and dismembered before his body was disposed of. In the run-up to the Sussexes’ tour, the murder was a major international news story.
As early as October 12 – four days before the start of the tour – suspicions were growing that the Crown Prince had personally ordered the killing. Then, on October 20, three days before the dinner in Fiji, Saudi Arabia admitted its officials were responsible for his death.
The idea that Meghan would, at a state occasion, knowingly wear earrings given to her by a man accused of having blood on his hands was surprising – to say the least. Meghan’s staff, in particular, were bemused that she should wear them, given her previous public advocacy for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. So the Kensington Palace briefing that the earrings were loaned had been misleading. But who was responsible?
Sam Cohen told colleagues at the time that the earrings had been borrowed from the jeweller Chopard. This, one presumes, is because it’s what she had been told. It was not true, however. A couple of months after the dinner, a sharp-eyed reader of a blog called Meghan’s Mirror spotted that they were from a collection by the Hong Kong jeweller Butani. So, not Chopard, and not borrowed from the jeweller. Was it an honest, if surprising, mistake? Or was someone lying? And if so, why?
The earrings were given another outing three weeks after Fiji, when Meghan wore them to the Prince of Wales’s 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace on November 14. At that time, Cohen still appeared to be under the impression that they’d been loaned by Chopard. However, others knew the truth. When the earrings had first appeared in photos, London-based staff responsible for registering details of all Royal gifts had recognised them and alerted Kensington Palace. A source said: ‘We made a decision not to confront Meghan and Harry on it, out of fear for what their reaction would be.’
After the Duchess wore the earrings for a second time, an aide took up the matter with Harry. He is said to have looked ‘shocked’ that people knew where the earrings came from, although the Sussexes’ lawyers deny that he was ever questioned about their provenance.
Later, Meghan’s lawyers, Schillings, said: ‘At no stage did the Duchess tell staff that the earrings were “borrowed from a jeweller”, as this would have been untrue and therefore any suggestion that she encouraged them to lie to the media is baseless.’
Two days later, Schillings added: ‘It is possible she said the earrings were borrowed, which is correct, as presents from heads of state to the Royal Family are gifts to Her Majesty the Queen, who can then choose to lend them out to members of the family.’
But that is not convincing: if the earrings were loaned by the Queen, staff would have said so. And no one in normal conversation would ever have referred to them as being loaned; they were a wedding gift for Meghan, to use as she liked.
Again, this is not hard: either the earrings belong to Meghan personally or they belong to the Royal Collection. Does Meghan still have the earrings? Doubtful, because Angela Kelly would have leaked that Meghan ran off with Royal Collection jewelry. So you have Meghan being given the earrings by Angela Kelly, who told her they were a wedding gift from the Saudi royal family. The MBS issue looks bad… because William and Charles had literally met with MBS in person just months before MBS ordered the assassination of Khashoggi.
All that being said, I’m completely open to having a conversation about the provenance of royal jewelry. Surely, if the Windsors are so concerned with Saudi blood diamonds, they’ll return those earrings Meghan wore? They’ll probably need to return all of the other blood diamonds given to Camilla and the rest of the Windsor clan too. I mean, if Meghan’s earrings are so problematic, surely the rest of the Saudi gifts are too? Perhaps there could be some kind of public audit of Royal Collection jewelry, specifically for gifts from Saudi Arabia which now need to be returned to the kingdom.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images, Instar.