The Duchess of Sussex’s close Canadian friend, Jessica Mulroney, has been caught up in a lawsuit between the Royal Family member and a British tabloid.
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have had a long-running battle with the British press over what they allege has been unfair coverage. Last October, Meghan sued the Mail on Sunday over allegations the tabloid had invaded her privacy and violated copyright and data-protection laws. The suit centred on a letter she sent in August, 2018, to her father, Tom Markle, which outlined many grievances.
Meghan and Harry alleged the newspaper published the letter “in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate” the public.
The newspaper’s owner, Associated Newspapers Ltd., hit back this week. In a court filing, the company said the Duchess “did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy that the contents of the letter were private and would remain so.”
The filing added that Meghan “immaculately” wrote the letter knowing it would be leaked and that Mr. Markle “had a weighty right to tell his version of what had happened between himself and his daughter, including the contents of the letter.”
Meghan’s real complaint, lawyers argued, was that she didn’t “like the effect of what [Mr. Markle] has published because she considers it to be unflattering."
“It is not unfair for [Mr. Markle] to publish material about [Meghan], a member of the Royal Family, that she does not like,” the filing said.
The filing also cited several examples of how Meghan has tried to manipulate media coverage by using close friends such as Ms. Mulroney, a fashion stylist who lives in Toronto.
On one occasion, lawyers for the newspaper alleged Meghan asked Ms. Mulroney to intervene in a story The Mail on Sunday was preparing on the Duchess in April, 2018. The paper alleged Meghan was concerned about comments that her former business adviser, Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne, had given to a reporter.
Meghan asked Ms. Mulroney to intervene “to try to ensure that a more favourable article was published.” The filing alleged Ms. Mulroney wrote to Ms. Nelthorpe-Cowne in London to put “pressure on her to withdraw or change statements [Ms. Nelthorpe-Cowne] had made to The Mail on Sunday.”
The paper’s features editor, Nicholas Pyke, wrote to Harry’s communications secretary, Jason Knauf, to complain about Ms. Mulroney’s actions. “Mr. Knauf responded by stating that he understood Mr. Pyke’s position and that he would endeavour to ensure that ’this does not happen again,'" the filing alleged.
Lawyers for the Mail said they would seek more information from Meghan about Ms. Mulroney’s intervention and any other occasions in which Meghan “has caused or permitted her friends to provide information about her to the media or to seek to influence what is published about her.”
Ms. Mulroney, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has had a close friendship with Meghan for years. She’s married to Ben Mulroney, son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and her family attended the royal couple’s wedding in May, 2018. She also babysat the couple’s eight-month-old son, Archie, in Canada recently.
The wedding marked a bitter falling out between Meghan and her father. He had been invited to the celebration, but caused controversy when he arranged for photographers to take pictures of him buying a new suit near his home in Mexico.
The court filings show Meghan and Harry admonished him for seeking publicity. Mr. Markle later opted not to come to the wedding because of health problems. That led to more recriminations, and the court filings show that Mr. Markle sent a text message to his daughter that read, “I’m sorry my heart attack [is an] inconvenience for you."
On Wednesday, Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Markle, said their father would testify if the case goes to trial. “If he is called, he will come,” she told the BBC.
The legal battle comes as Harry and Meghan seek to step back from royal duties and gain more financial freedom from the royal household. They also want to divide their time between Britain and Canada.
Meghan has been living in a mansion on Vancouver Island with their son while Harry continues to carry out public duties in London. She surfaced briefly on Tuesday, when she made a visit to a women’s centre in Vancouver.
Harry is due to play host to the draw for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup at Buckingham Palace on Thursday and is expected to join his family in Canada later.
The Queen has agreed to a transition period for the couple and ordered palace officials to work out details of their future roles. It’s not clear how long that will take or what duties the couple will retain. It’s also unclear if they will keep their royal titles and their access to Frogmore Cottage, a home near Windsor Castle.
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