A British court has revealed a key text exchange between Meghan Markle and her former press secretary in which she vents about the royal family.
Meghan Markle complained that the royal family had been “constantly berating” her husband, Prince Harry, over the public behaviour of her father Thomas in a 2018 text message, saying senior royals “fundamentally didn’t understand” the situation.
The text was revealed on Friday, British time, as part of a legal case between the Duchess of Sussex and tabloid newspaper The Mail on Sunday.
Meghan successfully sued the paper’s parent company earlier this year. In February, a judge ruled that The Mail breached her privacy by publishing excerpts of a 1250-word letter she had privately written to her father, which he subsequently leaked.
“It was, in short, a personal and private letter,” Lord Justice Warby said at the time, calling The Mail’s decision to publish it “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”.
The paper is currently appealing that decision, arguing Meghan wrote the letter in the full knowledge that it could end up in the public eye.
Earlier this week, the Court of Appeal in London received a witness statement from Meghan’s former press secretary, Jason Knauf, who said he “regretted” not giving evidence earlier in the lawsuit. That statement included details from a series of old text messages and email between himself and the Duchess, several of which concerned the letter to her father.
One such text, which Meghan sent in August of 2018, read: “Everything I have drafted is with the understanding it could be leaked, so I have been meticulous in my word choice.”
The Duchess asked Mr Knauf to advise whether anything in the draft of her letter stood out as a potential “liability”.
Mr Knauf turned over his texts and emails to the court, which released them – albeit in a redacted state – on Friday.
Among the trove of documents was the full, previously unseen version of that aforementioned text exchange. In it, Meghan told Mr Knauf the “catalyst” for writing the letter was “seeing how much pain this is causing H”, the “H” in question being Harry.
She complained that the royal family, and in particular Prince Charles, kept “berating” Harry over the situation with her father and “fundamentally” didn’t understand it.
“I am currently in Toronto and have drafted a letter to have mailed to my dad. I share this with you in confidence – the letter itself and its contents,” Meghan wrote.
“My thinking behind this is unlike a text or email it can’t be forwarded or cut and pasted to only share one small portion. It also does not open the door for a conversation.
“The catalyst for my doing this is seeing how much pain this is causing H. Even after a week with his dad and endlessly explaining the situation, his family seem to forget the context – and revert to: ‘Can’t she go and see him and make this stop?’
“They fundamentally don’t understand so at least by writing, H will be able to say to his family: ‘She wrote him a letter and he’s still doing it.’
“By taking this form of action I protect my husband from this constant berating, and while unlikely perhaps (it) will give my father a moment to pause.
“Eager to hear your thoughts.”
The text exchange offers us another glimpse into the rocky relationship between Harry and the Prince of Wales.
For what it’s worth, Mr Knauf responded to Meghan saying his “initial view” was “that this is a very good idea” and “the draft letter is very strong”.
The then-press secretary said it contained “enough emotion to be authentic” but “all in resigned sadness rather than anger”.
Before Friday’s release, lawyers representing Meghan in the appeal questioned why Mr Knauf had quoted extracts from her texts and emails in his witness statement instead of revealing her messages in full.
Mr Knauf’s evidence also called into question Harry and Meghan’s long-running assertion that they weren’t involved in the creation of Finding Freedom, the book written by royal reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand.
According to his version of events, the couple “authorised specific co-operation” with the book’s authors “in writing”.
Mr Knauf said he met with Scobie and Durand to discuss “briefing points” Meghan wanted him to share with them. He also spoke to Harry about the meeting.
“Are you planning on giving them a rough idea of what she’s been through over the last two years? Media onslaught, cyber bullying on a different scale, puppeteering Thomas Markle etc,” Harry asked Mr Knauf in an email.
“Even if they choose not to use it, they should hear what it was like from someone who was in the thick of it.”
He wished Mr Knauf “good luck”.
In a witness statement released on Wednseday, Meghan apologised to the court, saying she forgot about the briefing points she gave Mr Knauf.
“Mr Knauf did provide some information to the authors for the book and he did so with my knowledge, for a meeting that he planned with the authors in his capacity as communications secretary,” the Duchess said.
“I apologise 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.”