A version of this story appeared in the November 12 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
With the Duchess of Sussex’s photograph plastered across many UK newspapers this week, you’d have been forgiven for thinking you’d somehow time-traveled back to 2019.
Reminiscent of the peak media frenzy that engulfed Meghan, this week saw the latest bout in her two-year legal battle against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday.
To refresh memories: The duchess brought a case against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) back in 2019 for publishing excerpts of a “private” letter that she had sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, the year before. She was seeking damages for misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018. The UK’s High Court ruled in Meghan’s favor earlier this year, issuing a summary judgement, which avoided a full trial. Now, ANL is challenging that February ruling in the UK Court of Appeal, saying the litigation should have gone to trial, according to the UK’s PA Media news agency.
The furor this week erupted as revelations in court appeared to undermine some of the arguments previously presented by Meghan’s lawyers.
Meghan and Harry’s former communications secretary, Jason Knauf, alleged in a witness statement released on Wednesday that the duchess crafted the message to her father with the forethought that it could get leaked, PA reported.
PA reported Knauf as saying in his written evidence that he exchanged correspondence with the duchess in which they discussed an early draft of the letter and that Meghan had responded to him: “Obviously everything I have drafted is with the understanding that it could be leaked so I have been meticulous in my word choice, but please do let me know if anything stands out for you as a liability.”
Knauf, pictured above, served as the communications secretary to the Sussexes until March 2019 and now works for William and Kate as chief executive of their Royal Foundation.
Meghan responded to the claims in her own written statement and rejected the argument that she believed her father would release the letter, saying she “merely recognised that this was a possibility.”
She said the thinking behind penning the letter to her father, upon consultation with two unnamed senior royal family members, was to urge him to stop engaging with the media. “To be clear, I did not want any of it to be published, and wanted to ensure that the risk of it being manipulated or misleadingly edited was minimised, were it to be exploited,” PA reported the duchess as saying.
Meghan also apologized for forgetting emails she had exchanged with Knauf over a briefing he was giving to authors of an unauthorized biography about her and Prince Harry, after he revealed her awareness in his statement. The Sussexes had previously repeatedly denied collaborating with Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand on their book “Finding Freedom.”
Critics argue the apology hits the couple’s credibility in their fight for privacy from the press and their very public battle against misinformation, and the disclosures inevitably sparked headlines. Tabloids pounced on the slightest whiff of apparent impropriety by the royal with biting headlines like “Little Miss Forgetful” and “I’m sorry, I forgot.”
However, CNN’s historian and royal expert Kate Williams said she didn’t think the developments were particularly damaging and that the story was unlikely to be registering in people’s consciousness in the UK. “I think that lots of people probably find this quite legal, technical discussions so I don’t think it’s damaging.”
She added, “The fact is that Meghan has said she did ask her secretary to brief the authors but forgot about it and she didn’t mislead the court. It was something that slipped her mind in general discussions they had about dealing with the media.”
British women’s rights activist and lawyer Shola Mos-Shogbamimu argued that Meghan’s apology wouldn’t have affected the ruling from earlier this year as the case centers on whether ANL breached her privacy by printing the letter. She said in a post on Twitter that the duchess was right to apologize, “but remember she won her case on its merits.”
“Whether or not she approved context via Knauf for Finding Freedom would’ve made zero difference to Court granting her victory on privacy,” Mos-Shogbamimu wrote.
Nick Goldstone, head of dispute resolution at international law firm Ince, told CNN that any repercussions from Meghan’s statement over the apology “all depends on the attitude of the court and the significance of the mistake, the context of that mistake in the overall scheme of the case and the extent of any apology.”
Whether the developments are a turning point in the case ultimately remains up to the judges in the appeals court, who are due to deliver their ruling at a later date.
“The appeal court has a wide discretion,” Goldstone said, noting that the original decision was made without the case proceeding to trial. “So the appeal court could remit the case to proceed to trial or dismiss the appeal,” he said, adding that it could even make some other ruling altogether.
IN THE ROYAL DIARY
Queen Elizabeth II will attend her first public engagement since being advised to rest by doctors almost two weeks ago, Buckingham Palace has confirmed. The 95-year-old monarch, who spent a night in hospital last month for what a spokesman described at the time as “preliminary investigations,” will attend the UK’s annual Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph in London on Sunday. “As in previous years, Her Majesty will view the Service from the balcony of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office building,” the palace statement read. The Queen’s eldest, Prince Charles, has laid a wreath on his mother’s behalf at each Remembrance Day event since 2017. The statement added that “Mindful of her doctors’ recent advice, The Queen has decided not to attend the General Synod Service and Opening Session on Tuesday 16thNovember. The Earl of Wessex will attend as planned.” (With reporting from CNN’s David Wilkinson)
Charles’ closest aide bows out amid cash-for-honors investigation.
Michael Fawcett, Prince Charles’ longest-serving and closest aide, has quit his role as head of The Prince’s Foundation amid an alleged cash-for-honors scandal. “Michael Fawcett has resigned from his post as CEO of The Prince’s Foundation,” a spokesperson for the charity told CNN Friday. Fawcett, who previously served as Charles’ valet, had voluntarily vacated the post of chief executive in early September following accusations he used his position and influence to help secure an honorary title and British citizenship for a Saudi businessman in exchange for donations to the foundation. Read the full story here.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Kate reunited with Holocaust survivors she photographed.
The Duchess of Cambridge caught up with two Holocaust survivors, Stephen Frank and Yvonne Bernstein, when she went along to London’s Imperial War Museum on Wednesday. Kate was there to open two new galleries related to WWII. She first stopped by the The Second World War Galleries, which feature 1,500 items from 80 nations that convey the impact of the conflict. She then explored The Holocaust Galleries, which showcase 2,000 photos, books, artworks, letters and personal belongings and tell individual stories of some of the six million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust. The duchess also toured the “Generations: Portraits of the Holocaust” exhibition, which includes her own portraits of Frank and Bernstein among the 50 photographs in the show. Learn more.
Meghan says her push for paid leave isn’t political.
The Duchess of Sussex opened up about her campaign for federal paid family leave Tuesday, saying her position is that it is “just a humanitarian issue.” She was speaking in a panel discussion at the DealBook Online Summit Tuesday. The duchess has been getting on the phone with members of Congress to advocate for a federal guarantee. Her remarks echoed an open letter she wrote last month to lawmakers, urging them to recognize paid leave as a “national right.” She also discussed the struggle for gender equity in corporate America and her own mental health. Read more.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Sophie, Countess of Wessex looked to be enjoying herself while hanging out with some furry friends during her visit to the Guide Dogs National Centre on Thursday in Leamington Spa, England.
Can you believe it? It’s the last episode of CNN’s “Diana” series this Sunday! The final show will explore the lasting impact of the Princess of Wales, whose legacy was perhaps best demonstrated when her two sons unveiled a commemorative statue in July. They are her living legacy and together have committed to reminding subsequent generations of how pioneering she was.
Diana wasn’t the first famous person to do humanitarian work, but she reinvented how it was done. Speeches weren’t enough for her, or showing up at charity events. She wanted to ram the message home by going to the front lines of some of the most pressing and sensitive issues of the era. During the princess’ funeral in 1997, people clapped and cheered so loudly it sounded like hail on a tin roof, royal commentators recalled in the series. Read more on how Diana’s sons are living out her legacy today.
Listen: And don’t forget to check out CNN’s new podcast “When Diana Met…,” which reframes Diana’s most memorable personal connections and what they can teach us about power, gender and control.
Episode one just launched on Wednesday. Host Aminatou Sow spoke to writer Candice Carty-Williams about the princess’ legacy and impact on the Black community in England, especially among Black mothers and grandmothers.
POSTCARDS FROM ROYALS AROUND THE GLOBE
Princess Charlene of Monaco returned to the principality on Monday after spending most of the year in her homeland South Africa, Reuters reports. Charlene, who married Monaco’s ruler, Prince Albert, in a lavish ceremony in 2011, was pictured walking a dog in the principality with her family. Her stay in South Africa, where she grew up, sparked speculation about a potential rift inside the royal couple – a claim the family denied. Check out the story.
The duke said he warned Twitter boss Jack Dorsey about a potential “coup” just a day before the Capitol riot. Watch here.