Meghan and Harry: Why do Sussex staff keep leaving?


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Less than 24 hours apart, two of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s members of staff announced their decisions to step down. Since their marriage in 2018, at least 14 staffers have left the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s empire and this week, their head of audio, Rebecca Sananès, and Archewell Foundation president, Mandana Dayani, became the latest to leave Camp Sussex. Ms Sananes, who was in charge of Meghan’s podcast, Archetypes, is departing after just over a year at the company. She has been replaced by media executive Serena Regan; it has not yet been decided whether a second series of Archetypes will be commissioned.

Her announcement came off the back of the departure of Ms Dayani, who ran Archewell for less than 18 months and will not be replaced, reportedly leaving the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to take “full lead” of their company. 

Ms Dayani apparently stepped down by mutual agreement at the weekend. A statement read: “Ms Dayani is fully supportive of the Duke and Duchess in their new leadership roles and they remain friends”.

With her US media connections, the Iranian-born activist was considered one of the royal couple’s most important advisers. In a statement last night, Ashley Hansen, Meghan and Harry’s global press secretary, said Ms Dayani “has been an integral part of Archewell and we are grateful for her passion, commitment and leadership”. 

She is not the first to join the Sussex team only to leave unexpectedly quickly. In March 20121, Catherine St-Laurent left Archewell after just 11 months; she acted as a founding executive director who also worked as chief of staff to Harry and Meghan. 

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Harry and Meghan have lost at least 14 members of staff since 2018 (Image: GETTY)

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Mandana Dayani was at the company for less than 18 months (Image: Getty)

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An insider told the Telegraph: “I think there was a sense that she was having to fulfil a great many functions for the couple — not all of which were necessarily in her job spec.”

The Canadian mother-of-two took on the position of chief of staff and executive director of the Sussexes’ non-profit enterprise in April 2020. She was said to be “the bright hope to run their organisation”.

Ms St-Laurent stepped down to take on a “senior advisory” role at the organisation and was replaced by Meghan and Harry’s UK PR chief James Holt. At the same time, in a sign of the couple’s growing ventures across the pond, it was announced that the Duke and Duchess hired veteran producer Ben Browning to head up the film and TV branch of their company.

After that came the exit of global press secretary Toya Holness, who joined the Sussexes in October 2020 and was promoted to oversee their PR on both sides of the Atlantic in March last year.

Ms Holness has previously been described as “Meghan’s shadow” — having often been spotted wearing the same style of power suits and Hollywood sunglasses. She is understood to have parted ways with the Sussexes in May, with insiders claiming she “wanted out” after finding herself “having to fulfil a great many functions for the couple”.

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Meghan and Harry stepped down from their roles in the Royal Family in 2020 (Image: Getty)

The confirmation of Ms Dayani’s departure this week was explained as part of the Duke and Duchess’ plan to take “full lead” of Archewell in a bid to level up. A source, with knowledge of the company, said the frequent comings and goings can be attributed to the fact that Archewell is a start-up “in a lot of ways”. 

They told The Telegraph: “I don’t think the company or the principles are any different from any other companies. Whether it’s assistant level or manager level, after a year or so people want to move on…Is it fair to say some of them might not have been the right fit? Sure. Is it fair to say that some got other opportunities and just left? Yes.”

Both Ms Dayani’s and Ms Sananès’ departures have come days before Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary airs; the series is expected to be explosive as Meghan and Harry tell their “side of the story”.

It is set to mark the beginning of a particularly tumultuous time for the Sussexes as it comes ahead of the publication of Harry’s memoir, Spare, which is expected to be highly controversial.  

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix series will be released on Thursday (Image: Netflix)

meghan and harry netflix trailer

Harry and Meghan have featured in a couple of explosive trailers this week (Image: Netflix)

In recent months, there has been speculation regarding the success of Harry and Meghan’s commercial deals. Earlier this year, Netflix confirmed their first subscriber decline since 2011; soon after, it was announced that Pearl — another Archewell project, led by the Duchess — was cancelled amid cutbacks.  

More recently, there have been conversations about delaying the Sussexes’ docuseries after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, with suggestions that Netflix needed to drum up high viewer figures to justify its multi-million-pound investment. It is understood that the series has been in the works for a long while, with the couple being spotted with camera crews on several occasions in the last year. 

And the journey to airing has been less than smooth, with the couple dropping the first director they hired to tell their story. Sources told Page Six there had been a disagreement between the Sussexes and Garrett Bradley, who directed a critically acclaimed series about the tennis star Naomi Osaka and was brought in to helm what is now called Harry & Meghan. 

“Garrett wanted Harry and Meghan to film at home and they were not comfortable doing that,” said one source. “There were a few sticky moments between them, and Garrett left the project. Harry and Meghan’s own production company captured as much footage as they could before Liz Garbus was hired.”

Now the docuseries has been confirmed and trailers have been released, it appears that the couple plans to reflect on their time in the Royal Family. 

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Meghan and Harry got married in May 2018 in a lavish ceremony in Windsor (Image: Getty)

The Royal Household of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was known to have suffered staff losses almost immediately after it was established. In September 2018, former Kensington Palace deputy communications secretary Katrina McKeever quietly left the press office.

According to royal authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, Ms McKeever and the Sussexes parted amicably. Writing in their 2021 book claimed Finding Freedom, they said she “left on a good note with the Sussexes”. 

Two months later, Meghan’s PA, Melissa Toubati, handed in her notice after just six months, said to have decided to leave after the Duchess had left her “in tears” with her demands. 

In January 2019, after six months under the Sussexes’ employment, a female protection officer, who has not been named for security reasons, also departed. A Scotland Yard source said at the time she was leaving “for personal reasons” which had “absolutely nothing to do with the Duke or the Duchess”.

Then, in March 2019, Amy Pickerill, the Duchess’s deputy private secretary departure was announced. At the time, it was insisted the decision had been an amicable one. However, royal author Valentine Low recently suggested that this may not have been the case. 

In his book, Courtiers, Mr Low claimed that when the Duchess discovered Ms Pickerill had handed in her notice, she was “so angry” she refused to let her travel in the same car to an engagement that morning.

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Amy acted as the Duchess’ deputy private secretary (Image: Getty)

Not long after came the bullying allegations, which saw Jason Knauf’s formal complaint come to light. In October 2018, the former communications secretary to the then-Cambridges and the Sussexes, submitted a formal complaint to Prince William’s private secretary, Simon Case, about the bullying he said various members of the household had been subject to. 

He wrote: “I am very concerned that the Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year… we have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behaviour.”

These allegations have been consistently denied by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have claimed they were the victims of a “calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation”.  

Mr Knauf left to work solely for Prince William and Kate, Princess of Wales in 2019, as did communications secretary Christian Jones. In his letter, he suggested the pressure might prove too much for other members of staff, including senior aide Samantha Cohen, who is nicknamed “the Panther”. 

Ms Cohen worked for the late Queen for 17 years before moving to work for the Sussexes in 2018. She was initially tasked with helping Meghan adjust to life as a working royal and served as the couple’s private secretary until her resignation in October 2019. 

It is understood that she was planning on leaving Buckingham Palace in 2018 but agreed to help the Duchess during her first months. She left to work for environmental charity Cool Earth.

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Jason Knauf stepped down near the end of 2019 (Image: Getty)

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The couple will now reportedly take ‘full lead’ of their company (Image: Getty)

It was around this time that two nannies left their service. According to the Sussexes’ biographers, the couple were “forced” to let one nanny go “for being unprofessional”. 

Following Harry and Meghan’s shock announcement that they were stepping back from their royal roles, the original head of the Sussexes’ foundation, Natalie Campbell, left her role having held the position for just five months. 

As a result of their exit, 15 employees lost their jobs, including Sara Latham, who acted as director of communications. Ms Latham previously worked for Presidents Clinton and Obama and was hired when the Sussexes and Cambridges split their households. 

When the couple left the UK for Canada, the relationship between them and their staff had become tense. In his book, Mr Low wrote: “At the back of [colleagues’] minds was the feeling that anyone leaving the Sussex team would be best advised to think of a good excuse. Meghan did not like it if she thought it was about her.” 

However, Mr Scobie and Ms Durand argue that any clashes may have been down to cultural differences, arguing that there are key differences in communication style between Americans and Brits. They wrote: “Americans can be much more direct, and that often doesn’t sit well in the much more refined institution of the monarchy.”


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