The publisher of the Mail on Sunday has won the first High Court skirmish in the Duchess of Sussex's privacy claim against it over publication of a letter to her estranged father.
In a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Warby struck out parts of Meghan's case, following an application by Associated Newspapers at a hearing last week.
However, the judge said those parts of the duchess's case may be revived at a later stage if they are put on a proper legal basis.
The Daily Mail responded to the decision with an article calling it a "humiliation" for Meghan.
"For Meghan this judgment is like a train ploughing into a petrol tanker on a level crossing. It is a complete disaster. She has been humiliated toady," Howard Kennedy partner Mark Stephens told the Mail Online.
This was the first stage of the Duchess of Sussex's privacy claim against a British newspaper that published parts of a "private and confidential" letter to her estranged father.
Meghan is suing Associated Newspapers over five articles, two in the Mail on Sunday and three on MailOnline, which were published in February 2019 and reproduced parts of a handwritten letter she sent to Thomas Markle, 75, in August 2018.
A preliminary hearing in the case, in which lawyers for the publisher asked for parts of the duchess's case to be struck out, was conducted remotely last week, with the judge sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and lawyers and reporters attending remotely.
Mr Justice Warby delivered his ruling on Associated Newspapers' application at noon on Friday, and sided with the publication.
The judge said: "Some of the allegations are struck out as irrelevant to the purpose for which they are pleaded.
"Some are struck out on the further or alternative ground that they are inadequately detailed.
"I have also acted so as to confine the case to what is reasonably necessary and proportionate for the purpose of doing justice between these parties.
"I do not consider that the allegations struck out on that basis go to the 'heart' of the case, which at its core concerns the publication of five articles disclosing the words of, and information drawn from, the letter written by the claimant to her father in August 2018.
"Some aspects of the case that I have struck out at this stage may be revived if they are put in proper form."
'The duchess' rights were violated...boundaries were crossed,' say Meghan's legal team
In a statement issued after the ruling, a spokesperson for law firm Schillings, which is representing Meghan, said: "Today's ruling makes very clear that the core elements of this case do not change and will continue to move forward.
"The duchess' rights were violated; the legal boundaries around privacy were crossed.
"As part of this process, the extremes to which The Mail on Sunday used distortive, manipulative, and dishonest tactics to target The Duchess of Sussex have been put on full display."
The statement continued: "Whilst the judge recognises that there is a claim for breach of privacy and copyright, we are surprised to see that his ruling suggests that dishonest behaviour is not relevant.
"We feel honesty and integrity are at the core of what matters; or as it relates to the Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers, their lack thereof.
"Nonetheless, we respect the judge's decision as the strong case against Associated will continue to focus on the issue of a private, intimate and hand-written letter from a daughter to her father that was published by The Mail on Sunday.
"This gross violation of any person's right to privacy is obvious and unlawful, and The Mail on Sunday should be held to account for their actions."
Meghan Markle vs Mail on Sunday
During the hearing, the judge was told the letter had been published by Associated Newspapers to satisfy the "curiosity" of readers, which it had "deliberately generated".
Lawyers representing Meghan said the publisher had, through a series of articles, "stirred up" the dispute between her and her father.
But counsel for the publisher argued allegations by Meghan that the articles were responsible for "causing" the dispute between them are "objectionable".
Antony White QC said Meghan's contention that her "vulnerable" father was "harassed and humiliated", "manipulated" and "exploited" should not form part of her case.
David Sherborne, representing the duchess, claimed the publisher had "harassed" Mr Markle, adding that it had "finally manipulated this vulnerable man into giving interviews", which Mr Markle had later described as "lies".
Mr Sherborne accused the publisher of "stirring up" a dispute between Meghan and her father, and argued it "caused the very dispute" that it says, "justifies the publication of this letter".
In written documents prepared for the hearing, Mr Sherborne said no consent was sought from the duchess in advance of the articles being published.
He claimed this was a "deliberate decision" taken by the publisher to avoid risk of her seeking to prevent publication, and also to "secure the enormous 'scoop"' with such a "highly sensational story".
Mr Sherborne also said the publisher "deliberately misled the public by presenting a false picture of the letter".
He said it did this by leaving out parts of it which "demonstrate the claimant's care for her father and others, as well as her concern about the UK tabloid media exploiting her father, and the fact that she addresses untruths previously published by the defendant".
Mr White, for the publisher, argued that some of the allegations made by Meghan are irrelevant and not made with a proper legal basis.
In written documents, Mr White said the duchess alleges the publisher was "one of the 'tabloid' newspapers which had been deliberately seeking to dig or stir up issues between her and her father".
He said: "This is an allegation of seriously improper deliberate, i.e. intentional, conduct to the effect that the defendant's motive was to seek to manufacture or stoke a family dispute for the sake of having a good story or stories to publish."
Mr White argued that such "complex tests of mental state" of the publisher are "irrelevant to the claim for misuse of private information".
He added: "In this context it appears that the claimant has seen fit to put these allegations on the record without having spoken to Mr Markle, verifying these allegations with him or obtaining his consent (she admits ... that she has had no contact with him since the wedding).
"It is therefore highly unlikely that she has any credible basis for these allegations of impropriety towards him, or that proper particulars could be given."
Mr White also took issue with the duchess's allegation that the publisher "acted dishonestly" when deciding which parts of her letter to her father to publish.
He added: "It is extremely common for the media to summarise or edit documents when reporting current events, and that is not a basis for an allegation of dishonesty.
"It is open to the claimant to say, as she does, that the presentation of the letter was misleading - which is firmly denied - but there is no basis for her to allege that anyone working for the defendant was dishonest in the drafting and editing process."
The duchess is seeking damages from Associated Newspapers for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.
Meghan has previously said any damages she may be awarded if she wins her case will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.
Associated Newspapers wholly denies the allegations, particularly the claim that the letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning, and says it will hotly contest the case.
It is understood the Duke of Sussex and Meghan listened online to the parts of the hearing conducted by her lawyers.
Sections of the letter were published in the newspaper and online in February last year, and it was announced the duchess would be bringing legal action in October.