All the Details of Meghan Markle's Law Suit Against the 'Mail on Sunday' Over Her Letter to Father Thomas Markle

Meghan Markle this week begins the first chapter of a court showdown with British tabloid the Mail on Sunday that could see her father testify against her.

The Duchess of Sussex is taking on one of the U.K's highest circulation tabloids after it published a "private and confidential" letter she wrote to Thomas Markle Sr., 75.

Court papers say the note detailed her "deepest and most private thoughts and feelings" about her father following "a time of great personal anguish and distress."

In the dramatic days before her wedding, her father suffered a heart attack and subsequently missed the big day.

A couple of weeks earlier, Markle Sr. was caught staging seemingly unsolicited photos with a paparazzi agency, even as his other daughter Samantha Markle gave critical interviews about Meghan to the media.

Court documents from the case filed at the High Court in London this week revealed Meghan believes the media destroyed her relationship with her father.

Here we look over the key background to the case.

The Story

In February last year, the Mail on Sunday published extracts from a handwritten note the Duchess of Sussex sent her father in August 2018.

Meghan claims roughly half the letter was left out of their coverage "in a calculated attempt to portray [her] in an unfavorable light."

She is expected to argue she never intended her deepest feelings and inner torment over the episode with her father to be made public.

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Edinburgh
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry visit Edinburgh Castle on February 13, 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Max Mumby/Getty

The newspaper's story was accompanied by a photograph of the opening passage, an analysis of her handwriting by an expert who described her as a "showman and a narcissist," and an interview with Markle Sr.

The story gives a detailed account of her emotional response to her father's actions and is still available online, though Newsweek is not detailing its contents pending the outcome of the case.

People Magazine

Markle Sr. initially kept the document private, but in February last year an article appeared in People Magazine quoting five anonymous friends of Meghan.

The group spoke of their desire to defend the duchess and said: "She will always feel genuinely devastated by what he's [Markle Sr.'s] done."

They also revealed for the first time the existence of the letter.

One of the friends told the magazine: "After the wedding, she wrote him a letter.

"She's like, 'Dad, I'm so heartbroken. I love you. I have one father. Please stop victimizing me through the media so we can repair our relationship'."

The Mail on Sunday claims Meghan sanctioned the People article and argues the friends misrepresented the true content of the note, though she disputes this.

The newspaper believes it was entitled to give her father the opportunity to set the record straight, quoting directly from the note as proof.

Meghan's legal team has told the High Court she did not sanction the intervention by her friends and was upset when they disclosed the existence of the letter.

Thomas Markle Sr.

After the People story, Markle Sr. released the letter to the Mail on Sunday as he attempted to defend himself against the allegations.

The newspaper claims Meghan's friends mischaracterized the letter's tone and content as loving.

In an interview at the time of the initial Mail on Sunday story, Markle Sr. said: "The letter was presented in a way that vilified me and wasn't true.

"It was presented as her reaching out and writing a loving letter in the hope of healing the rift, but the letter isn't like that at all.

"I have the right to defend myself."

And after the legal action was announced in October, he told the paper: "I decided to release parts of the letter because of the article from Meghan's friends in People.

"I have to defend myself. I only released parts of the letter because other parts were so painful.

"The letter didn't seem loving to me. I found it hurtful."

Markle Sr. could give evidence against his daughter on behalf of the newspaper.

The Mail on Sunday is relying heavily on his evidence, meaning he could be required to outline his own feelings about the breakdown of his relationship with his daughter.

He is likely to say he felt slighted after never being introduced to Prince Harry by his daughter, as this is mentioned in the court filings.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry South Africa
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is watched by Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, as she delivers a speech at the Youth Employment Services Hub in Tembisa township, Johannesburg, on October 2, 2019. Her words came on the day her legal action against the Mail on Sunday was announced. Michele Spatari/Getty

The Case

In October last year, Meghan Markle filed legal action and Prince Harry publicly attacked the Mail on Sunday for "relentless propaganda."

He added at the time: "I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

Since then, private text messages between Meghan, her father and the Duke of Sussex have been made public after they were handed to the High Court.

They include a flurry of text messages sent by Prince Harry to Markle Sr. in which he made frantic attempts to stop the leaks to the media.

The first live court hearing will take place on Friday.

The law

Meghan is bringing the case under copyright, privacy and data protection laws meaning, she has three different rolls of the dice.

Her legal team will argue anyone who writes a letter maintains legal ownership of the contents as their intellectual property, even after they send it.

That means they can claim control over how it is used in the same way a publisher would with a book or a record label with a song.

A defense known as "fair dealing" exists under British copyright law that allows publication of limited sections of some copyrighted material in the normal course of news reporting.

The court will need to consider whether Meghan is legally entitled to assert her rights and whether the newspaper can operate a fair dealing defense.

Meghan's privacy rights under the European Convention on Human Rights will need to be balanced against the newspaper's rights to freedom of expression.

Finally, the High Court will need to consider whether publication represented any breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which covers the use of personal data.

A Mail on Sunday spokesman said: "As we have said before, we will defending this case with the utmost vigor."