Who is Jason Knauf? The former royal aide giving evidence against Meghan Markle

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Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

If, like us, you can't get enough of all-things-royal, it's likely you'll have heard the name Jason Knauf of late. In recent weeks, the 37-year-old royal staffer has been thrust into the spotlight after giving evidence against Meghan Markle – whom he was employed by as a communications secretary and aide between 2015 and 2018.

With so much buzz around the former royal aide and his ex-employer, we got to thinking: Who is Jason Knauf? And why is he giving evidence against the Duchess of Sussex?

Who is Jason Knauf?

In 2015, Knauf joined Kensington Palace as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's communications secretary. Quickly becoming a trusted staffer, Knauf was tasked with helping the couple with their personal letters, and was eventually invited to their highly exclusive wedding in 2018.

Not long after the Sussex's nuptials, Knauf became the Duchess' personal secretary, handling private letters to her family members. During this time, Markle sued the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline, part of Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), alleging that the publications had leaked sections of a "personal and private" letter sent to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018. It's been reported that, prior to sending the letter, the Duchess sought advice from Knauf on its contents.

At the time of the initial High Court case, Knauf, along with other royal staffers, remained neutral. However, he's since said he "regretted" not giving evidence, having been "deprived" of the chance at the hearing after the Duchess won a summary judgment. The royal aide now wishes to provide a witness statement to be considered as part of the appeal proceedings.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo - Getty Images

Why is Jason Knauf giving evidence against Meghan Markle?

Earlier this year, Markle won a private information and copyright infringement case against ANL over their publication of what she claimed to be a "personal and private" letter to her father. ANL had argued that Markle was not the sole copyright owner, instead claiming that Knauf himself had co-written the letter, although at the time he denied this.

Knauf's denial of his part in the letter ultimately lead to Markle winning her case, with Lord Justice Warby of the High Court branding the publication of the letter "manifestly excessive and hence unlawful."

Since February's ruling, ANL has appealed the High Court's decision, and this week Knauf gave evidence against Markle, expressing his regret at not doing so during the first trial. In his witness statement, the 37-year-old alleges that the Duchess wrote the letter knowing it may be leaked to the press.

"When the Duchess was considering how to handle Mr Markle's increasing public interventions – both for concerns about his welfare and also to protect her reputation – she explored options for written communication that might convince him to stop giving interviews, but that could also set the record straight if he gave them to the media," Knauf said in his statement.

"She asked me to review an electronic draft of the letter saying, 'Obviously everything I have drafted is with the understanding that it could be leaked so I have been meticulous in my word choice but please do let me know if anything stands out for you as a liability'," he added. "She also asked a specific question regarding addressing Mr Markle as 'daddy' in the letter, saying 'Given I've only ever called him daddy it may make sense to open as such (despite him being less than paternal), and in the unfortunate event that it leaked it would pull at the heartstrings'."

Photo credit: Taylor Hill - Getty Images
Photo credit: Taylor Hill - Getty Images

In light of Knauf's claims, Markle apologised to the court, and said she could "not remember these exchanges." The Duchess added: "I had absolutely no wish or intention to mislead the defendant or the court."

Speaking about Knauf's testimony, Keith Mathieson, a solicitor for ANL, said: "Mr Knauf was plainly a central figure in the events he describes... Given the high profile nature of this litigation and the likelihood of his evidence (if admitted) being widely reported, as well as the position he holds, it is hardly conceivable that he would say anything he did not believe to be true and I know of nothing in his evidence which is subject to any reasonable challenge."

The Court of Appeal judges are reviewing the case, and have said they will give their ruling at a later date.

What does Jason Knauf do now?

A few months after the Duchess of Sussex made her claims against ANL, she and Knauf fell out over his claims that she bullied junior staff at the palace, with The Times reporting he was the anonymous royal staffer to submit the 2018 complaint against her to HR.

Following his fallout with Markle, Knauf took a break from royal employment, but has since rejoined Kensington Palace, first as an aide to Prince William in 2019, and now as acting Chief Executive Officer of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Royal Foundation – although he is due to step down at the end of this year.

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