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The irony of Meghan Markle's 'private' text messages with her father.

“Tom, it’s Harry and I’m going to call you right now. Please pick up, thank you.”

“Tom, Harry again! Really need to speak to u. U do not need to apologise, we understand the circumstances but ‘going public’ will only make the situation worse. So please call me so I can explain.”

These are some of the messages Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, texted to Thomas Markle, just five days before marrying the former Hollywood lighting designer’s daughter, Meghan. They were private communications between a man and his soon-to-be father-in-law who, by then, was flailing in the clutches of Britain’s tenacious tabloid media.

“I can’t see her reaching out to me”: Thomas Markle, earlier this year.

Video by Channel 5

But these messages are now well and truly public. Not because of a betrayal, but because the Duke and Duchess chose to make them so as part of a legal battle against those tabloids.

The couple has essentially sacrificed a private part of their past in order to secure a more private future.

Let’s take a look at why.

The staged paparazzi photos and a leaked letter.

Thomas Markle was meant to walk his daughter down the aisle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, as a global audience in the hundreds of millions watched on.

But in the days leading up to the May 19 wedding, a bizarre series of events strained his relationship with the couple and forced him to remain at home in Mexico.

It all began to crumble on May 13, when the Daily Mail exposed that a series of recently published paparazzi photographs of Markle preparing for the wedding (reading a book on British landmarks, having a suit-fitting, Googling articles about his daughter, and so on), had been staged by him for financial gain.

As the tabloids circled, Markle had two heart attacks. The first, reportedly occurred the weekend before the wedding, and the second a few days later. He was reportedly discharged from hospital on May 17, and was not medically cleared to fly to the U.K.

The now publicly available text exchange from that period shows the (now) Duke and Duchess attempting to smooth things over with him prior to the wedding and urging him to avoid any further contact with the press.

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He didn’t heed their warnings. In February 2019, the Mail on Sunday published the contents of a private letter the Duchess had written to her father three months after the nuptials, in which she addressed their rift. It also included certain parts of those text messages.

It’s that article at the centre of the couple’s legal battle.

The Duchess sues the tabloids.

In October 2019, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, filed a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers Limited, parent company of the Mail on Sunday over its publication of the letter, which she claims was private and selectively edited to portray her negatively.

“The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question,” she and Prince Harry said in an October 2 statement.

The Duchess is alleging breach of privacy, infringement of copyright and breach of the U.K.’s Data Protection Act.

The newspaper vowed to “vigorously” fight the suit, and in January, its lawyers issued a 44-page defence of the article. It argued, among other things, that there was a legitimate public interest in the Duchess’ personal and family relationships given her royal status.

It also pointed to a previous article in People magazine in which unnamed friends of the Duchess spoke of the letter, and argued that Thomas Markle, therefore, had a right to present his version of events.

The Spill dissects Meghan and Harry’s decision to step out of the spotlight. Post continues.

The Duchess’ response, which was filed in the British High Court on Monday ahead of a remote hearing on April 24, addresses a number of claims in the Mail’s defence.

Among them, that she “did not know that a number of her friends agreed to give an interview about her to People“.

And that the newspaper’s summary of text messages between her, Prince Harry and Thomas Markle (which the latter had shown to reporters) in the Mail article was “highly partial” and contained “significant omissions”.

In an effort to prove that, the Duchess’ lawyers included the full message exchange.

The text messages.

Among the omissions alleged by the Duchess’ legal team are the Duke and Duchess’ attempts “to protect Mr Markle and ensure that he was safe” after the photo staging was exposed.

In the documents, lawyers said the couple had repeatedly tried to contact Markle ahead of their wedding, adding the Prince had warned him that media had created the whole situation.

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“Meg and I are not angry, we just need to speak to u. Thanks,” Prince Harry wrote to Markle on May 14. “Oh any speaking to the press WILL backfire, trust me Tom. Only we can help u, as we have been trying from day 1.”

The court documents allege that, despite the Prince’s pleas, Thomas Markle issued a statement through U.S.-based celebrity news website TMZ, announcing he had gone to hospital after suffering a heart attack.

thomas markle documentary
Image: Channel 5.

The following day, Meghan texted her father: "I've been reaching out to you all weekend but you're not taking any of our calls or replying to any texts... Very concerned about your health and safety and have taken every measure to protect you but not sure what more we can do if you don't respond... Do you need help? Can we send the security team down again? I'm very sorry to hear you're in the hospital but need you to please get in touch with us... What hospital are you at?"

The last call Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, received from her father was at 4:57 a.m. on May 19 — the morning of her wedding. It went unanswered.

Their relationship with Thomas now, and their campaign for privacy.

The only communication Thomas Markle and the Duchess have had since has been via letters, according to the court documents.

Markle has continued to give interviews to the media, including one to the Daily Mail after the birth of the Duke and Duchess' son Archie in August 2019, in which he claimed the couple had continued to "ghost" him. He said the only glimpses he'd had of his grandson were photos on the internet. He also participated in a January Channel 5 documentary in which he said, “At this point they own me, the royals owe me, Harry owes me, Meghan owes me. What I’ve been through I should be rewarded for".

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But it's not Markle the couple sees as the villain in all this.

As the latest court filing stated, the Duchess believes the Mail on Sunday is directly responsible not only for breaching her privacy but for the breakdown of her relationship with her father.

“It was [Associated Newspapers'] publication of these contents, and the highly manipulated, sensational and deliberately inflammatory way in which this was done that so deeply upset her, not the fact that the newspaper published ‘her father’s side of the dispute’ (a ‘dispute’ which the defendant itself created),” the documents said.

“It is the defendant’s (unlawful) actions that give rise to the claimant’s claim, and not her father’s conduct.”

The case is just one of the many fronts on which the Duke and Duchess are waging their war against the tabloids.

Prince Harry filed a separate suit against The Sun and Daily Mirror in October 2019 over alleged phone hacking offences. The announcement came after he issued a statement accusing tabloid media of waging "a ruthless campaign" against his wife by publishing "knowingly false and malicious" articles about her.

"I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in," Prince Harry wrote.

"I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

The Duke and Duchess moved with their son to North America in January, after sensationally stepping down as senior working Royals to seek privacy and "financial independence".

This act not only severed them from the public purse, but also from the Royal Rota — the system that allows key British press outlets access to Royal engagements.

On Monday, they took that one step further. The couple penned letters to tabloid outlets The Sun, Mirror, Mail and Express ending all co-operation with them, and declaring they refuse to "offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion".

"There will be no corroboration and zero engagement," the letter read.

"This policy is not about avoiding criticism. It's not about shutting down public conversation or censoring accurate reporting. Media have every right to report on and indeed have an opinion on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, good or bad.

"But it can't be based on a lie."

Their crusade continues. How much more ground they'll have to give up along the way remains to be seen.

With AAP. 

Featured image: Getty and Channel 5.

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