Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have denied they cooperated with the recent biography about their time in the Royal Family, as a court heard claims the Duchess of Sussex used her friends as “de facto PR agents”.
These accusations came up in court documents during the latest High Court hearing in the Duchess of Sussex’s privacy case against the Mail on Sunday - a case which could cost as much as £3 million.
Meghan is suing the newspaper for publishing a private letter she sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle in the weeks following her wedding in 2018.
The Mail on Sunday’s publishers Associated Newspapers is attempting to amend its written defence in the case following the publication last month of the book, Finding Freedom.
The newspaper’s legal team argues that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex "co-operated with the authors of the recently published book Finding Freedom to put out their version of certain events".
The court heard the Mail on Sunday claim that the biography “gives every appearance of having been written with [Harry and Meghan’s] extensive co-operation” and contains “a great deal of information about [Meghan’s] personal life”.
But the Duchess’ legal team says neither she nor Harry “collaborated with the authors” Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand.
In written submissions, Justin Rushbrooke QC said: "The claimant and her husband did not collaborate with the authors on the book, nor were they interviewed for it, nor did they provide photographs to the authors for the book."
Co-author, Mr Scobie, has now provided a witness statement for Meghan’s legal team, and lawyers for the Mail on Sunday say they wish to cross examine him when this case comes to trial next year.
The publisher’s lawyers said Mr Scobie’s statement “seems to confirm that people working on behalf of [Meghan] co-operated with the authors and gave them the names of people close to [Meghan] who would help.”
It adds Mr Scobie implies that “he spoke to them both [Harry & Meghan] with some frequency”.
It’s an important matter for the Mail on Sunday as they claim, in their defence, that Meghan wrote the letter to her father expecting that it would be published in the media.
The Mail on Sunday published it in February 2019.
Their legal team also claims Meghan used her friends to influence what was written about her in the press.
Meghan denies she knew about, or authorised, five of her friends to speak to the US magazine People in 2019 for an article about her in which the letter to her father was referred to.
But lawyers for the Mail on Sunday argued on Monday that Meghan was “frustrated” with the Royal Family’s official media approach and decided to “bypass” the Palace press office in 2018 and use her friends “as de facto PR agents” in order “to influence the media in a positive way”.
They cited a moment in April 2018 when the Duchess asked her good friend Jessica Mulroney to intervene in an interview the Mail on Sunday was doing with the publicist Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne.
Meghan’s involvement has not been denied by her legal team.
The court also heard how the costs were mounting for both sides even before the case comes to trial.
Meghan lawyers say the overall total costs are estimated at £1.8 million for the Duchess and £1.2 million for Associated Newspapers.
Despite those costs, the Duchess’ legal team said they were “reasonable and proportionate” for an estimated 10-day trial, a claim disputed by Associated Newspapers, which says £1.8 million is “out of all proportion” for a claim of this kind.
This is still a pre-trial hearing and the trial itself is now expected to begin in early 2021.