Meghan’s fa­ther set to tes­tify against her

Thomas Markle may take stand in court with his ev­i­dence key to news­pa­per de­fence

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Camilla Tominey As­so­ciate ed­i­tor

THE Duchess of Sus­sex’s fa­ther is pre­pared to tes­tify against her over a claim that a tabloid news­pa­per un­law­fully pub­lished one of her pri­vate let­ters to him.

Le­gal doc­u­ments seen by The Daily Tele­graph have con­firmed that Thomas Markle’s ev­i­dence will form part of the Mail on Sun­day’s de­fence against the Duchess’s le­gal ac­tion for breach of pri­vacy, copy­right and data pro­tec­tion.

The court pa­pers dis­close text mes­sages sent from Mr Markle to his daugh­ter and lay bare the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the pair at the time of her wed­ding to Prince Harry.

The pa­pers were filed at the High Court yes­ter­day, a day af­ter the Queen re­leased a state­ment con­firm­ing the cou­ple’s split from the Royal fam­ily.

The rev­e­la­tion comes af­ter a tor­rid week for the monar­chy, which was prompted by last Wed­nes­day’s “per­sonal mes­sage” from the Duke and Duchess about their in­ten­tions, which left the Queen “hurt” and “dis­ap­pointed” and cul­mi­nated in a fam­ily sum­mit at San­dring­ham.

The Royal fam­ily is work­ing out a deal that will en­able the Sus­sexes to adopt a new role that could give them fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence and al­low them to spend more time in Canada.

The Duchess was last night seen for the first time since re­turn­ing to Canada, board­ing a sea­plane on Van­cou­ver Is­land with­out her son, Archie.

If the Duchess’s case against the Mail on Sun­day goes to trial, it is likely Mr Markle will tes­tify against his daugh­ter and the Duchess will be forced to give ev­i­dence against him. Sub­mit­ted by the Mail on Sun­day’s par­ent com­pany, As­so­ci­ated News­pa­pers, the 44-page de­fence ac­cuses the “self-pro­mot­ing” Duchess of “know­ingly” making pub­lic the con­tents of the let­ter to paint her in a more flat­ter­ing light.

The doc­u­ments, seem­ingly writ­ten with Mr Markle’s co-op­er­a­tion, jus­tify pub­li­ca­tion of ex­cerpts from the let­ter and his re­sponse to it last Fe­bru­ary, in­sist­ing it was “nec­es­sary for the sake of truth, fair­ness, and Mr Markle’s rep­u­ta­tion, and so that the pub­lic should not be mis­led”. It adds: “The Claimant’s pri­vacy rights do not ex­tend to si­lenc­ing her fa­ther.”

Last Oc­to­ber, the Duke of Sus­sex said he and his wife had been forced to take ac­tion against “re­lent­less pro­pa­ganda” from As­so­ci­ated News­pa­pers’ pub­li­ca­tions in an emo­tional at­tack on what he de­scribed as a “ruth­less cam­paign” against his wife. Ac­cus­ing the tabloid me­dia of “bul­ly­ing” be­hav­iour that “de­stroys peo­ple and de­stroys lives”, he evoked mem­o­ries of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, say­ing his “deep­est fear is his­tory re­peat­ing it­self ”.

The Mail on Sun­day pub­lished the ex­cerpts, along with an in­ter­view with Mr Markle, four days af­ter the Amer­i­can mag­a­zine Peo­ple ran ar­ti­cles said to have been based on anony­mous in­ter­views with five of the Duchess’s clos­est friends stand­ing up against the “global bul­ly­ing” she had faced.

As well as con­firm­ing the ex­is­tence of the let­ter, the un­named “sis­ter­hood” told Peo­ple that Mr Markle had never con­tacted his daugh­ter, claim­ing that the Duchess was “call­ing, tex­ting, even up to the night be­fore the wed­ding” on May 19, 2018 af­ter he had to pull out fol­low­ing an emer­gency heart pro­ce­dure.

But ac­cord­ing to the court doc­u­ments, the last mes­sage Mr Markle re­ceived was a text al­legedly sent on May 17 “ad­mon­ish­ing him for talk­ing to the press, telling him to stop and ac­cus­ing him of caus­ing hurt to his daugh­ter”. It was pur­port­edly signed: “Love M and H.” The de­fence also claims the cou­ple “did not ask how he was or how the surgery had gone”.

The document in­cludes de­tails as to how Mr Markle felt “hung out to dry” and that no one came to see him ahead of the wed­ding, whereas the Duchess’s

mother, Do­ria Ragland, had been per­son­ally in­formed of the royal en­gage­ment by two Bri­tish em­bassy of­fi­cials who vis­ited her Los An­ge­les home.

Ques­tion­ing claims that the Duchess called him 20 times when he was in hos­pi­tal, the de­fence al­leges Mr Markle did not re­ceive “any cards or well wishes” and even con­tra­dicts the Duchess’ claim that she funded her­self through univer­sity, say­ing: “Mr Markle had sup­ported the Claimant through­out her child­hood and youth. He had paid her pri­vate school fees. He had paid all her col­lege tuition, and af­ter she left North­west­ern Univer­sity he con­tin­ued to pay off her stu­dent loans, even af­ter she had landed a well-paid role in Suits.”

The court pa­pers state: “Fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of the Peo­ple in­ter­view and re­ports of the Peo­ple in­ter­view, nei­ther the ex­is­tence nor the con­tents of the Let­ter were con­fi­den­tial.

“Mr Markle was also en­ti­tled pub­licly to cor­rect the false and dam­ag­ing (to him) in­for­ma­tion that had been given about his con­duct in the Peo­ple in­ter­view, and to have as much of the Let­ter and its con­tents pub­lished as was nec­es­sary for that pur­pose.”

The de­fence also al­leges that Mr Markle has not heard from his daugh­ter since Au­gust 2018, when she sent the “im­mac­u­lately copied out” and “self-con­grat­u­la­tory” let­ter.

Point­ing out that it was writ­ten “in her own elab­o­rate hand­writ­ing” with “no cross­ings-out or amend­ments”, the news­pa­per group claims “it is to be in­ferred also from the care the Claimant took over the pre­sen­ta­tion of the let­ter that she an­tic­i­pated it be­ing dis­closed to and read by third par­ties”. It points out that the Duchess “chose to stay silent” on the ques­tion of whether she au­tho­rised her friends to talk to Peo­ple.

Yes­ter­day, the mag­a­zine pub­lished a story quot­ing a “fam­ily friend” who said the cou­ple felt they had no choice but to man­age things the way they did.

The pro­ceed­ings in the Chancery Di­vi­sion of the High Court are be­ing funded pri­vately by the Sus­sexes, with any pro­ceeds from dam­ages awarded to be do­nated to an anti-bul­ly­ing char­ity. Yet le­gal ex­perts said the cou­ple may have al­ready spent about £350,000 on the ac­tion so far. Sources close to them in­sist they are “de­ter­mined to have their day in court” and will take the case “all the way”.

A Mail on Sun­day spokesman said it stood by its pre­vi­ous state­ment and would de­fend the case “vig­or­ously”.

Thomas Markle near his home in Mexico last week­end. His re­la­tion­ship with his daugh­ter is at the heart of the le­gal ac­tion

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