Today, we’re going to catch up on an article that ran in The Telegraph last month. I covered this on Instagram, but never found the time for a post, so let’s do it now, shall we?
The long and short of it is that Victoria Ward reported that The Duchess of Sussex wrote a letter to her father-in-law, King Charles, in 2021 after her and The Duke’s interview with Oprah Winfrey aired. The substance of the letter was focused on “unconscious bias” within the Royal Family – aka the incident described in which a member of the family speculated as to the color of Prince Archie’s skin prior to his birth and was subsequently nicknamed by the press the “royal racist.”
Ah, fun times.
The letter in question is said to be in response to a letter from the King – then Prince of Wales. The article goes on to make the following points:
- Meghan still doesn’t feel that the concerns she laid out have been properly addressed.
- King Charles was the only member of the Royal Family to be in direct contact with Meghan after the Oprah interview.
- His original letter expressed sadness at the rift between the rest of the Windsors and the Sussexes. He also expressed “disappointment” that the Sussexes chose to make the allegation in such a public way.
- The written exchange identifies which member of the Royal Family Meghan and Harry were referencing. Both the King and Meghan acknowledge in their exchange the statements weren’t made with “malice.”
- Meghan’s letter made clear that she wasn’t intending to brand anyone as “racist,” but rather raise concerns about “unconscious bias.”
The rest of article covers other related issues, including the Sussexes’ supposed frustration that the Palace didn’t make clear whether Archie and Princess Lilibet would be included in the coronation festivities when they initially reached out.
The couple is again described as “frustrated” by the Palace’s delay in confirming at the Sussex children would be known as prince and princess.
Finally, the article claims that King Charles reached out to Harry after the publication of Spare and they had a “heart-to-heart.” No such communication has recently taken place with Meghan.
What’s most groundbreaking about this article’s publication is that it was published at all. As you may recall, Meghan was involved in litigation for years over The Mail on Sunday’s decision to run portions of a letter she wrote to her father in 2018. What was made abundantly clear to all of us, if you didn’t already know, is that under UK law, the writer of the letter holds the copyright on its contents. As such, Meghan’s father didn’t have the right to grant approval for publication.
In this case, The Telegraph didn’t quote Meghan’s letter – they described it. There are also exceptions under UK copyright law related to reporting current events. What I’m very certain of is that prior to publishing this article, The Telegraph was confident they were on the right side of the law. What I’m less certain of as a non-lawyer is whether that means they definitely had the “go ahead” from the copyright holder (Meghan), or they made sure they were toeing the line. (We’ll get to everyone’s response in a moment.)
If anyone has additional insight on that, please chime in.
But stepping away from the legality of all of it for a moment, there’s also the question of how this letter made it to a British reporter. We can assume that the final letter was physically in the possession of King Charles and that members of his household may have had access to it. It’s also possible that Meghan maintained a copy of it. As such, there are precisely two camps from where this could have come – the King or Meghan (even if only by proxy).
Why The Telegraph? Well, the outlet itself regularly reports on the Royal Family and it’s generally pretty positive. Notably, it’s also the same outlet at which Bryony Gordon works, one of the few members of the British press with whom the Sussexes have a good relationship – Harry, in particular. She visited him in California during the Spare media tour and she wrote multiple pro-Harry features before and after his marriage.
Another curious element is that after the article was published, five updates were made to its language, which almost always indicates a back and forth with mentioned parties questioning elements of the reporting’s accuracy. Updates included:
- Removal of a line that said Meghan was staying in California during the coronation because it was Archie’s birthday.
- Removal of a line that said that Meghan still believed the original comments made by the member of the family were “racist.”
- The addition of characterizing the exchange as “warm.”
- Removal of the line that Meghan has “moved on” and “does not hold a grudge.”
- The removal of a photo of Lady Susan Hussey
Following the article’s publication, letters were sent to The Telegraph by lawyers for both the Palace and Meghan. And a statement from the Sussex camp was released to the press:
“The Duchess of Sussex is going about her life in the present, not thinking about correspondence from two years ago related to conversations from four years ago. Any suggestion otherwise is false and frankly ridiculous.”
It’s all very murky. You have to ask yourself, who benefits from this article’s publication? And what was the agenda behind the edits?
So, the possibilities: Meghan leaked the letter.
In theory, Meghan could have retained a copy of the letter and made sure it made it to The Telegraph. Her rationale could well have been trying to underscore the closeness of her relationship – at least at one point – with King Charles. And it’s a rather pointed reminder about one of the most serious allegations made during the Oprah interview, which is pretty bad timing in the weeks leading up to the coronation.
Rather pointedly, her statement doesn’t explicitly say that she wasn’t involved in the letter’s release. It dances around it, sure, but saying she isn’t thinking about such matters is a far cry from outright saying, this letter was shared without the Duchess’s permission or knowledge. Meghan has been involved in enough litigation with media to know the power of saying the latter.
Another possibility: A third party leaked the letter.
That would essentially mean that someone stole or copied the letter in the King’s possession and upon giving both the Palace and the Sussexes a heads up (which the outlet would have to do), neither intervened. That would be a huge legal risk for The Telegraph from the jump and for what? This isn’t a particularly interesting scoop. The only reason it received so much traction is because people initially assumed Meghan was behind it, it was updated so many times, and then Meghan had a statement released.
And finally: The Palace leaked the letter.
If we go this route, then the Palace’s rationale would have been presenting King Charles as a kind father figure and – pointedly – the only member of the Royal Family who reached out to Meghan after the interview. However, if they worked alone, then it would also mean they were prompting a furious response from California and running the risk of further litigation that would very possibly uncover their own role in this leak.
Which brings me to this: I think everyone’s hands are dirty here, even if indirectly.
The version of events that makes the most sense to me is that the letter was shared by the Palace and the Sussexes had some sort of knowledge this was happening before publication. Remember, the article notes that King Charles and Harry have been in contact since Spare – and Omid Scobie, a pro-Sussex reporter has since tweeted that father and son have been in semi-regular communication leading up to the coronation. There’s not radio silence between Buckingham Palace and Montecito.
The anonymous sources who participated in this article are very, very aligned, which indicates some level of cooperation – and some are speaking on the Sussexes’ behalf by sharing some level of insight on Meghan’s current state of mind. As such, they are either in the Sussex camp or they have been briefed by the Sussex camp. Many of the points raised are also pro-Sussex, such as the bit about the children’s titles and involvement in the coronation.
But the edits speak to Palace involvement – the language about Meghan’s views is toned down, the tone of the letter is described as “warm.” Those are royal talking points. Even the line about Meghan not holding a grudge being removed – well, that’s not the picture the Palace wants painted. They want King Charles to appear like the father reaching out to the prodigal son – and in this case, his wife. And it behooves them for Meghan to continue looking irrational for the time being.
So, what do we make of this? It’s not as though any such collaboration led to meaningful results – the Sussexes were “evicted” (not really, but for the sake of this conversation) from Frogmore Cottage and Harry didn’t particularly seem in favor over this past weekend.
Right now, I’m not sure. But as I said in my last post, I’m very uneasy about the Windsors right now and the nature of online discourse. Something feels amiss…more than usual.
2 thoughts on “So, King Charles & Meghan Were Writing Letters”
I really appreciate your analysis of the legal issues involved in this story. Without your insight and observations I would have only a superficial impression of it. I do think that these machinations are sad, though—such deliberate manipulation of public opinion over what should be private family matters.
Thank you! And I agree – if there’s one thing that came out of the Spare media blitz it’s the sense that the public is getting pretty exhausted by all of it. I would hope the Palace has taken note that re-litigating everything, even anonymously, isn’t helpful at this point.