Meghan Markle has won her legal battle against the Mail On Sunday over a leaked letter sent to her estranged father.
Meghan sued its publisher Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over five articles that reproduced parts of the “personal and private” letter to Thomas Markle in August 2018.
The Duchess won her case earlier this year but the publisher brought an appeal arguing in a three-day hearing in November that the case should go to a full trial.
Today, that appeal has been dismissed in yet another legal victory for Meghan.
In a statement after the ruling, Meghan said: “This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right.”
Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Here we look at some of the key moments from the case…
Meghan’s first victory
Meghan originally announced she was bringing a case against ANL in 2019.
She accused them of misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act over five articles, published in February 2019.
And in February this year, she won her High Court privacy claim after her lawyers argued, at a hearing in January, that ANL had “no prospect” of defending her claim for misuse of private information and breach of copyright.
They asked the High Court to grant “summary judgment” in relation to those claims, a legal step which would see those parts of the case resolved without a trial.
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In his judgment, Mr Justice Warby granted Meghan “summary judgment” in her claim for misuse of private information.
The Judge said: “The claimant had a reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private.
“The Mail articles interfered with that reasonable expectation.”
In a statement after the February ruling, Meghan said: “After two long years of pursuing litigation, I am grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and the Mail On Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanising practices.”
Meghan drafted the letter to her dad ‘knowing it could be leaked’
Last month, the publisher appealed against the summary judgement wanting it to go to trial, and offered new evidence in a three-day hearing.
Lawyers representing the publisher said that Thomas Markle wished to counter points made by friends of Meghan who had given an interview to People magazine in the US.
During this hearing, the Court of Appeal heard that Meghan told a former aide the handwritten letter to her estranged father was “drafted with the understanding that it could be leaked.”
Jason Knauf, who was communications secretary to Meghan and Harry until March 2019, said the Duchess had indicated to him in August of the previous year that she recognised it was possible that her father, Thomas would make the letter public.
Mr Knauf said Meghan had “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.”
Meghan ‘called her father “daddy” in letter to pull on heartstrings if leaked’
It was also claimed in the hearing last month that Meghan called her father daddy in the letter to pull on people’s heartstrings if it was leaked.
Mr Knauf said in his written evidence: “She also asked a specific question regarding addressing Mr Markle as ‘daddy’ in the letter, 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’.”
Claims Meghan wrote the letter after ‘seeing how much pain this is causing H’
In his statement to the Court of Appeal last month, Mr Knauf also said Meghan had “lost confidence that the privacy of her communication with her father would be respected by him” as a result of his “increasing co-operation with reporters and photographers”.
He said that, in a series of text messages sent to him by Meghan, she had written that the “catalyst” for writing the letter to Mr Markle, 77, was “seeing how much pain this is causing H.”
Mr Knauf also said the Duchess told him she was writing the letter “in part to allow the Duke to demonstrate to his family that some action was being taken by the couple to stop Mr Markle from continuing to engage with the media.”
He added: “On the specific issue of the letter, the Duchess indicated in messages to me that she recognised that it was possible that Mr Markle would make the letter public.
“She wanted to write a letter rather than an email or text message – other options she had considered and discussed with senior Royal Household staff – as a letter could not be forwarded or cut and pasted to only share one small portion.”
Continuing giving evidence, Mr Knauf said that Meghan “felt ‘fantastic after writing’ her letter.”
He added that she said: “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’.”
Claims Meghan and Harry did help authors of Finding Freedom
The Court of Appeal also heard last month that Meghan and Harry “authorised specific cooperation in writing in December 2018” to the authors of Finding Freedom .
The biography, published in August 2020, details the married lives of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – and their infamous split from the Royal Family.
The book was described as an unauthorised biography, and the royal couple previously said they were not interviewed and did not contribute to Finding Freedom.
Mr Knauf says “the book was discussed directly with the Duchess multiple times in person and over email” and that Meghan gave him “helpful” written “background reminders” briefing notes.
Knauf says that in an email: “The Duchess…added the briefing points she wanted me to share with the authors in my meeting with them.”
And, in a December 2018 email to the aide, he says Harry wrote: “I totally agree 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…especially around Markle/wedding stuff…”
Meghan later apologised to the court saying she had not remembered giving authorisation for Mr Knauf to speak to the authors of Finding Freedom .
In written evidence, she said: “I apologise to the Court for the fact that I had not remembered these exchanges at the time.
“I had absolutely no wish or intention to mislead the Defendant or the Court.”
Meghan was ‘eager to please’ Royal Family
Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Meghan’s lawyers opposed the appeal and ANL’s bid for the Court of Appeal to take Mr Knauf’s evidence into consideration last month as part of the challenge, and the Duchess provided her own statement in response.
In it, she said she was “eager to please” the Royal Family and was “especially sensitive” to their concerns about her father’s “public attacks” on them.
She said in a statement: “It is correct that, as I said in my texts to Mr Knauf, the situation was putting significant pressure on my husband, both externally and by his family, and I felt strongly that I needed to do something about it.
“I felt that, even if my attempt to stop my father talking to the media failed, at least my husband would be able to say to his family that I had done everything I could to stop it.”
The Duchess also said the letter was “the only viable option” for communicating with her father, which would not have been the case before the “media intrusion” into their relationship.
Meghan’s second win
Today, Meghan scored her second legal victory, when the Court of Appeal ruled it was upholding the Judge’s original decision and dismissing the appeal.
Giving a summary of the decision, Judge Sir Geoffrey Vos said: “The Court of Appeal upheld the Judge’s decision that the Duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter.
“Those contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest.
“The articles in the Mail on Sunday interfered with the Duchess’ reasonable expectation of privacy and were not a justified or proportionate means of correcting inaccuracies about the letter.”
Explaining the decisions he said: “It was hard to see what evidence could have been adduced at trial that would have altered the situation.
“The judge had been in as good a position as any trial judge to look at the article in People magazine, the letter and The Mail On Sunday articles to decide if publication of the contents of the letter was appropriate to rebut the allegations against Mr Markle.
“The judge had correctly decided that, whilst it might have been proportionate to publish a very small part of the letter for that purpose, it was not necessary to publish half the contents of the letter as ANL had done.”
Responding to the ruling today, Meghan said in a statement: “This is a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right.
“While this win is precedent setting, what matters most is that we are now collectively brave enough to reshape a tabloid industry that conditions people to be cruel, and profits from the lies and pain that they create.
“From day one, I have treated this lawsuit as an important measure of right versus wrong. The Defendant has treated it as a game with no rules.
“The longer they dragged it out, the more they could twist facts and manipulate the public (even during the appeal itself), making a straightforward case extraordinarily convoluted in order to generate more headlines and sell more newspapers – a model that rewards chaos above truth.
“In the nearly three years since this began, I have been patient in the face of deception, intimidation and calculated attacks.
The Duchess’s statement continued: “The courts have held the defendant to account and my hope is that we all begin to do the same.
“Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not. Tomorrow it could be you.
“These harmful practices don’t happen once in a blue moon – they are a daily fail that divide us and we all deserve better.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.