Meghan Markle called for 'nothing other than peace' in letter to her father, court hears

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·7 min read
WINDSOR,  UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 26:  Meghan, Duchess of Sussex  attends the Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club on July 26, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
The Duchess of Sussex is suing the Mail On Sunday after it published a letter she wrote that year. (WireImage)

Meghan Markle asked her father for “nothing other than peace” in a letter she wrote shortly after her wedding to Prince Harry, it’s been revealed.

The last line of the letter Meghan wrote to her father, Thomas Markle Snr, was read out by her lawyer in court for the first time on Tuesday as her team made their bid to avoid a full trial.

It revealed the Duchess of Sussex said: “I ask for nothing other than peace. And I wish the same for you.”

Having read the line, her lawyer, Justin Rushbrooke, said: “One of the ironies in this case is that she brings a claim for the publication of extensive extracts from the letter by a newspaper to millions of readers when the whole thrust of the letter is to stop him talking to the press.”

He said the letter was “not written in anger but in sorrow”.

During the hearing, her team said the publication of a letter she wrote to her father was a “triple barrelled attack”.

Meghan is suing the Mail On Sunday’s publishers, Associated Newspapers Ltd, for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act, after it published a letter she wrote to her father after her wedding to Prince Harry.

The letter to Markle Snr was published under the headline “Revealed: The handwritten letter showing true tragedy of Meghan's rift with father she says has 'broken her heart into a million pieces' - and why he feels forced to make the 'devastating' missive public”.

The case returned to court on Tuesday as Meghan’s team applied to have the case heard as a summary judgment, avoiding bringing in witnesses and going before a jury.

If she loses her application, the trial will be heard in the autumn, with her father highly likely to give evidence in court.

Some of the duchess’s friends could also be pulled in to give evidence.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 09: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meets children as she attends the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 on March 09, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Meghan and Harry, here in London in March 2020, have now left behind royal life. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

In court on Tuesday, the first day of an expected two day hearing for the application, Meghan’s team argued the letter’s publication breached the privacy she could expect for her correspondence and her home and family life.

Rushbrooke read out some of the texts between Meghan and her father, which they said showed she and Prince Harry were struggling to get in touch with him before their wedding, and that she found out about his heart attack via TMZ.

He said Markle Snr continued to give “damaging interviews” to the press after Harry and Meghan’s wedding, which he had missed because of his health.

He said the “contents and character of the letter were obviously private”, that they spoke of her “constant love” for her father and her financial support.

Rushbrooke said the letter also discussed the “painful” impact of his conduct upon her, including a “sense of betrayal”.

Watch: Meghan wins bid to delay trial in Mail on Sunday privacy claim

Read more: Meghan Markle's court battle returns as she bids to avoid full trial

ANL has previously argued that the letter cannot be deemed private because its existence was hinted at by Meghan’s friends who gave an interview to People magazine, defending her.

They also won a bid to use the Finding Freedom biography in its defence case, which led to Meghan admitting she had allowed a friend to give her side of a story to the authors because she was worried about the version of events that would be given.

In court, Rushbrooke clarified that Meghan wanted her friend to ensure that her father’s narrative that she abandoned him was not continued, but said she did not know how that was conveyed to the authors, if at all.

The Duchess of Sussex’s team has said undue weight has been given to the biography and to the interview.

Meghan’s team, in court documents, said ANL “seeks to raise a proliferation of issues regarding matters such as an interview with a friend of the Claimant which appeared in ‘People’ magazine shortly before the Defendant’s articles, and the Claimant’s alleged cooperation with the authors of Finding Freedom - an unauthorised biography of the Claimant and her husband which was published nearly one and a half years after those articles. The Defendant has (no doubt with an eye to the public gallery) massively overstated the relevance of those publications”.

Papers filed to the court added: “Worse still, it has misleadingly claimed that the Claimant has made significant admissions regarding her alleged cooperation with the authors when she has not, and has placed on the record a number of allegations about Finding Freedom which are plainly false and were pleaded speculatively, such as that she and her husband met with the authors and had discussions with them for the purposes of the Book (they did no such thing); or that she and her friends embarked on a ‘media strategy’ to get personal information about her into the public domain because the Book’s publication date was postponed (it was not postponed until much later).

“It has deliberately misdescribed passages in the Book in order to bolster its case that the Claimant was the source for them. Most shocking of all, as regards the only passage in the Book that actually mentions the Letter, it has claimed that this information can only have come from the Claimant, when it knows full well that the authors must have simply lifted it from the Defendant’s own articles of one and a half years earlier (as confirmed by one of the authors himself).”

Meghan denies passing the authors, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, the letter, and her team say the only extracts appear to be based on previously published articles.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 02:  Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a Creative Industries and Business Reception on October 02, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Harry and Meghan in October 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. They announced the duchess's legal action after the tour. (Getty Images)

Read more: Why is Meghan Markle suing the Mail on Sunday?

Another of Meghan’s lawyers, Ian Mill, later set out the duchess’s rebuttal against the ANL claim that she has no copyright protection on her letter because a member of staff at the palace helped her write it.

Mill said Jason Knauf, who was part of the Kensington Palace communications team, offered help in terms of “general ideas” and did not write any part of the letter to Markle Snr.

A witness quoted by ANL previously said Knauf had “worked on” the electronic draft of the letter, which Meghan was writing in the notes section of her iPhone before she wrote the final piece by hand.

Papers filed to the court from Meghan’s team said: “She shared a draft of that Draft with her husband and Mr Knauf for support, as this was a deeply painful process that they had lived through with her, and because Mr Knauf was responsible for keeping the senior members of the Royal household apprised of any public-facing issues – the media spectacle surrounding Mr Markle being one such issue.”

The papers go on to add: “The Claimant, and the Claimant alone, created and finalised the Electronic Draft.”

Mill said one of the ways ANL used the letter in an article amounted to “character assassination” of Meghan.

The letter was analysed by a handwriting expert, who said it showed she was a “narcissist”.

Mill said the article was “a character assassination” which “put in digs at the expense of my client”.

In their response to the whole application, ANL has said the matter is “wholly unsuitable” for a summary judgment.

Antony White, of the ANL team, said in written submissions there was “uncertainty as to a number of significant factual matters which can, and should, be investigated at trial when the court will have the full picture in terms of disclosure and evidence”.

He added: “This is particularly so when the claimant’s case in respect of certain important factual issues has shifted, (including) in relation to the circumstances in which the letter was written and the extent to which she had disclosed information about the letter with a view to publication.

“There are now on the record a number of inconsistent statements made by her that she will need to explain.”

ANL will present its case on Wednesday.

It’s thought the judge will give his verdict on the summary judgment application at a later date.

The hearing continues on 20 January.

Watch: Why is Meghan Markle suing the Mail On Sunday?