- Thomas Markle, 75, spoke for the first time since his daughter issued her writ against the Mail On Sunday for publishing parts of the letter
- Mr Markle, who lives in Rosarito, Mexico, said he was ‘devastated’ when the existence of the letter was made public
- It would have remained a secret had its existence not been revealed by an unnamed ‘long-time friend’ of Meghan’s in America’s People magazine
The Duchess of Sussex’s estranged father has told how he kept her controversial letter secret for six months, never intending to make it public.
But he felt he was forced to release some of its details when her friends ‘misrepresented’ its contents to an American magazine.
Thomas Markle received the handwritten five-page missive via FedEx from Meghan’s Los Angeles business manager Andrew Meyer in August 2018. Deeply hurt, he vowed to keep it private.
Pictured on Meghan’s wedding day to Trevor Engelson in Jamaica in 2011. Last night, retired Hollywood lighting director Thomas Markle, 75, spoke for the first time since his daughter issued her writ against this newspaper for publishing parts of the letter
It would have remained a secret had its existence not been revealed by an unnamed ‘long-time friend’ of Meghan’s in a glowing article in America’s People magazine about the Duchess in February.
Meghan’s friend portrayed the letter as loving and conciliatory, 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 victimising me through the media so we can repair our relationship.” ’
At the time it was widely speculated that Meghan had, perhaps, authorised her friends to brief the magazine – something neither she nor the Palace have denied. What is certain is that Mr Markle viewed the letter very differently, saying it made no attempt to heal their rift and felt more like ‘a final farewell’.
Attack dog lawyers loved by the rich and famous…
By Ian Gallagher
When the rich and famous want to silence their critics, it is to ‘attack dog’ lawyers Schillings that they frequently turn.
Media experts said choosing the aggressive London-based Schillings over the Royal Family’s preferred law firm Harbottle & Lewis – who represented the couple when they initially raised concerns about the letter with The Mail on Sunday – was a risky move by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. One said it could be seen as ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’.
The firm was founded in 1984 by Keith Schilling, now 63, the son of a jobless father and a shopworker mother, who left school at 15 to be a clerk in a media law firm.
He has since been at the forefront of efforts by lawyers in the reputation protection business to exploit the Human Rights Act passed under Labour as one of the legal weapons that can be used against newspapers and broadcasters.
His firm used Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights to persuade Law Lords in 2004 that the model Naomi Campbell should not have been pictured outside a drug rehabilitation clinic. The case established privacy law in Britain and since then the Schillings name has been found on warning documents in the legal offices of media organisations across the country.
Schillings became the go-to law firm for those wanting to obtain injunctions to gag newspapers from publishing stories that are seen as damaging. It has had many successes, but some high-profile failures too.
It suffered a notable setback in 2007 when one of its most influential clients, Lord Browne of Madingley, lost a battle with The Mail on Sunday.
The BP chief executive resigned after 41 years with the oil giant after he admitted he had lied to the court over how he met his former boyfriend Jeff Chevalier. Interestingly, Lord Browne is now listed on Schillings’ website as chairman of its advisory board.
The firm became expert at seeking so-called super-injunctions, where even the reporting of the injunction’s existence was banned. The orders, however, proved useless when public outrage led to celebrities being outed on Twitter and even in Parliament.
Recently the firm represented retail tycoon Sir Philip Green, who suffered humiliation when he was forced to drop a court injunction that stopped the media reporting allegations made by five former staff.
Combative Mr Schilling has been called ‘the silencer’ because of his readiness to stop the presses, once suggesting that there were ‘too many newspapers’.
Of the decision by the Duke and Duchess to hire his firm, media commentator Roy Greenslade said: ‘The choice of legal firm is interesting. I can’t remember that they’ve [the Royal Family] used Schillings before. Is [Harry] taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut?’
Last night, retired Hollywood lighting director Mr Markle, 75, spoke for the first time since his daughter issued her writ against this newspaper for publishing parts of the letter. He said: ‘I decided to release parts of the letter because of the article from Meghan’s friends in People magazine. I have to defend myself. I only released parts of the letter because other parts were so painful. The letter didn’t seem loving to me. I found it hurtful.’
He previously told this newspaper: ‘The letter was presented in a way that vilified me and wasn’t true. It was presented as her reaching out and writing a loving letter in the hope of healing the rift, but the letter isn’t like that at all. I have the right to defend myself.’
Mr Markle, who lives in Rosarito, Mexico, said he was ‘devastated’ when the existence of the letter was made public. He is also angered by false claims that he asked for and received payment for releasing parts of the letter.
Furthermore, Mr Markle only learned through People magazine that his daughter had received a letter he had sent in response to hers. Until then, he was left wondering if she had read it.
Prince Harry last week issued a searing statement announcing his wife was suing this newspaper and launched a withering attack on the British press, describing coverage of Meghan as ‘bullying’.
He claimed the couple had been hit by ‘relentless propaganda’, adding: ‘I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.’
The announcement of the lawsuit on Tuesday overshadowed the end of the Sussexes’ highly successful ten-day tour of Africa. Harry was criticised for the timing of the statement and it was reported advisers had warned it would push the tour off the front pages.
Neither Sara Latham, the couple’s communications secretary, nor Samantha Cohen, their private secretary, is believed to have had any input into the statement and there was speculation Harry had not consulted Buckingham Palace, Prince Charles nor Prince William beforehand. There was reportedly puzzlement among officials that the statement was released before the end of the Government-funded tour. Engagements such as the couple’s meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa received far less coverage because of it.
Ken Wharfe, who served as Princess Diana’s bodyguard, called the statement ‘a monumental misjudgment’ while Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan, a columnist for this newspaper, called the rant ‘hysterically over-the-top’, saying Harry had ‘petrol bombed’ positive press coverage of the tour.
Mr Markle is particularly upset Meghan’s friends used the People magazine article to misinterpret something he wrote in his letter of response to his daughter, in which he suggested he and Meghan should pose for a press photo together.
Meghan’s anonymous friend is quoted in the magazine saying: ‘He writes her a really long letter in return, and he closes it by requesting a photo op with her. And she feels like, “That’s the opposite of what I’m saying. I’m telling you I don’t want to communicate through the media and you’re asking me to communicate through the media. Did you hear anything I said?” It’s almost like they’re ships passing. He knows how to get in touch with her. Her telephone number hasn’t changed. He’s never called, he’s never texted.’
Thomas Markle is particularly upset Meghan’s friends used the People magazine article to misinterpret something he wrote in his letter of response to his daughter, in which he suggested he and Meghan should pose for a press photo together. Pictured in 2002
Mr Markle insists he suggested the photo as a way of showing the world they could be friends again and described his daughter’s interpretation as a ‘tragic misunderstanding’.
‘When Doria [Meghan’s mother] was photographed with Meghan and Harry for the first time it showed she was part of the family. I don’t want a picture for any other reason than if we show harmony then the press will back off.’
It was also falsely stated that he never tried to contact Meghan after her wedding. Mr Markle showed this newspaper texts proving he had subsequently attempted to contact his daughter multiple times on the only number he has for her; a number from which both she and Prince Harry texted him in the run-up to the wedding.
He called that number in the presence of a reporter from the MoS but an automatic voice recording said the line was ‘restricted or unavailable’.
Meghan Markle’s (pictured in South Africa on October 2) father, who lives in Rosarito, Mexico, said he was ‘devastated’ when the existence of the letter was made public
Mr Markle was deeply hurt his daughter did not use her letter to enquire how he was doing after his heart attacks. ‘There was no loving message in there, nothing asking about my health, nothing from her saying, “Let’s get together and heal our differences.”
‘When I opened the letter I was hoping it was the olive branch I’d longed for. I was expecting something that would be a pathway to reconciliation. Instead it was deeply hurtful. I was so devastated I couldn’t show it to anyone – and never would have, had it not been for the People magazine piece which meant I had to release portions to defend myself.’
Mr Markle still hopes a reconciliation with his daughter is possible: ‘I don’t recognise the person who wrote the letter but I still love my daughter. All it would take is one phone call and most of this craziness would stop.’
- No payment was requested or given for this article.
How Meghan Markle’s ‘special sisterhood’ told US celebrity magazine intimate stories about hand warmers for Royal guards, cookies by the bed – and THAT bombshell letter
By Ian Gallagher
Earlier this year a group of five women – the Duchess of Sussex’s inner circle – resolved to ‘speak the truth’ about their royal friend to an American celebrity magazine. Exactly how they arrived at the decision to collectively ‘break their silence’ and fight what they called the ‘global bullying’ endured by Meghan will no doubt emerge in time
With its blend of celebrity and human interest stories, People has a readership of 35 million
It has been widely reported that the resulting article was sanctioned by the Duchess herself, something she and Kensington Palace has never denied.
To many Royal commentators, it seemed inconceivable that this well-meaning quintet would run to People magazine to ‘set the record straight’ and criticise her father without her blessing.
Clearly the women – identified only as a long-time friend, a co-star, a former colleague, a friend from Los Angeles and a close confidante – intended to make an impact with their anonymous attempt at reputation management.
With its blend of celebrity and human interest stories, People has a readership of 35 million. The five friends monopolised the February 18 edition, their words spread over eight glossy pages and heralded with the front cover headline: The Truth About Meghan.
They spoke of the Duchess being ‘guided by a deep sense of gratitude and humility’ and being someone who ‘personifies elegance, grace, philanthropy’. One friend said: ‘Forget the fact of who she is married to: she was royalty from the day I met her.’
The article included private details of the couple’s life at Kensington Palace, where they were then living.
Duchess of Sussex’ friends spoke of her being ‘guided by a deep sense of gratitude and humility’ and being someone who ‘personifies elegance, grace, philanthropy’. Pictured in Johannesburg on October 2
Readers learned that the Duchess can knock up a ‘five-star meal’ from leftovers and how, far from being imperious and waited on hand and foot, she paints her own nails, does all her own make-up, treats staff to ice cream and sorbets and gives hand warmers to Palace guards because she doesn’t like the ‘guys to be cold’.
One friend said: ‘There’s a false assumption that she lives in some gilded palace with staff and ladies-in-waiting and all those Royal perks. It’s simply not true. We’ve all been to their cottage. It’s small and she’s made it cosy. Meg cooks for herself and Harry every single day – there’s no chef or butler.’
Her Los Angeles friend described spending a couple of days with Meghan. ‘Her husband was out of town on work. In the room she made up for me, there was a candle, cookies by the bed, slippers and a robe. We were the only two in the house. She made the most lovely meals… It was raining and muddy outside, so the dogs got all dirty and she’s wiping them off with towels.’
In a similar vein, her ‘long-time’ friend added: ‘I was with her last month, and she was going on a public engagement. Harry and I were sitting with the dogs, and we were all chatty, and she was painting her nails… She’s very self-service.’
In the magazine, the five friends – who are said to ‘form a special sisterhood’ – portray Meghan and Harry as ‘very grounded’ (the couple are pictured on October 2 in Johannesburg)
Recalling boxes she saw lining the couple’s Kensington Palace cottage, the friend adds: ‘[Meghan] said, “They’re hand warmers. Every time it gets cold like this, I take them to the guard stations. The guards are standing at their posts, and I don’t want the guys to be cold.” ’
The same friend reportedly caused consternation in Royal circles by revealing in the next breath the Duchess writes her own speeches and ‘many of Harry’s’. She added: ‘They do it together.’
Of the claim that the Duchess fires off 5am emails to staff, another friend told the magazine: ‘The email thing is such a weird slant on someone who is actually an incredibly organised, focused, hard-working person.’
Significantly, it was also this article that alerted the world to the existence of a letter written by Meghan to her father, Thomas Markle – the letter that is now at the centre of a legal dispute between the Duchess and The Mail on Sunday.
One friend is quoted in the People article as 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 victimising me through the media so we can repair our relationship.” ’
The friend adds: ‘He writes her a really long letter in return and he closes it by requesting a photo op with her. And she feels like, “That’s the opposite of what I’m saying. I’m telling you I don’t want to communicate through the media, and you’re asking me to communicate through the media. Did you hear anything I said?” It’s almost like they’re ships passing.
Her Los Angeles friend described spending a couple of days with Meghan (pictured in South-Africa). ‘Her husband was out of town on work. In the room she made up for me, there was a candle, cookies by the bed, slippers and a robe’
‘He knows how to get in touch with her. Her telephone number hasn’t changed. He’s never called; he’s never texted.’
One unforeseen consequence of the friend’s description of the letter from Meghan to her father was that it spurred Mr Markle to defend himself against what was clearly a very public admonishment. Some Royal observers have suggested that, had Palace courtiers been consulted about the article, not blindsided by it, they might well have anticipated his likely response.
As it was, the repercussions were devastating.
Mr Markle, now 75, had kept the letter, which he received the previous August, three months after his daughter’s wedding.
He had no intention of showing it to anyone. That, at least, was the position until he read the People article six months later. It left him ‘devastated’.
Elsewhere in the magazine, the five friends – who are said to ‘form a special sisterhood’ – portray Meghan and Harry as ‘very grounded’. One said: ‘She has a firm understanding of the things she can and can’t control. And she tries not to put any effort into the things she can’t control.’
It was reported at the time that the Palace was informed by magazine staff about the article only minutes before publication.
The following day former Buckingham Palace press secretary Dickie Arbiter, who worked as a media manager for both Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, observed presciently: ‘Assuming – and as these sources are anonymous we don’t know for sure – that this was done with her agreement, it has opened a Pandora’s Box, in my opinion.
‘The issue with her father is an open wound and I’m not entirely sure it is the best idea to aggravate that.’