Meghan used the word ‘Daddy’ in her letter, ‘in case it was leaked’

Meghan Markle deliberately addressed her estranged father as “Daddy” in a handwritten letter, believing it would “pull at the heartstrings” in the event it was leaked, the UK court of appeal has heard.

he 40-year-old Duchess of Sussex, writing in text messages to her then-communications secretary, said she had “obviously” written the letter “with the understanding that it could be leaked”, being “meticulous” in her choice of words.

If Thomas Markle, her father, leaked it, she said, “at least the world will know the truth”, adding they were words she could “never voice publicly” herself.

Ms Markle’s texts were read aloud in the court of appeal in London yesterday, as The Mail on Sunday argues the privacy, copyright and data protection case surrounding the letter sent by Ms Markle to her father should be heard at trial.

Jason Knauf, a former senior Kensington Palace aide, provided a witness statement which the newspaper publisher argued proved Ms Markle knew the letter was likely to be published.

He told the court that Ms Markle had “explored options for written communication that might convince him to stop giving interviews, but that could also set the record straight if he gave them to the media.”

In a text message read out in court, dated August 22, 2018, Ms Markle asked Mr Knauf to read her letter, saying: “Obviously everything I’ve drafted is with the understanding that it could be leaked, so I have been meticulous in my word choice. But please let me know if anything stands out for you as a liability.”

A second message, discussing how to address Mr Markle, read: “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 is leaked, it would pull at the heartstrings.”

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak at the 2021 Global Citizen Live concert at Central Park in New York on September 25 last

Ms Markle went on to say the letter was written “in the spirit of facts without seeming orchestrated or litigious”, adding it was “simply an appeal for peace and a reminder of what’s actually happened”.

“Honestly Jason, I feel fantastic,” Ms Markle told her adviser. “Cathartic and real and honest and factual. If he leaks it, that’s on his conscience, but at least the world will know the truth. Words I could never voice publicly.”

Of the thought she put into the letter, Ms Markle said: “Trust me, toiled over every detail of the letter which could be manipulated.”

Mr Knauf’s statement said Ms Markle made one small amendment to the letter on his advice, after he suggested she make mention of her father’s health.

Ms Markle had wanted to write a letter rather than send an email or text so that it could not be forwarded or cut and pasted to only share one small portion. 

“She also deliberately ended each page part way through a sentence so that no page could be falsely presented as the end of the letter,” he said.

Ms Markle sent the letter to her Los Angeles-based business manager who then forwarded it by FedEx to Mr Markle at his address in Mexico, giving a copy to her American attorney.

In her own witness statement provided to the court, Ms Markle insisted she did not think the letter was “likely” to be leaked but “merely recognised that this was a possibility given the extraordinary level of media attention and unusual lens we were all under”. 

“The proposition that saying that I recognised that it was possible that my father would leak the letter (albeit unlikely) is the same as saying that I thought it likely that he would do so is, I would suggest, absurd,” she said.

Ms Markle said the text exchange showed she went to “considerable lengths to ensure that the letter only went to my father”, and chose to write rather than email fearing her father’s communications had been compromised.

While members of the British royal family suggested she fly out to see her father in person, she disclosed, she believed it would be impossible to reach him privately without risking bringing “yet more embarrassment” on her in-laws.

In August 2018, she said she had spoken to two senior members of the royal family who agreed she would write a letter.

She disclosed other text messages from Mr Knauf in which he praised her “strong and clear letter – with just the right amount of emotion”.

Jenny Afia, from the Ms Markle’s legal team, said it was “obvious, and cannot seriously be disputed” that taking precautions against a letter potentially being leaked is a “materially different proposition” to intending to make it public.

“I did not think that my father would sell or leak the letter, primarily because it would not put him in a good light,” Meghan said. 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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