At the heart of Meghan Markle’s legal battle with Associated Newspapers is a letter, written to a father by a daughter in a moment of heightened pressure. But you’d be forgiven for thinking that, because—in its first pre-trial hearing last week—it quickly became apparent that this case is about much more than a humdrum family dispute. It is actually going to be Meghan Markle vs. All Media. And Meghan Markle vs. Her Dad. And, for that matter, Meghan Markle vs. Her Own Worst Tendencies.
The long and the short of it is this: In August 2018, Meghan wrote a letter to her father, Thomas, claiming that his behavior before her wedding had “broken [her] heart into a million pieces.” Six months later, the letter was referenced in a People article. Three days after that, Thomas gave a copy of the letter to The Mail on Sunday. Now Meghan is suing the paper’s owner for publishing it, claiming misuse of private information, breach of data protection, and copyright infringement. (Note: the proprietor of Associated Newspapers is an investor in AIR MAIL.)
The case itself isn’t expected to begin until late 2020 or early 2021. But after a preliminary hearing in London’s High Court, the judge on Friday threw out parts of Meghan’s claim, finding some of her allegations “irrelevant” and “inadequately detailed.” If the pre-trial hearing is any indication, Meghan Markle plans to go down swinging, regardless of how many punches she ends up landing on herself in the process. As things stand, they might be numerous.
Meghan Markle plans to go down swinging, regardless of how many punches she ends up landing on herself in the process.
Already we have seen the release of endless text messages that do nothing but shine a light on the utter dysfunction that exists between Thomas Markle (a man who never saw a news outlet he wouldn’t yammer at for cash) and Meghan (a woman so thoroughly inept at achieving privacy that even Lindsay Lohan has started offering her advice). The messages begin with Thomas apologizing for staging a paparazzi shoot, to which Harry replies with the vaguely sinister “Any speaking to the press WILL backfire, trust me Tom. Only we can help u … ”
The following day, Thomas undergoes emergency heart surgery. Harry then sends a text, according to court documents cited by the Daily Mail, “admonishing Mr Markle for talking to the press and … accusing Mr Markle of causing hurt to his daughter. The text did not ask how the surgical procedure had gone or how Mr Markle was or send him good wishes.” The messages include Thomas’s passive-aggressive masterpiece, “I’m sorry my heart attack is … any inconvenience for you.”
And this is just the start. Come the trial proper, all bets are off. Meghan’s somewhat famous friends will take the stand. The couple’s finances will be explored, as will their cooperation with the authors of the upcoming book Thoroughly Modern Royals: The Real World of Meghan and Harry, which has the potential to be another semi-authorized Andrew Morton Diana-style tell-all. No stone will be left unturned in the trial. It is destined to go down as an ugly and unnecessarily public slugfest that will cause permanent damage to Prince Harry, the royal family, and the Markles. The only winner in all of this, regardless of the outcome, will be the press, which Harry despises so much.
The relationship between the couple and the media is already extraordinarily strained. Harry and Meghan have effectively boycotted four major British tabloids, who no longer need any excuse to go after them. And what better way to do that than by covering weeks and weeks of a trial that will leave the pair fully exposed? Neither of them seems very happy—this week alone Harry reportedly told his friends that he was nostalgic for the days of his active military service—and a case like this isn’t going to change that. There are ways and means of dealing with an intrusive press. Harry and Meghan really should know that willingly offering up all their dirty laundry isn’t one of them.
Stuart Heritage is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL based in Kent, U.K.