Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex and a Montecito resident, won a monumental victory in an ongoing feud with the British tabloid “The Mail on Sunday,” which she sued for a privacy breach following the outlet’s decision to publish a letter sent to her estranged father in 2018.
In London, Judge Mark Warby ruled that Ms. Markle had “reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private.” He added that the contents of the letter that were published by The Mail were “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.”
In a statement, Ms. Markle called her victory in the High Court a “comprehensive win,” noting the importance of the tabloid being held accountable for “dehumanizing practices.”
“For these outlets, it’s a game,” Ms. Markle said in a statement. “For me and so many others, it’s real life, real relationships and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep.”
The letter at the center of this case was sent to Ms. Markle’s estranged father, Thomas Markle, following her marriage to Prince Harry in May 2018. Mr. Markle did not attend the royal wedding, prompting Ms. Markle to send an anguished five-page letter, discussing the heartbreak she felt over her father’s willingness to talk with the tabloids but refusal to take her phone calls.
The Mail published the letter in February 2019. The letter was supposedly obtained via Mr. Markle. In defense of its decision to publish, the tabloid’s owner, Associated Newspapers, claimed Mr. Markle was not legally obligated to keep the letter private, alleging Ms. Markle should have known there was a chance it could be published.
In January of this year, Mr. Markle submitted a witness statement on behalf of Associated Newspapers, claiming his decision to publish the letter came after People magazine published an in-depth article on the Duchess, casting him in a negative light. In Mr. Markle’s statement, he wrote the letter “signaled the end of our relationship, not a reconciliation.”
“Until I read the article in People magazine I had never intended to talk publicly about Meg’s letter to me,” Mr. Markle said in his statement. “The contents of that article caused me to change my mind. It was only by publishing the text of that letter that I could properly set the record straight and show that what People magazine had published was false and unfair.”
The ruling from the High Court will spare Ms. Markle from having to testify against her father in a contentious public trial. However, the judge determined that a second trial would be necessary to address possible copyright infringement, a secondary aspect of the Duchess’ case.
The High Court is set to discuss this case again March 2 to assess damages, discuss outstanding issues and determine costs.