Almost as if to confirm that Zelo Street was on the right track when posting on some of the content of court papers which form part of the Duchess of Sussex’s action against the publishers of the increasingly wayward Mail on Sunday, the paper has now set out its defence. And in doing so, it has - perhaps unintentionally - vindicated the Sussex’s decision to step back from being front line members of the Royal Family.
While the MoS, its sister paper the Daily Mail, and most of the rest of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet, have been castigating the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, especially over their reaction to the hostile barrage of press coverage, which in the case of the Duchess has all too frequently carried the tinge of racism, its declared legal defence asserts that the idea she is entitled to privacy somehow does not apply.
You read that right: while mere mortals are indeed entitled to a little privacy, the MoS has claimed that anyone Royal is not. Key to this is the assertion that they “rely on publicity about themselves and their lives to maintain the privileged positions they hold”. But, conversely, how would a reduction in that publicity hinder the maintenance of their public position? It doesn’t seem to hinder Princess Anne, for instance.
That MoS defence then moves on to the letter from the Duchess to her father Thomas Markle, whose contents were selectively published in its pages. Their stance is that she should not “have a reasonable expectation of privacy that the contents of the letter were private and would remain so”. Think about that: the MoS is saying that when she wrote that letter, she should have done so in the expectation of it being leaked.
Which may be another big legal ask, as is the next gem from the paper’s defence, that there is a “huge and legitimate public interest” in the private lives of the royals. Why is that interest “huge”? Because of the hunger in our free and fearless press for cheap and sensational copy which will move more copies. And what makes it “legitimate”? Er, because that same press says so. This defence already looks slightly shaky.
There will also be the usual legal mind games which those who have been in the same situation as the Duchess of Sussex will know all too well. As the Guardian has reported, “Among the evidence disclosed in the court papers are highly personal text messages between Thomas Markle and his daughter in the run-up to her wedding in May 2018 … The Mail on Sunday also suggested that if the case headed to court it would request copies of any private messages sent by Meghan to her friends in which she authorises them to speak to the media on her behalf”. Nasty? They’ve hardly got started.
What the MoS is setting out in its defence is that what it did is OK, because that is what the paper expects to be able to get away with. Hal and Meg should not expect to have any privacy because that would impact on the MoS’ business. Hence that paper and all the others kicking off like so many spoilt children at the prospect of the couple being out of reach very soon. How dare they stop the press scoring copy off of them?
In mounting this defence, then, the MoS has proved the Duchess’ point for her. But she and her family are not there merely to provide cheap copy. The press just doesn’t get it.
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