Meghan Markle apologised to the Court of Appeal yesterday for failing to remember she told a royal aide to brief the authors of the Finding Freedom biography.
The Duchess of Sussex, who previously insisted she and Prince Harry did not co-operate with the two writers of the gushing book, said she had ‘forgotten’ providing the aide details of what to reveal ‘when you sit down with them’.
It emerged yesterday she had emailed Jason Knauf, her then communications secretary, a detailed briefing note on December 10, 2018, including some ‘helpful’ background ‘reminders’ about her estranged family and her version of events of a tiara incident involving the Queen.
Through her lawyers, the duchess has previously strenuously denied she and Harry fed information to the authors of what the court heard was a ‘relentlessly flattering’ biography.
But she backtracked after an intervention by Mr Knauf, who made a statement to the court saying: ‘The book was discussed directly with the duchess multiple times in person and over email. The duke and duchess authorised specific co-operation in writing in December 2018.’
The Duchess of Sussex, who previously insisted she and Prince Harry (pictured together) did not co-operate with the two writers of the gushing book, said she had ‘forgotten’ providing the aide details of what to reveal ‘when you sit down with them’
In response, Meghan, in a written statement, told the judges: ‘In the light of the information and documents that Mr Knauf has provided, I accept that Mr Knauf did provide some information to the authors for the book and that he did so with my knowledge.’
The details Meghan Markle shared
Among the information the Duchess of Sussex provided to her press chief Jason Knauf to ‘share’ with the authors of Finding Freedom, exhibited in court, she wrote (in the third person):
HER RELATIONSHIP WITH HALF-SIBLINGS
‘They were teenagers when they moved into her parents’ home prior to Meghan being born. Doria left Tom when Meghan was two years old. His other children were 15 and 17 years old. Tom Jr and Samantha dropped out of high school and moved out of their father’s home the same year.’ ‘Meghan saw them a handful of times when she was under the age of 5 then again when she was 11 years old.’ ‘Meghan has never had a relationship with either of them; she was always referred to as an only child by both her parents… because the half siblings were not in the picture (by their own choice).’
RELATIONSHIP WITH FATHER
‘They were close most of her life. Meghan supported her father in spite of his reclusiveness… media pressure crumbled him and he began doing press deals brokered by his daughter Samantha.’ ‘Despite countless efforts to support him through the past two years, they now no longer have a relationship.’
ON MOVING TO WINDSOR
‘Apartment 1 [Kensington Palace] wouldn’t be ready until 2021, with growing family they needed space sooner than that. The queen offered Windsor which the couple gratefully accepted.’
ON HARRY’S 2016 STATEMENT CONDEMNING PRESS ‘ABUSE’ OF GIRLFRIEND
‘Very turbulent time… Meghan was living alone in Toronto and working and her house was swarmed by paparazzi and journalists… police were called many times; decision was made to draw a line in the sand.’
The Mail on Sunday – the Daily Mail’s sister paper – is seeking to defend itself against Meghan’s claims that it unlawfully breached her privacy by publishing extracts of a letter to her father Thomas Markle. It argues she herself had allowed US magazine People and the Finding Freedom authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand to be briefed to produce ‘favourable’ versions of her life story, which the royal couple denied doing.
In September 2020, Meghan’s lawyers insisted to the court ‘neither the [duchess] nor her husband co-operated with the authors to put out ‘their version of events’. And in November that year the duchess personally approved a statement saying she ‘does not know if, and to what extent, the [palace] communications team were involved in providing information for the book’.
But yesterday, Meghan told the court: ‘When I approved [that] passage, I did not have the benefit of seeing these emails and I apologise to the court for the fact that I had not remembered these exchanges at the time. I had absolutely no wish or intention to mislead the defendant or the court.’
The Court of Appeal has been given a tranche of emails and text messages between Harry and Meghan and their palace advisers spanning the months from August to December 2018.
Mr Scobie and Miss Durand had been making approaches to the palace and the couple’s friends, seeking their help in writing the biography, and there were several internal discussions about whether to ‘engage’ with the authors or not.
An August 30 email from Meghan to her communications chief, which she copied to Prince Harry, said of Mr Scobie: ‘I feel he needs to be back-briefed ASAP’.
Emails show Mr Knauf advised that putting the authors in touch with her friends was ‘not a good idea’, telling them on December 10: ‘Being able to say hand on heart that we did not facilitate access will be important.’
Mr Knauf offered to meet the authors himself. He emailed Prince Harry saying: ‘Morning sir. Please see attached the topic areas Omid and Carolyn want to discuss. Please can you decide if you would like to share these with the duchess. Let me know what you think. I will see them this week to help them with factual accuracy and context.’
Harry, in reply, said: ‘I think definitely share this with the duchess and make the suggestion to her that you have here. She will be 100% supportive and I totally agree that we have to be able to say we didn’t have anything to do with it.’
He added: ‘Equally, you giving the right context and background to them would help get some truths out there. The truth is v much needed and would be appreciated, especially around the Markle/wedding stuff but at the same time we can’t put them directly in touch with her friends.’
Mr Knauf told the court: ‘I said, ‘If you’re happy, I will see them later this week to set out the factual background and to provide more recent context’.
‘The duchess replied that evening saying, ‘Thank you very much for the info below – for when you sit down with them it may be helpful to have some background reminders so I’ve included them below just in case’. In the email, the duchess copied the list of questions and topic areas, and added the briefing points she wanted me to share with the authors in my meeting with them.’
An August 30 email from Meghan to her communications chief, which she copied to Prince Harry, said of Mr Scobie: ‘I feel he needs to be back-briefed ASAP’. Pictured, the Finding Freedom book cover
In her two-page email, which was exhibited to the court, Meghan wrote: ‘Please let me know if you want me to fill in any other blanks.’
A copy of the email shows that she added remarks to five of the authors’ 19 questions. They included her ‘non-relationship’ with her half-siblings, which she said involved ‘minimal interaction’ partly owing to the 16-year age gap.
On a question about her father, Meghan’s email said: ‘Meghan supported her father in spite of his reclusiveness… Despite countless efforts to support him through the past two years, they now no longer have a relationship.’
The detailed briefing note the duchess wrote for Mr Knauf’s meeting with Mr Scobie and Miss Durand also included her version of events of an alleged disagreement during a meeting she had with the Queen to try on a tiara for the royal wedding, which had been ‘misrepresented by the media’.
Mr Knauf told the court: ‘In a subsequent email exchange that same day, the duke wrote to me: ‘Also, are u planning on giving them a rough idea of what she’s been through over the last 2yrs? Media onslaught, cyber bullying on a different scale, puppeteering Thomas Markle etc etc etc. Even if they choose not to use it, they should hear what it was like from someone who was in the thick of it. So if you aren’t planning on telling them, can I?!’.
On a question about her father, Meghan’s email said: ‘Meghan supported her father in spite of his reclusiveness… Despite countless efforts to support him through the past two years, they now no longer have a relationship’
‘I replied saying, ‘Of course – I’ve never stopped!’
The former communications secretary, who now works for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, said: ‘This briefing meeting between me and the two authors happened on 12 December 2018 and lasted almost two hours.’
Andrew Caldecott QC, for the Mail on Sunday, said the evidence showed Meghan was ‘not shy about giving private information to the authors’.
In her witness statement, the duchess said: ‘As far as I can recall, Mr Knauf first brought the book to my attention in around early summer 2018, at a meeting in the Audience Room of Kensington Palace. He told me the authors wanted to meet me, which we both agreed would be inappropriate.’
Meghan said if she had remembered telling her aide to brief the authors, she ‘would have been more than happy’ to have referred to her emails ‘as I feel they strongly support my case’.
The duchess pointed out that her briefing email made ‘no reference to the letter, let alone the contents of the letter’ she had sent to her father, adding: ‘Had I wanted to have my private letter shared in this book, as the defendant falsely claims, this clearly would have been an opportunity to do so.’
She said: ‘Nothing I shared with Mr Knauf was special nor exclusive for these authors. As for my father, I said very little beyond confirming that I no longer had a relationship with him, which was already widely reported in the media.’