Meghan Markle suffers legal blow as judge rules British tabloid can use royal biography 'Finding Freedom' in its defense

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4 mins read
Meghan Markle, pictured here in South Africa in 2019, has lost her latest legal round. (Photo: AFP)
Meghan Markle, pictured here in South Africa in 2019, has lost her latest legal round. (Photo: AFP)

Meghan Markle has lost the latest court battle against the Mail On Sunday, as a judge has ruled the newspaper can rely on extracts from a book about her in its defense.

Meghan, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) after it published extracts of a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle, in the weeks after her wedding to Prince Harry.

In the latest pre-trial showdown, ANL asked to amend its defense to argue that the duchess “co-operated with the authors of the recently published book Finding Freedom to put out their version of certain events.”

Finding Freedom, written by royal correspondents Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, was released in August and contained new information about when Harry and Meghan were dating, and the first time Meghan met her future brother-in-law, Prince William.

Meghan’s lawyers deny that either she or Harry had anything to do with the book, and even issued a scathing statement suggesting it was the subject of creative license.

On the book’s references to the letter she sent to her father, and the subsequent reporting, Meghan’s lawyers pointed out that the authors used references that were “extracts from the letter lifted from the defendant’s own articles.”

Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Family is a biography of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which was released in the summer. (Photo: Getty Images)
Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Family is a biography of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which was released in the summer. (Photo: Getty Images)

Delivering her verdict on ANL’s request to include the book, Judge Francesca Kaye said the amended defense did not raise “new defenses” but added “further particulars.”

She said the Duchess of Sussex “knows the case she has to meet” and that “there is no suggestion that she is in fact unable to do so.”

It’s already the case that the duchess, who now lives in the U.S. and is likely to join the case via video link, will have to hand over months’ worth of communications, including texts, emails and call logs.

Justin Rushbrooke, representing Meghan, immediately asked for permission to appeal but it was denied. However, her lawyers could take an appeal to the Court of Appeal.

He said the “inherent improbability” of Meghan co-operating with the book could be seen by “simply comparing what the defendant’s own articles said with what the book said about the letter.”

Last week, in written statements to court, Rushbrooke said: “The claimant and her husband did not collaborate with the authors on the book, nor were they interviewed for it, nor did they provide photographs to the authors for the book.”

Scobie even provided a witness statement confirming the couple did not speak to him or Durand, adding: “They did not authorize the book and have never been interviewed for it. The book was always prepared on the understanding that it was to be independent and unauthorized. As journalists we wanted to be able to look into the other side of the story without worrying about offending any collaborators/sources.”

This court battle is the third skirmish between the two parties since Meghan announced she was suing ANL at the end of a royal tour in southern Africa in October 2019.

Meghan won one round, in which she applied to keep the names of her friends who spoke to People magazine about the letter private. The duchess says that she did not know her friends were going to speak to the magazine about the letter until she saw the published article.

But ANL won the first, seeing her have to strike out parts of her case against them.

In a statement to the court last week, the duchess’s lawyer said a section in Finding Freedom about the birth of son Archie “appears to be the product of creative license” and pointed out that Harry could not have texted his father, Prince Charles, because Charles doesn’t have a mobile phone.

Meghan is suing over five articles which appeared in the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline in February 2019, which included parts of the letter she had sent in August 2018.

The headline of the first Mail on Sunday article read: “Revealed: The letter showing true tragedy of Meghan’s rift with a father she says has ‘broken her heart into a million pieces.’”

The matter is to go to full trial in January 2021.

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