The Duchess of Sussex wrote a letter to her father knowing it “could be leaked”, and asked whether she should call him “daddy”, saying it “would pull at the heartstrings” if it did get out, according to her former head of communications.
The extracts of a witness statement from Jason Knauf, who was Prince Harry and Meghan‘s media advisor until March 2019, were read out at the Court of Appeal on the second day of an appeal by the publisher of the Mail On Sunday against a High Court judge’s decision that publication of the letter was “unlawful”.
The statement, along with emails and text messages exchanged between Mr Knauf and the Sussexes, gives a rare insight into communications between a member of staff and the couple.
Mr Knauf said the duchess 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 Thomas Markle, 77, in August 2018 was “seeing how much pain this is causing H”.
Mr Knauf 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 said the texts included an early draft of the letter and that Meghan, 40, had written: “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.”
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.”
Mr Knauf’s statement said: “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’.”
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,” he continued.
He added: “She said she felt ‘fantastic’ after writing it and added that ‘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’.”
Andrew Caldecott QC, representing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), told the court: “The picture presented to the judge on behalf of the claimant… was that this was an entirely private letter crafted for Mr Markle’s eyes only.”
He added: “The position we now have is a different position and a more nuanced one, that the letter was written and crafted with readership in mind, and indeed she was happy for the public to read it if Mr Markle were to leak it.”
Meghan’s lawyers oppose the appeal, and the duchess has provided her own statement in response to Mr Knauf’s.
In it, she said she had decided to write the letter after discussions with unnamed senior members of the Royal Family, which Mr Knauf was not privy to.
She said she did not think her father would leak the letter, as it would show him in a “bad light”, and that the idea she wrote it thinking that it could happen was “absurd”.
Meghan also said she was “eager to please” the Royal Family and was “especially sensitive” to their concerns about her father’s “public attacks” on them.
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 won her case on a summary judgement earlier this year after suing ANL over a series of articles the paper printed quoting parts of the letter she sent to her father.
She said the five articles, published in print and online in February 2019, misused her private information, infringed her copyright, and breached the Data Protection Act.
The hearing will continue on Thursday, with judges expected to give their ruling at a later date.
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