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The Duchess of Sussex apologised to the Court of Appeal yesterday after a series of explosive revelations in her privacy battle with the Mail on Sunday.
Meghan is at war with the newspaper’s publisher over the publication of extracts of a 2018 letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, which she insists was “private and personal”.
Thanks to her former communication secretary Jason Knauf, we now know the careful crafting and contemplation that went into the handwritten five-page letter, amid claims Meghan knew it might be leaked to the media.
Mr Knauf also revealed how Meghan had allowed him to speak to the authors of biography Finding Freedom – contradicting her previous denials of involvement and prompting the duchess’ public apology if she had misled the court.
Here’s what we learned in yesterday’s court battle:
Meghan had drafted a version of the letter to her father and shared it with her close aide, Mr Knauf, on August 22, 2018, asking for his input.
“The catalyst for my doing this is seeing how much pain this is causing H”, she said of her husband’s anguish at ongoing leaks to the press by Mr Markle.
Meghan signalled that she knew her wayward father may leak the note, telling Mr Knauf: “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 also asked him whether she should call Mr Markle “Daddy”, a life-long term she had used for her father, and suggested there could be other possible benefits: “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”.
Meghan told the court she described the letter as “simply an appeal for peace and a reminder of what’s actually transpired”.
In his reply, Mr Knauf told her: “Also, there are a few tweaks to the order of events as you’ve set them out that could be a bit stronger – I think it’s slightly even worse than you remember.”
On August 24, Meghan revealed how she had carefully crafted the letter to prevent it being distorted if it was ever leaked.
She numbered each page at the top, and deliberately ended each page part-way through a sentence so that no page could be falsely presented as the end of the letter.
The duchess said she had “toiled over every detail which could be manipulated”.
Mr Knauf endorsed her approach, replying: “Left nothing to chance! That’s the only way through this”.
When Meghan told him the letter-writing experience had been “fantastic - cathartic and real and honest and factual”, Mr Knauf replied: “It’s such a strong and clear letter – with just the right amount of emotion. Hope you’re ok after writing it.”
Meghan added: “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.”
The second set of revelations related to the Finding Freedom biography, which the Mail on Sunday’s publishers introduced to the legal battle to support its argument that the alleged private nature of the letter has been diminished.
The duchess and her husband, Prince Harry, had been in talks with Mr Knauf about the possibility of collaborating with the co-author of Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie.
Mr Knauf arranged to sit down with the author to provide background information, and on December 10, 2018, Meghan sent him details that could be shared.
“For when you sit down with them it may be helpful to have some background reminders so I’ve included them below just in case. I know you are better versed at this than most but assisting where I can.
“I appreciate your support - please let me know if you need me to fill in any other blanks. Thank you!”
Mr Scobie had earlier submitted the list of topics to discuss, and Meghan had filled in the details about relations with her father and half-sister Samantha under a series of headings.
*Family: M’s relationship with half-siblings (including date/timing questions)
*They were teenagers when they moved into her parents’ home prior to Meghan being born.
*Doria left Tom when Meghan was two years old (moved to the other side of town 45 minutes away). His other children were 15 and 17 years old.
*Tom Jr and Samantha dropped out of high school and moved out of their father’s home the same year.
*With a 16 year age gap and Meghan being a baby, there was minimal interaction.
*Meghan saw them a handful of times when she was under the age of 5, then again when she was 11 years old. She didn’t see her half sister again until her father asked her to attend Samantha’s graduation in New Mexico when Meghan was 22 years old. She saw her for one day and hasn’t seen her since.
*When Meghan started dating Harry, Samantha changed her last name back to Markle, and began a career creating stories to sell to the press. She had lost custody of all three of her children from different fathers, and though the press had been back briefed about the non relationship with Meghan they continued to give her media opportunities.
*Meghan has never had a relationship with either of them; she was always referred to as an only child by both of her parents and all of her friends through her entire upbringing because the half siblings were not in the picture (by their own choice).
*Family: relationship with family and father (past and present)
*They were close most of her life.
*Meghan supported her father in spite of his reclusiveness (as evidence in the article she wrote about him for Father’s Day on her now defunct website The Tig).
*Media pressure crumbled him and he began doing press deals brokered by his daughter Samantha.
*Despite countless efforts to support him through the past two years, they now no longer have a relationship.
*H’s (Harry’s) November 2016 statement regarding privacy
* Very turbulent time, exacerbated by media interest propelled by Samantha Markle. Meghan was living alone in Toronto and working and her house was swarmed by paparazzi and journalists. She was chased off the roads when driving, she received a father threat; there was massive interest and with very little support. Police were called many times; decision was made to draw a line in the sand.”
*Nottingham Cottage in the future/Apartment 1
*Apartment 1 wouldn’t be ready until 2021, with growing family they needed space sooner than that
*The queen offered Windsor which the couple gratefully accepted. They are also very happy to have the space and privacy that Windsor affords - being able to go for long walks, etc.
Meghan also sought to use Finding Freedom to correct a newspaper report in The Sun about her choosing a tiara before her wedding to Prince Harry.
“Meghan shared the very special story about choosing the tiara in their wedding exhibition now ongoing at Windsor. It’s in the VO that she and Harry did. The queen, Harry and Meghan were all present - she tried on five tiaras and the queen asked her which she preferred. Meghan asked the queen her preference. The queen said they all suited her and Meghan chose the diamond one, which the queen agreed was perfect. Shame to see such a beautiful sweet moment skewed in media. There was no conversation about any other tiara as a preference. Meghan loved the one she wore and it remains a very special memory.”
Mr Knauf advised Prince Harry that it was “not a good idea” for Meghan to be directly involved in the book, as they should be “able to say hand on heart that we did not facilitate access will be important.”
The duke replied that he totally agreed “that we have to be able to say we didn’t have anything to do with it. Equally, you giving the right context and background to them would help get some truths out there. The truth is v much needed and would be appreciated, especially around the Markle/wedding stuff but at the same time we can’t put them directly in touch with her friends”.
Later the same day, Harry asked Mr Knauf: “Also, are u planning on giving them a rough idea of what she’s been through over the last 2yrs? Media onslaught, cyber bullying on a different scale, puppeteering Thomas Markle etc etc etc.
“Even if they choose not to use it, they should hear what it was like from someone who was in the thick of it. So if you aren’t planning on telling them, can I ?!”
Mr Knauf replied: “Of course – I’ve never stopped!”, and Harry went on to say: “Oh how I hope they report on it properly. Good luck!”