London – Thomas Markle is ready to testify against the Duchess of Sussex in court, his elder daughter said on Wednesday.
Meghan’s half-sister Samantha Markle said her father would enter the witness box if he was called to give evidence, telling the BBC: ‘If he is called, he will come.”
Legal documents filed as part of a High Court case revealed Mr Markle, 75, was left “deeply hurt” by a message sent by his daughter and Prince Harry in the run-up to their wedding in 2018.
That message and a string of others will form part of a legal battle between the duchess and The Mail on Sunday, after the newspaper published extracts from a letter she sent to her father.
Meghan, 38, has accused the newspaper – the sister paper of the Daily Mail – of breaching her privacy, her data protection rights and her copyright.
Samantha Markle, Mr Markle’s daughter from his first marriage, has previously been highly critical of her half-sister, calling her “inhumane” and a “social climber”.
Last week the 55-year-old said the Sussexes’ decision to step back as senior members of the Royal Family was a “slap in the face”.
Meghan launched her legal action last year, and The Mail on Sunday’s formal response and denial of her claims were lodged at the High Court earlier this week.
If it goes to a full hearing, the case has been heralded as the “trial of the century” by commentators, because of the prospect of the estranged father and daughter giving evidence against each other.
They could both be cross-examined by lawyers about their relationship with each other and with Harry, and about allegations that they each sought to manipulate the media.
The case centres on the letter Meghan wrote to her father in August 2018 – three months after her wedding. Lawyers for the newspaper said the duchess had effectively sanctioned five unnamed friends to brief US magazine People that the letter was a ‘loving’ attempt to heal a rift with Mr Markle. They allege she wrote the letter knowing it was likely to end up in the public domain, and had therefore helped to breach her own privacy.
They said the magazine article had effectively suggested that Mr Markle had lied about his daughter and was to blame for their estrangement, and for missing her wedding.
And they said the duchess had made no apparent complaint about the magazine article, either about it being inaccurate or containing private information published without her consent.
But she launched legal action when Mr Markle gave the full text of the letter to The Mail on Sunday in an attempt to set the record straight, lawyers for the newspaper said.
In the court papers, they said he had ‘a weighty right to tell his version of what happened between himself and his daughter including the contents of the letter’.
The newspaper argues that there was “a huge and legitimate public interest in the Royal Family”, which extended to its public conduct and to its personal and family relationships.
Lawyers for the duchess have previously argued she has not courted publicity about her relationship with her father, and was “shocked and deeply upset” when the letter was published.
The case could also examine financial arrangements between the father and daughter.
Lawyers for The Mail on Sunday allege that the duchess has given her father no financial or emotional support since her wedding, despite knowing he has been seriously ill and has faced large medical bills.
By contrast, the legal papers said Mr Markle had paid his daughter’s private school fees and college tuition, and had continued to pay off her student loans, “even after she had landed a well-paid role in Suits”, the US legal drama which propelled her to fame.
Lawyers for the newspaper said: “In light of the claimant’s [Meghan’s] very considerable means and resources, reasonable people may well take the view that her failure to support him in any way, financially or emotionally, since May 2018, is deserving of criticism.”
Harry and Meghan have said they will fund their legal proceedings privately, and they will donate any subsequent payout to charity, should they win the case. No date has been set for a court hearing.