The Mail on Sunday has lost its appeal in the latest round of the Duchess of Sussex’s privacy battle over a letter to her estranged father.
Meghan sued Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), also the publisher of Mail Online, over five articles reproducing parts of the “personal and private” letter to Thomas Markle, 77, in August 2018.
The duchess, 40, won her case earlier this year when a high court judge gave summary judgment in her favour without need for a trial.
ANL brought an appeal and, at a three-day hearing in November, argued the case should go to trial on Meghan’s claims including breach of privacy and copyright.
During the appeal hearing, ANL argued Meghan had written the letter with the knowledge it could be leaked. In her written evidence, Meghan denied she thought it likely that her father would leak the letter, but “merely recognised that this was a possibility”.
ANL said it had new evidence in a witness statement, texts and emails from the Sussexes’ former communications chief Jason Knauf that showed she had sent him a draft of the letter, writing: “Obviously everything I have drafted is with the understanding that it could be leaked so I have been meticulous in my word choice.”
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The court of appeal also heard Knauf provided information to the authors of the Sussex biography Finding Freedom, and that Meghan had provided him with a list of “background reminders” on her life story ahead of his two-hour meeting with them.
The book had been discussed on a “routine basis” and “directly with the duchess multiple times in person and over email”, Knauf said in a witness statement. He had “regretted” not giving evidence before Meghan won her case, the appeal court judges heard.
Knauf’s witness statement prompted the duchess to apologise for unintentionally misleading the court over whether he had given information to the book’s authors. She had not remembered the emails between her and Knauf, she said in a statement.
Meghan’s barristers had argued that the letter was “deeply personal” and “self-evidently was intended to be kept private”.
Texts released by the court in November showed Meghan expressing her frustration with the royal family, describing them as “constantly berating” Harry over the negative publicity surrounding her father ahead of their wedding. This was a “catalyst” for her writing the letter, to “protect” Harry from his family, she wrote to Knauf.
Emails also showed her wanting to counter stories about an alleged row over which tiara she could wear at her wedding, and denying reports of any row saying the Queen chose the tiara for her.
ANL argued that Markle was entitled to publish extracts from the letter to counter the negative image of him portrayed by five of Meghan’s friends in an article in US People magazine.