LONDON (AP) — The Duchess of Sussex on Thursday won the latest stage in her long-running privacy lawsuit against a newspaper publisher over its publication of parts of a letter she wrote to her estranged father.
The Court of Appeal in London upheld a High Court ruling in February that publication of the letter that the former Meghan Markle wrote to her father Thomas Markle after she married Prince Harry in 2018 was unlawful and breached her privacy.
The publisher of the Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline website challenged that decision at the Court of Appeal, which held a hearing last month. Dismissing that appeal, senior judge Geoffrey Vos told the court in a brief hearing Thursday 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.”
In a statement, Meghan, 40, said the ruling was “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,” she said.
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Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, waves during the Global Citizen festival on Sept. 25, 2021, in New York.
Associated Newspapers disputed Meghan’s claim that she didn’t intend the letter to be seen by anyone but her father. They said correspondence between Meghan and her then-communications secretary, Jason Knauf, showed the duchess suspected her father might leak the letter to journalists and wrote it with that in mind.
The publisher also argued that the publication of the letter was part of Thomas Markle’s right to reply following a People magazine interview with five of Meghan’s friends alleging he was “cruelly cold-shouldering” his daughter in the run-up to her royal wedding.
But Vos said that the article, which the Mail on Sunday described as “sensational,” was “splashed as a new public revelation” rather than focusing on Thomas Markle’s response to negative media reports about him.
In their appeal, Associated Newspapers had also argued that Meghan made private information public by cooperating with Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, authors of “Finding Freedom,” a sympathetic book about her and Harry.
The duchess’ lawyers had previously denied that she or Harry collaborated with the authors. But Knauf said in evidence to the court that he gave the writers information, and discussed it with Harry and Meghan.
Knauf’s evidence, which hadn’t previously been disclosed, was a dramatic twist in the long-running case.
In response, Meghan apologized for misleading the court about the extent of her cooperation with the book’s authors.
The duchess said she didn’t remember the discussions with Knauf when she gave evidence earlier in the case, “and I apologize 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,” she said.
Meghan, a former star of the American TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018.
Meghan and Harry announced in early 2020 that they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They have settled in Santa Barbara, California, with their two young children.
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27, 2017. It was announced Monday that Prince Harry, fifth in line for the British throne, will marry American actress Meghan Markle in the spring, confirming months of rumors.
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Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle meet a Shetland Pony as they arrive at Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. The recently engaged couple are on a one day tour to Edinburgh, and will visit the Castle and observe the firing of the One O'clock Gun.
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Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle ride a horse-drawn carriage, after their wedding ceremony at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, near London, England, Saturday, May 19, 2018.
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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leave after their wedding ceremony at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, near London, England, Saturday, May 19, 2018.
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex pose for a group photo at the Queen's Young Leaders Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, Tuesday, June 26, 2018.
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Britian's Prince Harry, the patron of the charity WellChild and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex meet four-year-old Mckenzie Brackley and his mother, during the annual WellChild Awards at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. The couple attended the annual WellChild awards Tuesday for the charity, who help to get seriously ill children and young people out of hospital and home to their families.
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet with a local surfing community group, known as OneWave, raising awareness for mental health and wellbeing in a fun and engaging way at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day four of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
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Britain's Prince Harry, left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex walk along Kingfisher Bay Jetty during a visit to Fraser Island, Australia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day seven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet Ruby a mother Koala who gave birth to koala joey Meghan, named after Her Royal Highness, with a second joey named Harry after His Royal Highness during a visit to Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on a 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are embraced by Luke Vincent, 5, on their arrival in Dubbo, Australia, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex stop to stroke horses in their stables during a visit to the Moroccan Royal Federation of Equestrian Sports in Rabat in Morocco, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on a three day visit to the country.
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, during a photocall with their newborn son, in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle, Windsor, south England, Wednesday May 8, 2019.
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex attend the 91st Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019.
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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at the annual Endeavour Fund Awards in London, Thursday, March 5, 2020. The awards celebrate the achievements of service personnel who were injured in service and have gone on to use sport as part of their recovery and rehabilitation.