MEGHAN Markle’s dad claims her “heartfelt” letter actually “shut” him out and ended their relationship.
The Duchess of Sussex, 39, is said to have felt forced to write a “painful” letter to her dad after they reached “breaking point”.
She is suing the Mail on Sunday for privacy copyright and data protection over five articles published in February 2019.
This includes extracts from the handwritten letter she sent to her dad Thomas Markle, 76, in August 2018.
Her lawyer Justin Rushbrooke QC today described the 1,250-word letter as “a heartfelt plea from an anguished daughter to her father”.
But in a sensational witness statement, Thomas Markle claimed the letter was a “criticism” of him.
And he said it actually “signalled the end of our relationship” – rather than be the “reconciliation” letter pals claimed it was.
He referred to an article five anonymous friends gave to People magazine in which the letter was mentioned.
Thomas Markle slammed the magazine for suggesting he was “to blame for the end of the relationship” as he had “ignored her”.
He added: “That was false. I had repeatedly tried to reach her after the wedding but I couldn’t find a way of getting her to talk to me.”
The article included a quote from a pal, saying: “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.’”
But Thomas Markle branded this a “total lie” and claims the article was “expressly authorised by Meg or she had at the very least known about and approved of its publication”.
Writing in his witness statement, he said: “[The People quote] suggested to people that Meg had reached out to me with the letter, saying in the letter that she loved me and that she wanted to repair our relationship.
“That suggestion was false. The letter was not an attempt at a reconciliation. It was a criticism of me.
“The letter didn’t say she loved me. It did not even ask how I was. It showed no concern about the fact I had suffered a heart attack and asked no questions about my health.
“It actually signalled the end of our relationship, not a reconciliation.”
Mr Markle also said the article in People magazine wrongly accused him of telling “mistruths” and “contained other inaccuracies about me”.
He said: “It was wrong for People magazine to say I had lied about Meg shutting me out – she had shut me out, as the letter from her showed.”
Thomas Markle claims he “never intended” to publicly speak out about the letter but once he saw the article, he wanted to “set the record straight”.
He also said it was “important” to publish it so readers would know they were “getting the truth”.
Thomas said: “The article had given an inaccurate picture of the contents of the letter and my reply and had vilified me by making out that I was dishonest, exploitative, publicity-seeking, uncaring and cold-hearted, leaving a loyal and dutiful daughter devastated.
“I had to defend myself against that attack.”
In his statement, Thomas Markle also said he chose not to allow the entire letter to be published in the Mail on Sunday as it made “Meg look terrible”.
He added: “I do not want to attack or hurt her.”
Lawyers for the Duchess earlier told the High Court the publication of the “intrinsically private, personal and sensitive” letter was a “triple-barrelled invasion of her privacy rights”.
He said it was not “a vicious or unwarranted attack” on her dad but was instead “a message of peace”.
The last line – included in court documents – read: “I ask for nothing other than peace and I wish the same for you.”
The papers add: “It is a heartfelt plea from an anguished daughter to her father (the word ‘pain’ or ‘painful’ appears no fewer than five times), begging him to stop talking to the press.”
Mr Rushbrooke said: “It was written, in short, by daughter who felt she had reached a breaking point with her father.”
The barrister told the court Meghan had sent it to Thomas Markle “at his home in Mexico via a trusted contact … to reduce the risk of interception”.
He described its subsequent publication as a “plain and serious invasion” of privacy.
But lawyers for Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) claim it was written “to defend her against charges of being an uncaring or unloving daughter”.
Antony White QC argued “there is a very real question as to whether the claimant will be able to establish that she had a reasonable – or any – expectation of privacy”.
He said Meghan having a “fear” her letter might be intercepted showed she “must, at the very least, have appreciated that her father might choose to disclose it”.
‘GRASP THE NETTLE’
But Mr Rushbrooke argued the publication of the letter breached the duchess’s right to “respect for her correspondence”, as well as her right to “her private and her family life”.
The barrister told the court that ANL’s defence raised “a disturbing question about who has the right of control over the contents of a private letter”.
Mr Rushbrooke added: “Is it the writer of the letter or the editor of the Mail on Sunday?”
He continued: “There can only be one answer to that question and the answer would be the same irrespective of whether or not the writer of the letter is a duchess or any other citizen, and the answer is it is not the editor of the Mail on Sunday.”
Ian Mill QC, also representing the Duchess, argued “she and she alone” created a draft of the letter to her father “which she then transcribed by hand” in regards to her copyright claim.
He argued the letter was “an original literary work in which copyright subsists and is owned by the claimant” and asked the court to “grasp the nettle and decide the issue at this hearing”.
This was disputed by ANL, who say Jason Knauf – ex-communications secretary to Harry and Meghan – had “involvement” in writing it.
Mr White claimed there is a “real prospect” the Duchess “will fail to establish she was the sole author in the copyright sense”.
The barrister added: “No truly private letter from daughter to father would require any input from the Kensington Palace communications team.”
Meghan’s lawyers also applied for a “summary judgment” to be handed down, which would swerve the need for a trial and witnesses.
Top judges at the High Court in London will now decide whether to push on or decide on Meghan’s claims now.
But ANL say the facts of the case can only be determined by a trial.
If the case goes ahead, both Thomas Markle and Meghan could take to the stand in the high-profile trial.
In a witness statement previously read before the court, Thomas said: “I am a realist and I could die tomorrow.
“The sooner this case takes place the better.”
The blockbuster case – one of several brought recently by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex against media organisations – was filed by Meghan’s lawyers in September 2019.
It was due to be heard at the High Court this month but was adjourned for nine months due to a “confidential” reason.
A string of pre-trial skirmishes have erupted in the build-up – including Meghan’s claims ANL had an “agenda” of publishing intrusive or offensive stories about her being struck out as “irrelevant” last May.
In return, a bid to name five of Meghan’s pals who gave an anonymous interview to People magazine were dismissed in August.
But in a sensational move, the MoS was given permission to rely on the unauthorised biography of Harry and Meghan, Finding Freedom by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, in its defence.
ANL claimed the Duchess had “compromised” any expectation of privacy in relation to the letter by allowing details of her private life to be published in the biography.
The remote hearing before Mr Justice Warby, which is expected to last two days, continues.