Duchess of Sussex to take legal action against newspaper over private letter

The Duchess of Sussex has started legal action against the Mail on Sunday newspaper over an allegation it unlawfully published one of her private letters.

Law firm Schillings, representing the duchess, said she had filed a High Court claim against the paper and its parent company Associated Newspapers over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.

A spokeswoman for the firm claimed the "intrusive" publication of the letter was part of the media group's campaign to write "false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband".

In a lengthy and highly personal statement published on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's official website on Tuesday, Harry said the royal couple had been driven to take legal action after "painful" impact of "relentless propaganda" against his wife from the British tabloid press.

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Royal visit to Africa
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Royal visit to Africa
The Duke of Sussex makes a speech at a reception at the British High Commissioner�s Residence in Lilongwe, Malawi.
The Duke of Sussex speaks to Angeline Murimirwa, the Executive Director of Africa CAMFED, during his visit to the Nalikule College of Education in Malawi on day seven of the royal tour of Africa.
The Duchess of Sussex appears on a television screen as she speaks via skype during the Duke of Sussex's visit to the Nalikule College of Education in Lilongwe, Malawi, to see the work of the CAMA network supporting young women in Malawi.
The Duke of Sussex arrives at the Nalikule College of Education to learn about the CAMA network and how it is supporting young women in Malawi on day seven of the royal tour of Africa.
The Duke of Sussex sings with the CAMA choir during a visit to the Nalikule College of Education in Lilongwe, Malawi, to see the work of the CAMA network supporting young women in Malawi.
The Duke of Sussex sings with the CAMA choir during a visit to the Nalikule College of Education in Lilongwe, Malawi, to see the work of the CAMA network supporting young women in Malawi.
The Duke of Sussex walks on Princess Diana Street in Huambo, Angola, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. The Duke is visiting the minefield where his late mother, the Princess of Wales, was photographed in 1997, which is now a busy street with schools, shops and houses.
Photo by: KGC-178/STAR MAX/IPx 2019 9/28/19 Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, ties a ribbon at the memorial to student Uyinene Mrwetyana at the post office where she was raped and murdered last month. A post on the official Instagram account of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said "The Duke and Duchess had been following what had happened from afar and were both eager to learn more when they arrived in South Africa." These images were posted on @SussexRoyal today and supplied by the Royal Household.
Photo by: KGC-178/STAR MAX/IPx 2019 9/28/19 Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, ties a ribbon at the memorial to student Uyinene Mrwetyana at the post office where she was raped and murdered last month. A post on the official Instagram account of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said "The Duke and Duchess had been following what had happened from afar and were both eager to learn more when they arrived in South Africa." These images were posted on @SussexRoyal today and supplied by the Royal Household.
The Duke of Sussex arrives for an audience with President Jo�o Louren�o at the presidential palace in Luanda, Angola on day six of the royal tour of Africa.
The Duke of Sussex in front of the Diana Tree in Huambo, Angola, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. The Duke is visiting the minefield where his late mother, the Princess of Wales, was photographed in 1997, which is now a busy street with schools, shops and houses.
The Duke of Sussex meets with the President of Angola Joao Lourenco and First Lady Ana Dias Lourenco at the presidential palace in Luanda, Angola on day six of the royal tour of Africa.
The Duke of Sussex meets Barnaby Jose Mar, 6, as he visits the Princess Diana Orthopaedic Centre in Huambo, Angola, on day five of the royal tour of Africa.
The Duke of Sussex meets landmine victim Sandra Tigica, who Princess Diana met on her visit to Angola 1997, during a reception at the British Ambassadors Residence in Luanda, Angola, on day five of the royal tour of Africa.
File photo dated 14/01/97 of Diana, Princess of Wales, with Sandra Tigica 13, at the orthopaedic workshop in Neves Mendinha, near Launda, Angola. The Duke of Sussex met Sandra Tigica again today, on day five of the royal tour of Africa.
File photo dated 30/06/97 of Prince Harry standing with Eufrafina, 3 and her mother Sandra Tigica. The Duke of Sussex met Sandra Tigica again on day five of the royal tour of Africa, recalling when Princess Diana met on her visit to Angola in 1997.
The Duke of Sussex meets patients as he visits the Princess Diana Orthopaedic Centre in Huambo, Angola, on day five of the royal tour of Africa.
The Duke of Sussex sits alone beneath the Diana Tree in Huambo, Angola, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. The Duke is visiting the minefield where his late mother, the Princess of Wales, was photographed in 1997, which is now a busy street with schools, shops and houses.
Britain's Prince Harry walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola Friday Sept. 27, 2019, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)
Prince Harry retraces Diana's footsteps through Angola minefield
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 1997 file photo, Britain's Princess Diana uses a remote switch to trigger the detonation of some explosive ordinance dug up by mine sweepers in Huambo, Angola. Prince Harry on Friday Sept. 27, 2019, is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (AP Photo/Giovanni Diffidenti, File)
Britain's Prince Harry watches a controlled explosion in a partially cleared minefield in Dirico, Angola Friday Sept. 27, 2019, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 1997 file photo, Princess Diana, wearing a bombproof visor, visits a minefield in Huambo, in Angola. Prince Harry on Friday Sept. 27, 2019, is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (John Stillwell/PA via AP, File)
Britain's Prince Harry walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola, Friday Sept. 27, 2019, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)
Britain's Prince Harry walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola, Friday Sept. 27, 2019, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)
Britain's Prince Harry walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola Friday Sept. 27, 2019, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)
Britain's Prince Harry walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola Friday Sept. 27, 2019, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)
Britain's Prince Harry walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola Friday Sept. 27, 2019, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)
Prince Harry walks through Angola mine field, echoing Diana
Britain's Prince Harry with Jose Antonio, center, of the Halo Trust and a mine clearance worker walk through a minefield in Dirico, Angola Friday Sept. 27, 2019, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa. Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana, whose walk through an active mine field in Angola years ago helped to lead to a global ban on the deadly weapons. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)
The Duke of Sussex during a tree planting event with local children, at the Chobe National Park, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex is greeted by Tlotlo Moilwa during a visit to the Kasane Health Post, run by the Sentebale charity, in Kasane, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex gives a television interview during a tree planting event with local school children, at the Chobe National Park, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex joins in a confidence building exercise with young people including Tlotlo Moilwa (left), during a visit to the Kasane Health Post, run by the Sentebale charity, in Kasane, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex (left) during a tree planting event with local school children, at the Chobe Tree Reserve, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex helps plant a baobab tree during a tree planting event with local children, at the Chobe National Park, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex joins in a tree planting event with local children, at the Chobe National Park, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex (centre) helps plant a baobab tree during a tree planting event with local children, at the Chobe National Park, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex (right) with founder of Elephants Without Borders Dr Mike Chase, are welcomed to a tree planting event by local children, at the Chobe Tree Reserve, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex with founder of Elephants Without Borders Dr Mike Chase, during a tree planting event with local schoolchildren, at the Chobe Tree Reserve, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex (second left) joins in a group exercise during a tree planting event with local children, at the Chobe Tree Reserve, Botswana.
The Duke of Sussex joins a Botswana Defence Force anti-poaching patrol, on the Chobe river in Kasane, Botswana, on day four of the royal tour of Africa.
The Duke of Sussex joins a Botswana Defence Force anti-poaching patrol on the Chobe river in Kasane, Botswana, on day four of the royal tour of Africa.
A Botswana Defence Force anti-poaching patrol, on the Chobe river in Kasane, Botswana, on day four of the royal tour of Africa.
The Duke of Sussex joins a Botswana Defence Force anti-poaching patrol on the Chobe river in Kasane, Botswana, on day four of the royal tour of Africa.
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Referencing press coverage of his mother Princess Diana, the duke said his "deepest fear is history repeating itself".

He wrote: "I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.

"I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

The legal proceedings in the Chancery Division of the High Court are being privately funded by Harry and Meghan.

Depending on the court ruling, proceeds from any damages will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.

The Schillings spokeswoman added: "Given the refusal of Associated Newspapers to resolve this issue satisfactorily, we have issued proceedings to redress this breach of privacy, infringement of copyright and the aforementioned media agenda".

In his statement, Harry said he and Meghan believed in "media freedom and objective, truthful reporting" as a "cornerstone of democracy".

Addressing readers, he added: "Unfortunately, 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.

"There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been.

"Because in today's digital age, press fabrications are repurposed as truth across the globe. One day's coverage is no longer tomorrow's chip-paper."

Harry said the couple, who are currently on a royal tour of Southern Africa, had been unable to correct "continual misrepresentations" in the press.

He said "positive" coverage of the tour exposed "the double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her almost daily for the past nine months; they have been able to create lie after lie at her expense simply because she has not been visible while on maternity leave.

"She is the same woman she was a year ago on our wedding day, just as she is the same woman you've seen on this Africa tour."

The duke added: "For these select media this is a game, and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start.

"I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in."

He explained that the alleged unlawful publication of the private letter was done in "an intentionally destructive manner" to "manipulate" readers.

Harry claimed readers were misled by "strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year".

He added: "There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives.

"Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn't acceptable, at any level.

"We won't and can't believe in a world where there is no accountability for this."

The Mail on Sunday has been approached for comment.

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