Duchess of Sussex wrote to father knowing it could be leaked to media, court hears
The Duchess of Sussex carefully crafted a letter to her estranged father after a crisis meeting with senior Royals, knowing it could leak to the media but resolving: “At least the world will know the truth”, her former communication secretary has revealed.
Meghan penned a five-page letter to Thomas Markle in which she pleaded with him to stop speaking to journalists, and she brought legal action against the publishers of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline when extracts of the note were published.
A judge handed victory in the privacy action to the Duchess earlier this year after she insisted the letter was “personal and private”, but Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) is now attempting to revive the legal battle.
The Duchess has now claimed that members of the Royal Family only became interested in dealing with problems around her father when they personally came under fire.
Meghan and Harry’s former communications secretary Jason Knauf has now revealed how they feared the letter would be leaked but it was sent anyway to show senior Royals that “some action was being taken by the couple to stop Mr Markle from continuing to engage with the media”.
“The Duchess had lost confidence that the privacy of her communication with her father would be respected by him”, Mr Knauf said in a newly-released witness statement to the Court of Appeal.
“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.”
Mr Knauf said Harry had been in talks with members of his family over the issue, with some Royals supporting the idea of Meghan travelling to meet her father in person.
However the couple rejected that idea, and Meghan instead drafted a handwritten letter.
In extracts of messages released by Mr Knauf – who had seen a draft of the letter – Meghan told him: “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”.
She asked whether to use the term ‘Daddy’, 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’”.
Mr Knauf added the Duchess “recognised that it was possible that Mr Markle would make the letter public” so numbered the pages and “deliberately ended each page part way through a sentence so that no page could be falsely presented as the end of the letter”.
“In the event that it was leaked she wanted the full narrative as set out in the letter to be understood and shared. She said she had ‘toiled over every detail which could be manipulated’”, he continued.
“The Duchess wanted to make sure that if the letter became public it would assist with setting out her perspective on the problems with her father’s behaviour.
“In the messages on 24 August she said she felt ‘fantastic’ after writing it and added that: ‘And if he leaks it then that’s on his conscious(sic) but at least the world will know the truth. Words I could never voice publicly’.”
In response to Mr Knauf’s statement, Meghan submitted her own 22-page witness statement setting out the background to the letter which was sent in August 2018 to Mr Markle in Mexico.
She said her father’s home had been surrounded by reporters and photographers and she went to “considerable lengths” to try to keep her letter private.
“While we had to recognize that anything was possible in the extraordinary circumstances in which we were living…I did not think that my father would sell or leak the letter, primarily because it would not put him in a good light”, she said.
“I had not heard from him since the week leading up to our wedding, but it seemed incredibly unlikely that he would disclose the contents because they contained unpalatable truths and would thereby negate the falsehoods the media had attributed to him. The main purpose of the Letter was to encourage my father to stop talking to the press.”
Meghan called it “absurd” that her texts with Mr Knauf – discussing the possibility of the letter leaking – had been interpreted by ANL as her believing it was “likely” the missive would become public.
The Duchess also revealed details of a meeting with senior Royals at the start of August 2018, to discuss how to contain Mr Markle’s behaviour.
“I had privately endured the media onslaught surrounding my father with the support of my husband and Mr Knauf”, she said, “but it was only when my father began criticizing the Royal Family that senior members of the family and their advisers expressed their concern over the public attacks, and expressed their desire to have them stopped.
“I was especially sensitive to this as I had very recently married into the family and was eager to please them.”
In a message to Mr Knauf, Meghan said the “catalyst” was “seeing how much pain this is causing” Prince Harry, and believed if she reached out to her father “at least my husband would be able to say to his family that I had done everything I could to stop it”.
The Duchess said she received “advice” from two senior Royals – dubbed Senior Member A and B – on “how to deal with the concern surrounding my father and his dealings with the media”.
“While my husband and I were sitting with Senior Member B, I was told that Senior Member A was on the telephone and wished to speak to me. The telephone was passed to me and we had a discussion about the situation in the presence of Senior Member B and my husband. Once the call ended, we continued discussions with Senior Member B, and it was only after these discussions, and in accordance with the advice that I received from the two senior family members….I decided, that I would write a letter to my father.”
Meghan also called a proposal, supported by Prince William’s private secretary and other Royals, for her to fly out personally to Mexico was “completely unrealistic” which would have brought “yet more embarrassment to the Royal Family”.
ANL is appealing against the decision of Lord Justice Warby to issue summary judgment in the claims brought by Meghan on misused her private information, infringed her copyright and breached the Data Protection Act.
The newspaper group is arguing the case should go to trial, and relies on Mr Knauf’s statement as new evidence to support their case.
The appeal hearing is due to conclude on Thursday, with a judgment expected at a later date.
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