The Duchess of Sussex has identified the five close friends who gave an interview to People magazine criticising her father - but denies she authorised them to do it in the latest bombshell documents released as part of her High Court battle against the press.
Meghan Markle is suing MailOnline's owner Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over an article in The Mail On Sunday which reproduced parts of a handwritten note she had sent to her father Thomas Markle in August 2018.
In the documents, the 38-year-old has also claimed she felt "unprotected" by the "institution" of the royal family and could not defend herself against false claims levelled against her, which highlights divisions between the Cambridge and Sussex households before she stepped down as a senior royal with Prince Harry in March in what was dubbed "Megxit".
ANL has said Thomas Markle shared the letter only after Meghan's friends - who could be called to give evidence at a possible trial in late 2020 or early 2021 - gave an interview about it to the US magazine People, which he felt vilified him, and he wanted to show it was not the tender message they had suggested.
New legal documents showed that Meghan has now identified the five friends - who spoke anonymously - with the papers just referring to them as A, B, C, D and E, although she named them in a confidential section.
The friends have never been named, with People magazine previously referring to them as "Meghan's inner circle – a longtime friend, a former co-star, a friend from LA, a one-time colleague and a close confidante".
The papers also revealed:
• Meghan believes her wedding to Prince Harry in Windsor in 2018 generated £1 billion in tourism revenue.
• The Duchess pointed out Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and Prince Michael "undertake paid work" as royals.
• Meghan denied saying in the letter that she felt her father had "victimised" her and she had "only one father".
• She wrote the letter to stop him being "manipulated" by the press, rather than "an attempt at reconciliation".
• Meghan spent her own money on flights for her father to and from to London and his hotel for her wedding.
• The Duchess felt "unprotected" by the "institution" of the Royal Family and was prevented from defending herself, which left her friends "rightly concerned for her welfare, specifically as she was pregnant".
The five close friends could be called to testify at a trial and be asked if Meghan knew they were speaking to the magazine, something she firmly denies in the documents, which are a response to questions raised by ANL.
Any court trial is expected to focus on whether Meghan had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter to her father, given that her friends had already briefed People magazine about its contents, and whether publishing parts of the letter was in the public interest and allowed under freedom of expression laws.
Meghan's legal team said that "Friend A" spoke anonymously to People and made a "passing reference to the letter", adding that the Duchess did not know Friend A gave the interview because she was not involved with it.
Her lawyers add in the new court filing that Meghan "discussed with Friend A that she was writing a letter to her father at the time of penning it", which was seven months before the article was published in People in February 2019.
The submissions added that the Duchess and Friend A talked about the existence of the letter, but not its contents, again in September and December 2018, as Thomas Markle "continued to give interviews to UK media falsely claiming he had not heard from his daughter".
Meghan added that she "did not know about the interview having been given, and only found out about it, and any reference to the letter, after the People magazine article was published".
The Duchess also said that she found out that an article about her was due to appear just before it was published, but she did not know it would be in People or anything about its contents.
The Duchess's legal team added that she was "aware that her friends were deeply worried for her mental health as a result of her treatment by the UK tabloid media", particularly by The Mail On Sunday.
They also said that she did not know her letter to her father would be referred to. The Duchess's legal team were also asked by ANL to identify each of her friends who gave the interview.
They replied that the friends who gave the interview to People "deliberately chose to speak anonymously, which was respected by the magazine".
Meghan was said to have been "unaware of the interview and their identities". The submission added: "As she understands it, their names are identified in the Confidential Schedule, and referred to herein as 'Friends' 'A' to 'E'."
They also said Meghan "did not know that the contents of the letter would or might be revealed or referred to by any media outlet or to any person for the purposes of publication in any medium", adding that she "would not have consented to this".
Meghan claims Britain made a profit out of her wedding to Prince Harry because it made £1b in tourism windfall
The Duchess has claimed that her royal wedding to Prince Harry at Windsor Castle in May 2018 raised more than £1b in tourism revenue, which "far outweighed" the contribution of taxpayers' money towards crowd security.
Her legal team said Meghan had already said that at the time of the articles in February 2019 she was "a working member of the Royal Family and to some (relatively nominal) extent publicly funded".
They also said that the royal wedding was "not, in fact, publicly funded, but rather personally financed by HRH The Prince of Wales".
The submission added: "Any public costs incurred for the wedding were solely for security and crowd control to protect members of the public, as deemed necessary by Thames Valley Police and the Metropolitan Police."
However, consulting firm Brand Finance previously estimated that the royal wedding would provide a boost to UK tourism of only £300 million - and the £1b figure would only be reached if other sectors of the economy such as retail and fashion were factored in.
It estimated an overall boost to the UK economy of £1.05b, also including £300m in public relations value, £250m for retail and restaurants, £150m for the fashion industry and £50m on merchandise.
Tourism authority VisitBritain also estimated that about 50,000 Americans were in the crowds lining the roads in Windsor and enjoying the atmosphere in London for the wedding, with retailers in the capital having forecast a £60m sales boom from tourist spending.
Airbnb expected people would rake in £12m from renting out their properties, while extended hours for pubs meant an estimated £10m sales boost according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
Pregnant Duchess felt 'unprotected' by the 'institution' of the Royal Family
Meghan also claimed in the documents that she felt "unprotected" by the "institution" of the Royal Family while she was pregnant.
The Duchess said she had "become the subject of a large number of false and damaging articles" in UK newspapers, specifically by Associated Newspapers titles, which caused "tremendous emotional distress and damage to her mental health".
She added: "As her friends had never seen her in this state before, they were rightly concerned for her welfare, specifically as she was pregnant, unprotected by the Institution, and prohibited from defending herself."
In September last year, Harry and Meghan's office made the move to Buckingham Palace, with them having previously been based at Kensington Palace alongside Prince William and Kate's team.
How Meghan's complaint she was target of a press campaign was dismissed by a judge as 'vague, irrelevant, speculative' in May
On May 1, High Court judge Mr Justice Warby threw out the Duchess's claims that the press waged a malicious campaign against her, branding parts of her case "wholly inadequate", "impermissibly vague" and "irrelevant".
He also denounced one element as "embarrassing", in the old-fashioned sense of putting the newspaper in an impossible position.
The handwritten note Meghan sent to Mr Markle came three months after he was unable to walk her down the aisle following a heart attack. The former Suits actress, 38, claims her father's decision to make the letter public breached her privacy, copyright and data protection rights.
The case has been dubbed "Markle vs Markle" because her father is expected to be called as a key witness for the newspaper. No date has been set for a trial.
But about two months ago - during an online preliminary hearing watched by the Sussexes from Los Angeles - the newspaper made an application to have parts of Meghan's case thrown out.
They included an allegation put by her legal team, led by celebrity barrister David Sherborne, that journalists had maliciously pursued an agenda to portray her in a false and damaging light.
On May 1, Mr Justice Warby ruled entirely in the publisher's favour. He said the duchess had provided "no sufficient credible basis" for alleging dishonesty, and that her statement of case was "unclear and lacking in the essential particulars".
He quoted from legal texts that state: "A party should not set out allegations of ... dishonesty unless there is credible material to support the contentions made."
The judge said Meghan's case was "impermissibly vague" on the allegation that the newspaper was "one of the tabloid newspapers that had been deliberately seeking to dig or stir up issues between [her] and her father".
In the ruling, Mr Justice Warby said the duchess's claim was "little more than a bare assertion", adding: "The pleaded case as it stands is 'embarrassing' in the old sense that it places the defendant in an impossible position, whereby it cannot tell what case it has to meet."
Regarding her claim there was "improper conduct" towards Thomas Markle, the judge said: "Such allegations should not be made if the [duchess] cannot give details of what was done and when." And he ruled her allegations that the newspaper had "harassed and humiliated" her father were "serious imputations which are irrelevant, lacking in particularity, and speculative ... a general, broadbrush attack without any of the detail that would be necessary".
The newspaper then asked the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to pay its costs in excess of £50,000 after the couple refused their offer to deal with the issue out of court to save the High Court having to set up an online hearing during the coronavirus crisis. Meghan's costs are said to have been £60,000-plus.
The ruling on May 1 was also a stepping stone to a full trial in late 2020 or early 2021 where Meghan and her father would come face to face for the first time in more than two years - giving evidence against each other.
- Daily Mail Australia