- Rachel Burchfield
Meghan files lawsuit against Mail on Sunday; Harry releases emotionally charged statement
I was right in the middle of summating the Sussex’s final days on their South Africa tour when news broke this afternoon that Meghan is suing the Mail on Sunday over a letter that publication published in February that was written by the duchess to her father, Thomas Markle, with whom she has a strained relationship (as we have touched on in past writeups on The Duchess Commentary). She wrote the letter in 2018, after her wedding to Harry that May. To coincide with the breaking news of the lawsuit – which is coming at a curious time, as they are wrapping up this tour – Harry released a powerful statement defending his wife – and it’s not the first time he’s come to Meghan’s defense publicly. If you’ll remember back to November 8, 2016 – when his relationship with Meghan would have just been in its infancy, at only about four months old – he released a statement through the palace saying in part
“He [Harry] has rarely taken formal action on the very regular publication of fictional stories that are written about him and he has worked hard to develop a professional relationship with the media, focused on his work and the issues he cares about. But this past week has seen a line crossed. His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments. Some of it has been hidden from the public – the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life. Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm. He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game.’ He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it is her life and his.”
And, as we all know, the media firestorm never let up, right up to this present moment. I wrote about it this summer on The Duchess Commentary. Now, this afternoon, Harry has issued another statement, this time not defending his girlfriend but defending his wife. And it is beautiful in its transparency, where he draws parallels between the media’s treatment of Meghan and the media’s treatment of his mother, Diana, which, at least in some capacity, played a role in the latter’s death in a tunnel in Paris as she was being relentlessly pursued, as ever, by the paparazzi.
Harry’s statement from today in full:
“As a couple, we believe in media freedom and objective, truthful reporting. We regard it as a cornerstone of democracy and in the current state of the world – on every level – we have never needed responsible media more.
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.
Up to now, we have been unable to correct the continual misrepresentations – something that these select media outlets have been aware of and have therefore exploited on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
It is for this reason we are taking legal action, a process that has been many months in the making. The positive coverage of the past week from these same publications exposes 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.
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.
This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media. The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question. In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year.
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.
Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. 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.
We thank you, the public, for your continued support. It is hugely appreciated. Although it may not seem like it, we really need it.”
I am a writer, and words fail me.
The statement really says it all, and it will be interesting to follow this legal battle as it unfolds. But as I read both statements, spanning three years in time but with the same general message, all I know is this – that man loves that woman. That man fought through the unbelievable pain of losing his mother when he was merely 12 and all of the mental health battles that came along with it to become the man he is today, a man that honors, protects, and defends his wife, the mother of his child. A good, good man. The guilt and responsibility he must feel at her having to be in this position at all; feeling, surely, that had she not fallen in love with him and taken him on, that she would not have to endure this. And her, never wavering in her love for him, even though it often must feel like the entire world is against the relationship. The courage that it takes for him to love her like that and for her to love him like that. And how none of us – none of us – should settle for any less than that in our partners.
These are two fine people trying to do good in the world. I have always said that, and I always will. And by doing this, by taking this to court, they are opening themselves up for even more scrutiny. But it is a battle they are willing to fight because it is a battle they believe in. And all of this, right here? This says everything you need to know about this couple. And I staunchly, steadfastly love them.
Oh, and for the record? This lawsuit is being paid for by Harry and Meghan personally, and, should there be a ruling in the matter, proceeds from any damages will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.
(Sidebar worth noting: This is not the first time one of our duchesses has been involved in a legal battle with the press. William and Kate sued a French publication back in 2012 after it published topless photos of Kate taken while on vacation. It ended in a settlement.)
We’ll pick up with the end of the tour tomorrow.