News & Politics

Meghan Markle and the MBS Earrings: What We Know

Just weeks after Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, Markle wore earrings that were a gift from the Saudi prince.

Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

Less than a week before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s highly anticipated tell-all Oprah interview is due to air, a new story from The Times in London reports that weeks after Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Markle wore earrings that were a gift from the prince.

Markle reportedly donned the jewels during a royal tour in Fiji in October 2018 and again the following month while she attended a birthday party for the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. According to The Times, the pair was a wedding present from bin Salman, who is colloquially known as MBS, and one source alleges that Markle attempted to lie the public about the earrings’ provenance, suggesting that they were borrowed from a jeweler.

Markle’s lawyers refuted what they called “spurious allegations,” stating that if Markle suggested they were borrowed, it would have indicated that she borrowed them from the Crown’s royal collection. Her lawyers also said that Markle was “unaware at the time of the dinner of speculation that the crown prince was involved in the murder of the journalist,” according to the Telegraph. That seems unlikely, though, considering that many accounts at the time suggested bin Salman was involved in Khashoggi’s brutal murder.

The earring news comes days after a newly publicized report from US intelligence officials that confirms the CIA’s 2018 conclusion that bin Salman approved the assassination. Khashoggi was living in Northern Virginia and feared for his safety while he reported on Saudi Arabia, his home. He continued criticizing bin Salman and the government in a column for the Washington Post. He was preparing to marry his fiancée when he needed a document from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He never left the building. Now his assassination is at the center of controversy in US-Saudi relations.

The provenance question of the jewels in the British Crown’s collection is complicated. There are strict rules and traditions about who can borrow which items from the queen, and it’s likely that Markle might not have had much choice in the matter. At this point, we just don’t know—but the story’s timing seems potentially aimed at discrediting Markle before this possible bombshell interview.

Markle is typically very intentional about the designers and brands that she wears. In one instance, when the pair formally introduced their baby son, Archie, to the public, Markle chose to spotlight a biracial British designer in a nod to her and her son’s identities. Practically any item that the fashion icon wears sells out or earns a waiting list of thousands trying to emulate the duchess. It’s also not the first time she’s worn something that had resonance in Washington: Last fall when the couple appeared on the podcast Teenager Therapy, Markle sported an RBG T-shirt with a face mask featuring a quote from the late Supreme Court Justice. (When Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the court in an interview at Georgetown, she replied “when there are nine.”) With her work of promoting human rights and making political statements through her fashion choices, Markle probably would have avoiding picking up this controversial pair if she knew its background. Some folks on Twitter have even suggested she might have been set up.

The Times story also alleges that Markle bullied royal aides. Markle’s spokesperson responded to the allegations in a statement: “Let’s just call this what it is—a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation. We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet.”

Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.