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The “Palace Four” will reveal whether the Duchess of Sussex gave private information to the authors of Finding Freedom, indirectly or otherwise, they have confirmed.
The four, who were among the Duchess’s closest and most senior royal aides, insisted they would remain “strictly neutral” and had no interest in helping either side in her legal action against the Mail on Sunday.
In a letter lodged with the High Court on their behalf, Samantha Cohen, her former private secretary, Christian Jones, former deputy communications secretary, Jason Knauf, former communications secretary and Sara Latham, former communications director, said they would also provide evidence about the creation of the letter Meghan sent to her father, as well as the draft, and whether she expected it to be made public.
The prospect of new information could deal a blow to the Duchess’s attempt to have the case decided without a trial.
Antony White QC, for Associated Newspapers, owner of the Mail on Sunday, said the four could clearly “shed light” on the issues at stake, noting that the case “cried out” for further investigation.
“The evidential picture at trial is likely to be very different from the one presently before the court,” he added.
The Duchess is suing Associated for breach of privacy and copyright relating to the publication of five articles featuring extracts of the letter she sent to her father, Thomas Markle, three by MailOnline and two in the Mail on Sunday, in February 2019.
She has applied for a summary judgment, a legal step that would negate the need for witness evidence, heard over two days at the High Court.
The Duchess has admitted that when composing the letter, Mr Knauf, a close confidante who is now chief executive of the Royal Foundation, "provided feedback" in the form of "general ideas" .
Mr White suggested she had sought professional advice because she knew it would be made public and that it was intended for use as part of a media strategy to enhance her image.
He said there was “no other good reason” to discuss its contents with the Kensington Palace communications team.
“Why were they involved at all in the wording of a letter if it was a wholly private letter?” he asked.
The Duchess has argued that she simply wanted to follow royal protocol, that these were public-facing issues and she was trying to prevent a media spectacle.
But Mr White told the court: “Those words are tantalising. We don’t know what the protocol was. We’ve asked and not been told.
“We don’t know why it was considered that the claimant’s engagement with Mr Markle’s activities might be regarded as a ‘public-facing’ issue.”
The letter sent on behalf of the “Palace Four” by legal firm Addleshaw Goddard, revealed that they did not want to be involved with the trial, not least due to the sensitivity and discretion required of their roles within the Royal Household.
Watch: Meghan Markle - Mail On Sunday claims evidence from 'Palace Four' could bring privacy case to trial
It said they also did not wish to “take sides” in the legal dispute, adding: “Our clients are all strictly neutral.
"They have no interest in assisting either party to the proceedings. Their only interest is in ensuring a level playing field.”
The letter said that one or more of them “would be in a position to shed some light" on the creation of the letter and its electronic draft, whether the Duchess anticipated that it might come into the public domain and whether she "directly or indirectly” provided private information to the authors of Finding Freedom, a favourable biography of the Sussexes published last year.
Mr White also argued that an article published in People magazine, based on interviews with five of Meghan’s friends, “set the scene” for unfolding events.
The article, headlined The Truth About Meghan, provided the first public reference to the letter.
Mr White noted that the Duchess had admitted the article’s description of the tone and purpose of her letter was inaccurate.
“She admits the letter was not an attempt at reconciliation, it was an admonishment,” he said.
The Duchess has accused Associated of a “triple barrelled” breach of her rights, for publishing extracts of the “private” letter she sent to Mr Markle in August 2018.
Her legal team has described the letter as “a message of peace,” a desperate plea, begging him to stop talking to the press.
Mr Markle, 76, described it in rather different terms, revealing in his witness statement that the critical five-page missive “signalled the end” of their relationship.
The Palace Four
Four royal aides who will be asked to give evidence in a potential trial have confirmed they will provide information that will shed light on various issues at stake.
Jason Knauf, who at the time was communications secretary to both the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, advised Meghan as she wrote the letter to her father.
The Duchess has admitted that Mr Knauf, a close confidante who is now chief executive of the Royal Foundation, "provided feedback" in the form of "general ideas".
Ted Verity, editor of the Mail on Sunday, said he had been told Mr Knauf worked on the drafts with the Duchess.
Samantha Cohen, former private secretary to the Sussexes and long-standing senior royal aide.
A former assistant private secretary to the Queen, she is said to have been planning to leave Buckingham Palace in 2018 but agreed to stay on to help guide the Duchess of Sussex through her first months in the Royal Family.
The popular Australian left the royal fold in 2019 after almost 18 years of service, to work for environmental charity Cool Earth, later becoming chief executive of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council.
Christian Jones, former deputy communications secretary to the Sussexes who is currently acting private secretary to the Cambridges.
The communications specialist who previously worked at the Treasury and on Brexit, is a popular member of the team, heading up the Cambridges’ press office when the two couples formed separate households.
He has recently handed in his notice and will head up corporate communications at a private equity firm.
Sara Latham, who at the time was the Sussexes’ director of communications and is now a senior Buckingham Palace advisor working on the Platinum Jubilee, is said to have helped “fact check” Finding Freedom, the favourable biography about the Sussexes.
Mr Verity said he had been told Ms Latham had assisted the book’s authors, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, by making sure they got nothing wrong.
The editor also claimed that a third member of staff, “a woman called Keleigh” (Thomas Morgan) at Sunshine Sachs, had been responsible for “making calls to open doors” to the authors.
Watch: 7 things you didn't know about Meghan Markle