Meghan Markle felt 'unprotected' by royal family during pregnancy, court documents say

British media scrutiny "caused tremendous emotional distress and damage" to Duchess of Sussex's mental health, legal papers say.
Image: Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duke & Duchess of Sussex, visit the Kasbah of the Udayas near the Moroccan capital Rabat
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, visited the Kasbah of the Udayas near the Moroccan capital Rabat in February.Fadel Senna / AFP - Getty Images file

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Linda Givetash

LONDON — Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, felt "unprotected by the institution" of Britain's royal family while in the press spotlight during her pregnancy, court documents released as part of a lawsuit against a British media company have revealed.

Filed by Meghan's lawyers last month and obtained by NBC News late Wednesday, the legal papers say Meghan was "prohibited from defending herself" from media intrusion by the monarchy.

The documents form part of her legal action against publisher, Associated Newspapers, over articles that appeared in the Mail on Sunday tabloid and MailOnline. Published in February 2019, they featured parts of a "private and confidential" letter from the duchess to her estranged father Thomas Markle.

Meghan is suing the publisher and seeking damages for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of Britain's Data Protection Act. If successful, she has said that any money she wins will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.

The court documents also reveal details about her struggling relationship with her father in the lead up to her marriage to Prince Harry in May 2018 at Windsor Castle.

Speculation about Thomas Markle's attendance dominated the build-up to the ceremony and the 75-year-old was expected to walk his daughter down the aisle. But he suffered health problems ahead of the ceremony and the pair publicly fell out before the big day.

Markle was also found to have staged paparazzi photos of himself in the run-up to the event and he has since criticized the couple in television interviews.

U.K. daily newspapers dedicated their front pages to the news that Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan planned to step back as "senior" members of the Royal Family in January.Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP - Getty Images file

At the case's first hearing in April, Meghan's lawyer David Sherborne said the newspaper had cherry-picking portions of the "deeply personal handwritten" letter to publish, in order to manipulate readers. He claimed that this as part of a wider "intrusive" campaign of stories against her.

The latest court documents state that Meghan disabled her personal social media accounts after she was engaged to Harry and Kensington Palace took over managing much of their public communications.

It was the palace that issued a statement announcing the Duchess's father wouldn't attend her wedding to Harry, they say.

The media coverage of Meghan Markle by British tabloids, specifically those owned by Associated Newspapers, has "caused tremendous emotional distress and damage to her mental health," they add.

Britain's Prince Harry Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan wave from the Ascot Landau Carriage during their procession towards Windsor Castle after their 2018 wedding ceremony.Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP via Getty Images

The scrutiny of the Sussexes in the media came while Markle was pregnant with their son Archie and the documents say she was "unprotected by the Institution" of the royal family and "prohibited from defending herself."

Associated Newspapers declined to comment to NBC News.

The Sussexes went on to stun the public in January when they announced that they would "step back" from the royal family, divide their time between the United Kingdom and North America, and start paying their own bills.

The couple have since ended their official royal duties, attending their final event held in March.