In October last year the Duchess of Sussex filed a privacy claim against the publishers of the Mail on Sunday, Associated Newspapers Limited, after the newspaper printed extracts of a letter she wrote to her father.
Since then, court documents and hearings have seen a series of details put into the public domain about what went on behind palace walls in the lead up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding and beyond. Now, papers filed by Meghan’s legal team have described the former working royal as “pregnant, unprotected by the Institution, and prohibited from defending herself.”
The documents, which were filed in response to a request from Defendant Associated Newspapers, detail the Duchess’s conflicting views to the palace press team's over a “no comment” approach to media inquiries.
They also provide further information of specific plans Harry and Meghan say they made for Thomas Markle to attend their May 2018 wedding. And at one point, the court papers make the claim, without saying where the figure had come from, that the public funds used for their wedding security were “far outweighed by the tourism revenue of over one billion pounds sterling that was generated” from the event.
The Duchess is suing Associated Newspapers Limited for the alleged breach of privacy, infringement of copyright, and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018. The publisher has previously said it stands by the story published and will be defending the case “vigorously.”
The latest filing responds to several questions from Associated, many concerned with the interview Meghan’s friends gave to People magazine, which was published in February 2019, in which one of the friends mentioned the existence of the letter. One section reads:
“The Claimant had become the subject of a large number of false and damaging articles by the UK tabloid media, specifically by the Defendant, which caused tremendous emotional distress and damage to her mental health. As her friends had never seen her in this state before, they were rightly concerned for her welfare, specifically as she was pregnant, unprotected by the Institution, and prohibited from defending herself.”
The friends are named in the Confidential Schedule but are referred to in the documents as “Friends A to E.” In one section relating to a media inquiry over the article and the Kensington Palace response, the document reads:
“The stance of “no comment” was taken by the KP Communications Team without any discussion with or approval by the Claimant, as is standard practice for Royal communications. Had the Claimant been asked or been given the opportunity to participate, she would have asked the KP Communications Team to say on the record that she had not been involved with the People magazine article, as she had not been.”
Another section reads:
“It was mandated by the KP Communications Team that all friends and family of the Claimant should say ‘no comment’ when approached by any media outlet, despite misinformation being provided to UK tabloids about the Claimant. This shared frustration amongst the Claimant’s friends left everyone feeling silenced, as it appeared that other so-called sources were able to disseminate false statements about the Claimant, while the people who knew her best were told that they needed to remain silent. The Claimant believes that it is probably because of this reason, as well as concerns about the press intrusion by the UK tabloids, that a few friends chose to participate and they did so anonymously.”
In the latest court documents, Meghan’s legal team repeat her position that she did not know about the interview in advance and “did not know that the contents of the Letter would or might be revealed or referred to by any media outlet or to any person for the purposes of publication in any medium,” adding she “would not have consented to this.” The Mail on Sunday published extracts of the letter following the People interview and Thomas Markle subsequently said in the newspaper that he allowed them to do so to “defend” himself.
The latest court documents also provide further specifics on the attempts Meghan says she made to contact her father in the run-up to the wedding, describing how “Friend A witnessed the Claimant’s many calls to her father during the week of the wedding, from Nottingham Cottage, as well as from wedding rehearsals and pre-wedding events in Windsor and from Windsor Castle, all of which were ignored or declined.”
The documents also say that Meghan “took care to consider and to organise everything her father may need from all clothing items for each scheduled event, to accommodations, all transports, and a dedicated assistant on the ground to be with him during his time in the UK.”
A separate section reads:
“When Mr Markle publicly announced that he fell ill, the Claimant sent a security team to take him to hospital (which he declined), and subsequently to go to his hospital to drive him home safely once he was discharged (which he again declined), as all her close friends and colleagues were already in transit to the UK for the wedding.”
Meghan lost the first stage of the legal battle in May when Justice Warby ruled in favor of the publisher and struck out parts of her claim against them. The trial is expected to take place later this year but no date has yet been set.
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