Meghan Markle wins bid to protect anonymity of friends who spoke to magazine

A British court ruled that a London tabloid may not reveal the names of five friends to spoke to People magazine in defense of the duchess last year.
/ Source: TODAY

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has won a court bid to keep secret the identities of several friends who gave an anonymous interview to People magazine last year.

A British judge ruled Wednesday that the Mail Online newspaper cannot name the five friends who came to Meghan's defense anonymously in a People magazine article published in February 2019, nine months after she married Prince Harry.

“I have concluded that, for the time being at least, the court should grant the claimant the order that she seeks,” High Court judge Mark Warby said.

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The crux of the legal battle is the Mail Online's publishing of a private letter sent by the former Meghan Markle to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, who missed her 2018 wedding.

Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Mail Online and its print counterpart Mail on Sunday, has argued that it published the letter only after its existence was revealed in a People magazine piece, bringing it into the public domain.

Markle's father gave the letter to the newspaper, he claimed, because he was misrepresented in the People article.

But Meghan's legal team has argued that publishing the letter, which she wrote in August 2018, was "gross violation" of her privacy.

The People article quoted friends of the duchess saying she was working to mend a rift with her father. One friend told the magazine that the duchess had pleaded with him in a letter to "please stop victimizing me through the media so we can repair our relationship."

The duchess said in a legal filing last month she did not know about the People article until the day it was published and didn't learn who the friends were who spoke with the magazine until much later.

Meghan has been out of the public eye in recent weeks after giving a speech at the U.N. Foundation’s 2020 Girl Up Leadership Summit last month.

She quietly celebrated her 39th birthday at home in Los Angeles on Tuesday with Prince Harry and their 1-year-old son, Archie, after receiving birthday messages from the British royal family.

"The Duchess felt it was necessary to take this step to try and protect her friends — as any of us would— and we’re glad this was clear," a source from the team representing the duchess told NBC News about the ruling. "We are happy that the judge has agreed to protect these five individuals."