Two years after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Duchess of Sussex’s comments about her family are back in the news. Around 17 million Americans watched the interview hoping to learn more about why the couple left the British royal family. They weren’t disappointed: the Duke and Duchess opened up about racism at the House of Windsor and Meghan’s suicidal thoughts. As expected, these statements did not fit either the British monarchy or Markle’s family. So much so that Meghan’s half-sister Samantha Markle filed a defamation lawsuit in March 2022. On Wednesday, February 15, the two sides appeared for a virtual court hearing.
According to court documents first obtained by Page Six, Samantha Markle, 58, alleges that Meghan, 41, made “false and malicious statements” in the Oprah interview and in Finding Freedom, an unofficial biography about the couple released in 2020 have. But one of the problems with the complaint is that out of the 10 items listed, seven correspond to statements made in the book, which were neither written nor promoted by Meghan Markle.
Samantha Markle appeared at the virtual hearing on Wednesday, but the Duchess was represented by her lawyers. During the hearing, Samantha Markle’s attorney, Peter Tickting, said Meghan had caused her “great harm” and that the 58-year-old was “humiliated, shamed and hated on a global scale” after the Oprah interview.
“She got caught. She lied about her education, that she got all those scholarships. Her father paid for her education, for goodness sake, and she got caught in that lie,” Tickting said, according to The Telegraph. Why else is she belittling her sister? Why else would she put her father down? Why else would she deny her family, who have been good to her all her life? She never had a problem with that.”
He continued, “She refuses to cover up for them that she made up this narrative of her going from rags to riches, which is nonsense, and probably doesn’t even realize the harm she would do to her sister. Probably never realizing, an innocent person would rush into battle where suddenly hundreds of threats to their life would come their way, a stalker to deal with.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their television interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. CBS/BEEM (CBS/BEEM/Cordon Press)
Michael Kump, the attorney representing Meghan Markle, argued that the Duchess’s childhood collections are “not defamatory from a legal standpoint.” “The plaintiff challenges Meghan’s own impressions of her own childhood, but that is not an appropriate subject for a court.”
Kump said that “the right to express opinions and even to criticize them is guaranteed by the First Amendment,” adding that the Duchess: “never declared, ‘I’m an only child with no siblings.’ All she did was describe her own experiences growing up. Such statements cannot readily be proved to be true or false.”
In early February, Meghan lost her first fight in the case when the presiding judge denied her request to avoid testimony. Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell ruled that the Duchess of Sussex “fails to show that unusual circumstances justify the stay sought or that damage or undue burden will result if the court does not issue a stay”. That means Meghan may have to testify.
The lawsuit alleges Meghan falsely claiming to be an “only child” who “had no relationship at all with her sister.” “Meghan falsely claimed that: (a) she essentially rose from virtual poverty; (b) she was forced to work a series of low-paying jobs from the age of 13 to ‘make ends meet,'” the complaint reads.
Samantha is seeking $75,000 in damages plus court and attorney fees.
But the conflict between the half-sisters goes back well before the trial. Samantha – who is 17 years Meghan’s senior – has criticized the Duchess since her days on hit TV show Suits. In several letters and even books, she has attacked Meghan, describing her as “cold and calculating”. When Harry and Meghan were full members of the British royal family, Scotland Yard put them on its People to Watch list because of the risk she posed to the Windsors. In fact, Samantha Markle wasn’t invited to the Duke and Duchess of York’s wedding.
Judge Honeywell will rule in a few weeks whether to bring the lawsuit to trial. But even if the case is dismissed, Samantha’s lawyer has warned they could sue the Duchess again for including statements from the Winfrey interview in the Netflix documentary Harry & Meghan.
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