Meghan Markle will have to hand over six months’ worth of texts, call logs, emails and WhatsApp messages as part of a £3m court case as she sues the Mail On Sunday.
The Duchess of Sussex is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL), publishers of the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline, after it used parts of a letter she sent her father in several articles last year.
ANL argue the letter could not be considered private because its existence was referenced in an article in People magazine, by one of five friends who spoke to the publication anonymously to defend Meghan.
Meghan says she did not know the friends were giving the interview until it was published.
In court on Monday, ANL’s lawyers requested permission to alter their defence, as they sought to add that she “co-operated with the authors of the recently published book ‘Finding Freedom’ to put out their version of certain events”.
In proceedings, ANL’s lawyers requested her emails, photos, FaceTime logs, and WhatsApp messages following the publication of the article.
Lawyers said they want the messages to “shed light upon the claimant’s attitude to the letter and her privacy”.
Judge Francesca Kaye ruled that all relevant messages should be handed over from the six months after 10 February 2019, the date the article was first published.
The practice of handing over messages and communication can happen frequently in High Court hearings.
Finding Freedom was published at the end of August, by royal reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand. The authors have both said Prince Harry and Meghan did not co-operate in the writing of the book, though they acknowledge that they have spoken to the royal couple on occasion.
It builds on ANL’s argument that Meghan, 39, wrote the letter to her father, Thomas Markle, 76, “with a view to it being read by third parties and/or disclosed to the public, or knowing that this was very likely”.
ANL claim the duchess used her friends as “effectively, PR agents” to influence the media.
In written submissions in court on Monday, Antony White QC, representing ANL said: “The book sets out in great detail the claimant’s feelings on a variety of personal matters, relationships and events, and attributes multiple quotes to her about her feelings.
“It also sets out in great detail accounts of events at which it is reasonable to infer that only the claimant and her husband, and/or possibly a third party who would not have spoken to the authors (eg the Queen), were present.”
Lawyers for ANL said the book gave “intensely personal information about how the claimant felt … that essentially only she knew”.
But Meghan’s lawyers have responded by stating that the book only quotes parts of the letter from the articles published by ANL.
Justin Rushbrooke QC, for the duchess, 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.”
They also disputed some details of the book, raising the suggestion that Harry had texted his father Prince Charles after Archie was born.
Rushbrooke said: “Well, how does that stand factually? Prince Charles, as actually is widely-known, does not have a mobile phone.”
The hearing on Monday also established how much the court case will cost, with the total figure around £3m.
In documents before the court, Jessie Bowhill, for the duchess said: “The overall total costs figures are £1,798,043.57 for the claimant and £1,230,425 for the defendant.”
At their last court hearing, both sides were rapped for the slow progress of the case going to full trial, which has now been scheduled for 11 January.
It’s expected Meghan will give her evidence via video link, not in person.
The duchess is suing ANL over five articles which appeared in the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline publishing extracts of a letter to her father which she said was private.
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’.”
Judge Kaye is to give a ruling on ANL’s request to amend its defence at a later date.