Meghan Markle was left “unprotected” by the royal family during her pregnancy and unable to defend herself from “hundreds of thousands of inaccurate articles” due to the palace’s media policy, her legal team argues in new court documents obtained by HuffPost on Wednesday.
The revelations are part of the Duchess of Sussex’s ongoing lawsuit with Associated Newspapers Limited, which owns the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.
The case, which concerns issues of privacy, copyright infringement and the breach of the Data Protection Act 2018, centers on the Mail on Sunday’s publication of excerpts of a private letter that Meghan wrote to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018.
Associated Newspapers argues that its publication of the personal letter on Feb. 9, 2019 was justified, given that one of Meghan’s unnamed friends’ spoke of the letter’s existence in a People magazine feature published three days earlier.
The new documents, which show the extreme steps the duchess took to keep the letter from being intercepted by others, state that Meghan didn’t know it would be “revealed or referred to by any media outlet” as she “would not have consented to this.”
Meghan’s legal defense also denies that the duchess knew of the existence of the interview with her friends or that she instructed them to intervene on her behalf. Instead, her lawyers say the Duchess of Sussex found out about the People magazine story on the day that it was published.
The Duchess of Sussex’s legal team says that Meghan was aware, however, in January 2019, while she was pregnant, that her friends “were extremely worried about her mental health and the impact which the false portrayal of her in the media was having on her and that they wanted to correct this.”
Meghan “had become the subject of a large number of false and damaging articles by the UK tabloid media,” the documents say, calling out Associated Newspapers Limited for articles that reportedly caused her “tremendous emotional distress and damage to her mental health.”
“As her friends had never seen her in this state before, they were rightly concerned for her welfare, specifically as she was pregnant, unprotected by the Institution, and prohibited from defending herself,” the documents state.
The documents say the Kensington Palace communications team had a policy of asking Meghan’s friends and family to say “no comment” to media requests, which led to Meghan’s friends “feeling silenced,” and likely contributed to their anonymous participation in the People article.
A spokesperson for Kensington Palace declined to comment.
“The stance of ‘no comment’ was taken by the KP Communications Team without any discussion with or approval by the Claimant, as is standard practice for Royal communications,” the documents said, indicating that Meghan didn’t agree with the media policy.
“Had the Claimant been asked or been given the opportunity to participate, she would have asked the KP Communications Team to say on the record that she had not been involved with the People magazine article, as she had not been.”
In October 2019, Prince Harry slammed the UK tabloid media’s “ruthless campaign” and manipulative tactics against Meghan during her pregnancy in a statement announcing the duchess’ lawsuit.
“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,” Harry said at the time, denouncing certain publications who created “lie after lie at her expense” while she was on maternity leave.
Subscribe to HuffPost’s Watching the Royals newsletter for all things Windsor (and beyond).