Thomas Markle wanted the Mail On Sunday to help him “set the record straight” on his relationship with his daughter, the Duchess of Sussex, and approved the extracts of a letter used by the newspaper, the High Court has heard.
Mr Markle, 76, believed events relating to their relationship and communications between them had been “seriously misrepresented” in an article published by People magazine in February 2019, according to Edward Verity, editor of the Mail On Sunday.
Meghan, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over a series of articles which reproduced parts of a handwritten letter sent to Mr Markle in August 2018.
At a hearing before Mr Justice Warby which began on Tuesday, the duchess is applying for summary judgment in her favour, a legal step which would see parts of the case resolved without a trial.
In a witness statement before the court, Mr Verity said that after the People magazine article, based on information provided by a number of the duchess’s friends, was published, the Mail On Sunday’s Los Angeles-based reporter, Caroline Graham, discussed it with Mr Markle.
Mr Verity alleged: “It emerged that he (Mr Markle) considered the events described in the People article leading to the breakdown of his relationship with the claimant, including their correspondence after the wedding, had been very seriously misrepresented.”
Mr Verity claimed this was for a number of reasons, including Mr Markle’s view that a description of the contents of Meghan’s letter to him was “false” and that Mr Markle believed events leading up to Meghan’s wedding to the Duke of Sussex “had been described entirely from the claimant’s point of view and in a way that Mr Markle believed was very unfair to him”.
Mr Verity’s statement says: “For all these reasons, Mr Markle wanted Caroline to help him to set the record straight about what had actually happened.
“In order to tell Caroline his story he provided her with a copy of the letter the claimant had sent him.
“He did not want the whole letter published because he thought it made his daughter look terrible, but he wanted to show people that what they might have read in People magazine was inaccurate and unfair to him.
“He also provided information as to the various ways in which the People article, and the claimant’s letter to him, in his view contained false information.”
Mr Verity said he was satisfied that there were “good reasons” to publish the story, claiming: “It seemed clear to me from the letter that its tone and contents had been misrepresented by People magazine in a way that was unfair to Tom and was partial to the claimant and which therefore distorted the truth about what the claimant had written to her father.”
He said he believed that what Mr Markle had said was “credible” and Mr Markle “was entitled to correct the record and it was right to give him an opportunity to do so”.
Mr Verity’s statement says that he was “very clear in my own mind” that it was “absolutely vital” to quote from the letter.
The statement says: “I decided that Tom should have sign-off on how much and what we included.
“It was a story he wanted to tell and we wanted to make sure he was happy with it.
“Also, we want what we publish to be right. If someone is very close to a story, it often seems (and seemed in this case) sensible and right to get them to look at it before publication to check that it is all accurate and fair.
“Tom approved the extracts that we had chosen.”
In his statement, Mr Verity also claimed he had had a meeting with a “senior member of the royal household” less than three months ago, and this person had given him information regarding matters in Meghan’s claim against the newspaper, including “that members of royal staff are aware that they have information as to the truth (of issues in this case) and that ‘this is coming’ and they will have to tell the truth”.
Mr Verity also said the Mail On Sunday publishes stories regularly about the royal family, “reflecting our readers’ interests in royal affairs”.
He said: “It seems to me that there is a legitimate public interest in the behaviour of members of the royal family and their suitability to enjoy those enormous privileges.
“In addition, there is a proper public interest in the conduct of the royal family as a family, in respect of their relationships with each other.”