The Duchess of Sussex has been accused of being more worried about the “unflattering” effect of the publication of letter extracts written to her estranged father than any breach of her data protection rights.
The claim is made in a legal document submitted to the High Court by the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, responding to Meghan’s legal action over an article featuring parts of a handwritten letter to Thomas Markle.
Papers from the duchess’s solicitors have previously said the “true sentiment” of the letter was Meghan’s concern about her father’s welfare and his exploitation by tabloid newspapers which he should stop talking to.
But Associated Newspapers’ legal team said in its document published this week: “If the Claimant had been or was concerned about her father and his welfare, she would not have cut her father, a sick 75-year-old man, out of her life for the perceived sin of speaking to the press about his daughter who had become a famous royal duchess.”
Meghan “caused or permitted”, the legal paper claims, her close friend Jessica Mulroney to contact the duchess’s former commercial adviser who gave an interview to the Mail on Sunday, in a bid to ensure “a more favourable article was published”.
Ms Mulroney, a Canadian stylist and TV star, wrote to Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne “putting pressure on her to withdraw or change statements”, claims the legal team for the publisher.
Mr Markle is the main witness for Associated Newspapers and if the case reaches a full court hearing, both Meghan and her father could be called to testify against one another, with the paper’s sister publication the Daily Mail reporting that the retired lighting director would be prepared to face her in court.
The duchess, known as the claimant in legal documents, is seeking damages from Associated Newspapers for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.
The publisher’s document alleges: “The claimant’s real claim in this action is transparently not that the defendant has processed her personal data without consent, which all media publishers do on a regular basis, but that she does not like the effect of what the defendant has published because she considers it to be unflattering.”
The papers shed light on the relationship between Meghan and her father, with Mr Markle claiming he contributed tens of thousands to her education, paying private school fees, university tuition costs and her student loan even after her career as an actress took off.
Mr Markle claimed the duchess sent him only occasional “modest” financial gifts after landing a role in the hit TV series Suits, even though he was still paying off her college debts.
The publication of the document comes during a major crisis that has engulfed the royal family around the future roles of the Sussexes.
The Queen has agreed for them to begin a transition period of living in Canada and the UK as they step back as frontline royals and become financially independent.
Meghan, who flew back to Canada before senior royals met at Sandringham to discuss the Sussexes’ future, has been photographed in the province of British Columbia visiting the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver.
She discussed “issues affecting women in the community”, according to a photograph posted on Facebook by the shelter.