Meghan, Duchess of Sussex is suing the Mail on Sunday newspaper after they published a handwritten letter she’d sent to her estranged father.
A statement was issued on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official website and she started proceedings in the high court over the misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Her husband Prince Harry spoke candidly about how events had affected his wife, saying he could no longer be a “silent witness to her private suffering”.
Prince Harry accused the Mail on Sunday of editing the letter in “an intentionally destructive manner” to “manipulate” readers with an unflattering portrayal of his wife.
Meghan was able to launch proceedings as authors of letters retain ownership of the copyright even after the physical correspondence is in the possession of another individual.
Pursuing legal action on this narrow basis also gives the royals a greater chance of success against DMG Media, formerly Associated Newspapers, which also owns the Daily Mail and MailOnline.
Prince Harry also accused certain members of the media of “waging campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences” and compared the treatment of Meghan to coverage of his mother, Princess Diana.
The move comes after the couple have been criticised for their obsession with privacy, refusing to allow access to baby Archie’s christening and their extensive use of private jets while lecturing the public on global warming.
This week, The Sun reported that the couple have been using a fleet of Range Rovers specially shipped out from the UK to use during their royal tour of South Africa.
The high-end 4x4s have been drafted in because organisers were unable to find local cars offering adequate security for Harry, Meghan and baby Archie.
The letter at the centre of the row was to Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle. In an interview in which he revealed how hurt he was by comments made by the Duchess’s friends in an article for People magazine.
Law firm Schillings, representing the Duchess, said she had filed a High Court claim against the paper and its parent company Associated Newspapers over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.
The legal proceedings in the Chancery Division of the High Court are being privately funded by Harry and Meghan. Depending on the court ruling, proceeds from any damages will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.
The Mail on Sunday published had published the letter in February. It was published at a time that the royal couple had already locked horns with the British press.
At the time, Meghan and the rest of the royal family did not comment on the letter.
A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday said: ‘The Mail on Sunday stands by the story it published and will be defending this case vigorously. Specifically, we categorically deny that the Duchess’s letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning.’
Here is the full statement from the Duke of Sussex
‘As a couple, we believe in media freedom and objective, truthful reporting. We regard it as a cornerstone of democracy and in the current state of the world – on every level – we have never needed responsible media more.
‘Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences – a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son.
‘There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been. Because in today’s digital age, press fabrications are repurposed as truth across the globe. One day’s coverage is no longer tomorrow’s chip-paper.
‘Up to now, we have been unable to correct the continual misrepresentations – something that these select media outlets have been aware of and have therefore exploited on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
‘It is for this reason we are taking legal action, a process that has been many months in the making.
‘The positive coverage of the past week from these same publications exposes the double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her almost daily for the past nine months; they have been able to create lie after lie at her expense simply because she has not been visible while on maternity leave.
‘She is the same woman she was a year ago on our wedding day, just as she is the same woman you’ve seen on this Africa tour.
‘For these select media this is a game, and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start. I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.
‘This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media. The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question.
‘In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year.
‘There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.
‘Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.
‘We thank you, the public, for your continued support. It is hugely appreciated. Although it may not seem like it, we really need it.’