Prince Harry’s wife Meghan could face her father in court over the publication of a letter she wrote to him, British media said Wednesday, as she made a first public appearance in Canada after the couple’s shock decision to quit as full-time royals.
Meghan launched legal action against The Mail on Sunday’s publishers in October after the tabloid printed a handwritten letter it had been shown by Thomas Markle.
The weekly newspaper has now issued its defence, leading to the possibility that Meghan and her father could be called to testify against each another.
Harry and Meghan are in the eye of a storm after their bombshell announcement last week – before they had discussed the plans with Queen Elizabeth.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as they are titled, are now in talks with other senior royals about how their wished-for new roles could work. Final details are due in the coming days.
The prospect of a high court showdown only adds to the pressure on the couple. Harry, sixth in line to the throne, married US former television actress Meghan at Windsor Castle in May 2018.
Her father, an award-winning former television lighting director now living in Mexico, did not attend the wedding after staging paparazzi photographs and suffering chest pains in the build-up.
The letter was written in August 2018 and published in February 2019 soon after the US magazine People ran a story citing Meghan’s friends talking about the letter, which shed light on her troubled relationship with her estranged father.
Meghan filed a claim in October last year against publishers Associated Newspapers over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.
In an accompanying statement, Harry lashed out at negative press coverage, claiming British tabloids had mounted a “ruthless” and “malicious” attempt to vilify his wife.
Newly revealed legal documents outlining The Mail on Sunday’s defence show they will rely on evidence from Markle, including that he “had a weighty right to tell his version of what had happened”.
The paper’s sister publication the Daily Mail said on its front page on Wednesday that Markle would be prepared to give evidence against his daughter.
The Mail on Sunday also argues that a “one-sided” article in the US magazine People meant the letter’s existence was already in the public domain.
It could be months before any trial takes place.
More broadly, online and television debate has raged as to whether tabloid coverage had been racist towards Meghan.
Departing Labour main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn “agrees” there were, “to use Prince Harry’s words”, “racial undertones” in Meghan’s press coverage, his spokesman said.
Harry is expected to resurface at Buckingham Palace on Thursday to host the 2021 Rugby League World Cup draw.
In her first public appearance since the royal crisis broke, Meghan visited the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver on Tuesday, discussing “issues affecting women in the community”, according to a photograph posted on Facebook by the shelter.
“She was just casual and lovely,” the centre’s acting director, Kate Gibson, told Canadian public broadcaster CBC. “I thought she was really down to earth,” she said.
“She’s very good at sort of picking up something from the conversation and expanding that a bit and asking questions and (she was) empathetic. She was really great.”
Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, spent six weeks on Vancouver Island on Canada’s Pacific coast over Christmas with their son Archie, who was born in May last year.
The couple returned to Britain, but Meghan has since gone back to Canada, missing Monday’s crisis summit at Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham country residence.
The 93-year-old monarch, her eldest son and heir Prince Charles, 71, and his two sons Princes William and Harry held talks aimed at brokering a future for the Sussexes.
The couple want to step back as senior royals, work towards financial independence from the British taxpayer, split their time between the UK and Canada and ditch long-established pooled media access arrangements for royal engagements.
William, 37, and his wife, Kate, made their first public appearance since the Sandringham gathering, visiting projects promoting social cohesion in the ethnically-diverse city of Bradford, northern England, on Wednesday.
They greeted well-wishers outside the city hall, had a go at making mango and kulfi milkshakes and met former world champion boxer Amir Khan.
The fighter claimed he had never personally experienced racism in Britain.
“I feel that Meghan will also be welcomed because the people in Britain are very loving,” he said.