William and Kate’s former aide recognised in New Year Honours

The American-born former corporate affairs executive worked for William and Kate and Harry and Meghan.

30 December 2022

A former royal aide who made a complaint of bullying against the Duchess of Sussex has been recognised for his service to the monarchy in the New Year Honours.

Jason Knauf has been made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (RVO) after working for seven years for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and later the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

He ended his career with the royal household as chief executive of William and Kate’s Royal Foundation, stepping down at the end of 2021.

Earthshot Prize Awards
Jason Knauf speaking at the first Earthshot Prize awards in his role as chief executive of the Royal Foundation (Alberto Pezzali/PA)

Honours within the RVO are in the King’s gift and are bestowed independently of Downing Street to people who have served the monarch or the royal family in a personal way.

When working for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as their communications secretary in October 2018, he emailed his concerns about Meghan to William’s then private secretary, in an apparent attempt to force Buckingham Palace to protect staff.

The duchess’s legal team have in the past strenuously denied the allegation.

In the Sussexes’ recent Netflix documentary series, Meghan’s lawyer claimed the former aide could not have given evidence in the duchess’s copyright lawsuit against a newspaper publisher “without the authority of his bosses”.

The duchess had successfully sued ANL, publisher of the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online, over five articles that reproduced parts of a “personal and private” letter to her estranged father Thomas Markle in August 2018.

Evidence from Mr Knauf, Harry and Meghan’s former communications secretary who at the time was a key aide of William and Kate, was relied upon by Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) as it appealed against Meghan’s legal victory.

Prince and Princess of Wales
Jason Knauf worked for the Prince and Princess of Wales (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

A High Court judge ruled in Meghan’s favour last year without a full trial, but ANL argued the case should go to a trial, with the publisher’s lawyers arguing new evidence from Mr Knauf suggested Meghan wrote the letter with the understanding that it could be leaked.

The challenge was dismissed by Court of Appeal judges.

During the final episode of the six-part documentary, Harry said there were attempts to try to “cover” the aide’s association with William, with Mr Knauf being described as a “former aide of Meghan and Harry” as opposed to, at the time, working as chief executive of William and Kate’s Royal Foundation.

A written statement from Mr Knauf’s legal team broadcast during the Netflix episode said: “These claims are entirely false. Mr Knauf was asked to provide evidence by both the Duchess of Sussex and Associated Newspapers.

“He was advised by counsel that evidence in his possession could be relevant and he then provided this directly to the court, staying neutral in the process.”

Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Harry and Meghan also employed Jason Knauf in their household (Joe Giddens/PA)

Before joining the royal household the American-born former corporate affairs executive worked for a range of institutions, from the office of the New Zealand prime minister to HM Treasury and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

He became the communications secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry in 2015 before leading the press team for Meghan and Harry and later becoming a senior adviser to William and Kate.

Mr Knauf led a review of the Royal Foundation’s role and structure from March 2019, before becoming its chief executive in September of that year.

During his time Mr Knauf oversaw the launch of the Foundation’s Earthshot Prize – William’s ambitious £50 million environmental prize, now an independent charity, which recognises solutions, ideas and technologies that “repair the planet”.

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