That the Americans have historically given the British Royal House some headaches has been known since the Boston Tea Party of 1773. But that a 37-year-old Texan ended up holding the thread of the reputation of a (now former) member of the Royal Family not even the most possessed of rebels would have dreamed of it three centuries ago. For sure, the monarchy will not collapse under his words, but the intervention of Jason Knauf in the appeal hearing of the trial between Meghan Markle and the British tabloids Daily Mail e Mail on Sunday, sued by the Duchess of Sussex for breach of privacy, is no small feat.
Her bombshell testimony in court painted Meghan a certainly unflattering portrait: the Duchess appeared to be a liar (“she knew very well that the letter to her father would be divulged, indeed she wrote it precisely because it was”), hypocritical (“For the drafting of her biography Finding Freedom he had had contact with the authors, contrary to what was claimed “), and overbearing (” Three colleagues of the staff had been forced to leave their jobs by the Duchess and her personal secretary Samantha Cohen lived under constant pressure “) and if he had not so far he had spoken is because “he had been prevented”.
In his testimony, according to Associated Newspapers Limited, publisher of the two tabloids on trial, Knauf was “measured in tone and careful not to report anything beyond his personal knowledge.” While the Sussex spokesperson did arrive at the The Times a statement in which the Dukes say they are “deeply disappointed to see how much the press give credit to this defamatory portrait of the Duchess”.
But who is Jason Knauf, former press officer of the Dukes of Cambridge and the Dukes of Sussex and today the protagonist of this royal drama?
Born in Huntsville in 1984 after the London School of Economics and a career in banking and finance, joined the Buckingham Palace staff in 2015. But it is only in 2018, immediately after Harry and Meghan’s wedding, that he is chosen as the communications manager of the two couples: William and Kate and the newlyweds. Its staff, made up of five people, takes care of everything: relations with national and international media, speeches to be delivered in public, comments, and the choice of photos to be disseminated.
It is to him that Meghan and Harry ask to reread and correct the famous letter to her father, now at the center of the process. And he is the first to report, with an official email, in 2018, the alleged misconduct of Meghan with the staff, expressing his concern about the incident, which he defines as “totally unacceptable”.
In March 2019, according to what he himself wrote on LinkedIn, Knauf became Senior Advisor exclusively to Dukes of Cambridge, but after only seven months, in September of the same year he was promoted to CEO of the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, role in which he also oversaw Prince William’s intervention at the recent Earthshot Prize, and which he still holds today.
A dazzling career which, however, had never before brought him to the headlines. Like a modern Richelieu of communication – and you know how much men like him are needed in the Palaces – he has always worked behind the scenes so that his assisted gifts would avoid slips and falls in style, which are always lurking. Much appreciated and followed by the British dukes, the only friction seems to have been with his compatriot. But if he was good at avoiding slips to others, he was much better at avoiding his own and only after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey last March, did he start talking: when Buckingham Palace started a ‘ investigation into alleged bullying attributed to Meghan Markle.
“A crisis of conscience made him change his mind about maintaining confidentiality” he had written in July the Mail on Suday (but the objectivity, in this case, must be questioned) and now, at the hearing, he unsheathed old messages and old emails that speak clearly and deny the statements made by the Duchess.
Whether it was a real crisis of conscience, a warm suggestion from his current employers (Meghan’s brothers-in-law) or pebbles he wanted to get out of his shoe, Knauf chose the right time to speak. Even because at the end of the year she will leave her position as CEO at the Royal Foundation (the announcement she made in May) and will follow her diplomatic husband who has accepted a position abroad.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have already issued a heartfelt greeting: “Jason has been an integral part of our team since 2015. We are immensely grateful to him for the work he has done and for his commitment, both, in the past, as ours. head of communications, is currently in the Royal Foundation ». But there are those who swear that Knauf will not leave London on the sly.