We made huge efforts to protect Meghan Markle’s privacy, says former royal aide

·4-min read
In her televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, the pregnant Duchess of Sussex suggested her team had failed to defend her from inaccurate stories
In her televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, the pregnant Duchess of Sussex suggested her team had failed to defend her from inaccurate stories

The Duchess of Sussex's former press secretary has insisted he led "extensive efforts" to protect her privacy and reputation during her time as a working member of the Royal Family.

Jason Knauf appeared to question Meghan's claim that she was "unprotected" by Kensington Palace staff, stating that he "regularly" objected to coverage deemed "unfair or untrue".

In a letter sent to the Mail on Sunday's solicitors in connection with her legal battle against the newspaper, Mr Knauf said he also "made significant efforts over many months" to advise and support her father, Thomas Markle, and protect him from media intrusion.

In her televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, the pregnant duchess, 39, suggested her team had failed to defend her from inaccurate stories and refused to take action when false allegations were made.

She also alleged that her Kensington Palace team had lied about her in order to protect other members of the family.

She said: "I came to understand that not only was I not being protected, but that they were willing to lie to protect other members of the family. They weren't willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband."

Mr Knauf was communications secretary to both the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge before the two households split.

He advised Meghan over the composition of the letter she wrote to her father, which Mr Markle later gave to the Mail on Sunday, prompting her to successfully sue the newspaper for breach of privacy and copyright.

Although the Duchess had admitted that Mr Knauf, a close confidante who is now the chief executive of the Royal Foundation, "provided feedback" in the form of "general ideas," his solicitors emphatically denied that he was a co-author or had any copyright claim over the contents.

Lawyers for the Queen also stated that copyright did not belong to the Crown, paving the way for the Duchess to secure a full victory on her claim.

Mr Knauf's solicitors insisted in their letter, released by the High Court on Thursday, that he remained "strictly neutral". But they said he wanted to set out "his account of the background to and context of his involvement" in advising the Duchess over the five-page missive.

"From 2016, Mr Knauf led extensive efforts to protect the privacy and reputation of the Duchess and, as and when directed by her, the privacy of her parents," the letter said.

"This included drafting a press statement in November 2016, issued in his own name, condemning racist and sexist coverage of Ms Markle, as she then was, and other regular interventions – directly to media and through the Independent Press Standards Organisation – to request privacy both for her and for her parents."

Mr Knauf was "involved in providing advice and offering support with a view to protecting her father from media intrusion", including "many conversations with Mr Markle and a number of interventions... to object to intrusions into Mr Markle's privacy", it added.

This support continued "even after the Mail On Sunday reported that Mr Markle had allegedly been cooperating with press photographers" shortly before his daughter married Prince Harry in May 2018.

"Mr Knauf and his colleagues made significant efforts over many months to protect Mr Markle and to object to intrusions into his privacy, in addition to the steps that were regularly taken to object to coverage of the duchess herself, where this was perceived to be unfair or untrue," the letter said.

The Duchess told Ms Winfrey that it was when they returned from their tour of Australia in October 2018 that she realised she and Prince Harry "weren't being protected".

She spoke extensively about a story that suggested she had made the Duchess of Cambridge cry during a bridesmaid dress fitting for Princess Charlotte, insisting that "the reverse happened" but that her communications team had failed to intervene.

"I mean, they would go on the record and negate the most ridiculous story for anyone," she said. "The narrative about making Kate cry, I think was the beginning of a real character assassination. They knew it wasn't true. And I thought, well, they're not going to kill things like that, then what are we going to do?"

The Duchess said her mother, Doria Ragland, and her friends were calling her in tears, telling her: "Meg, they're not protecting you."

In response to the main claims made during the interview, including those of racism and failing to protect Meghan when she was suicidal, Buckingham Palace said that while "recollections may vary" they would be taken seriously and dealt with privately.