On May 12, the organization announced that Knauf will stand down from the role at the end of December 2021. According to a press release, "a planned international relocation" has "necessitated his decision to stand down." Recruiting for the position will begin in the "coming weeks," it added, and Knauf's successor "will be announced in due course."
Knauf first started working with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in February 2015, when he was hired as Communications Secretary at Kensington Palace. In 2019, he led a review of the role and structure of The Royal Foundation, which supports William and Kate's philanthropic work, and became CEO later that year, overseeing the launch of The Earthshot Prize, the Foundation's response to the coronavirus pandemic and Kate's work on early years support for children.
"Working with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has been the privilege of my career," Knauf stated in the release. "I will always be grateful for the opportunity I have had to support their leadership in the UK and internationally. The months ahead will be the busiest time in the Foundation's history with the first awards for The Earthshot Prize and more progress on our early childhood work. We have a lot to do with our amazing team and all of our partners."
William and Kate also said Knauf has been an "integral part" of their team over the past few years. "We are immensely grateful for his hard work and commitment, both at The Royal Foundation and previously as our Communications Secretary," the couple continued. "Since taking over as Chief Executive, Jason has driven positive change, making our vision for our charitable work and the causes that matter most to us a reality. We are sad to see him go but wish him all the very best in his future career. We look forward to launching the recruitment search shortly and welcoming a new Chief Executive later on this year."
According to the newspaper, Knauf sent an email to Simon Case, William's then-private secretary, after a conversation with the head of HR Samantha Carruthers. This email, which E! News has not seen or verified, was then reportedly sent to Carruthers. Per the publication, Knauf, who was also serving as Meghan and Prince Harry's communications secretary at the time, alleged in the email that "the Duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year" and was "seeking to undermine" the confidence of a third employee.
The report spread just days before Oprah Winfrey's interview with Meghan and Harry, who have stepped back as "working members of the royal family," aired. In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for the Sussexes denied the allegations and called them "a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation."
"The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma," a spokesperson also said in a statement to E! News. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."
Buckingham Palace launched an investigation into the accusations that same month. Results have yet to be shared. "We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex," its statement read "Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned. The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace."