The “Palace Four” will reveal whether the Duchess of Sussex gave private information to the authors of Finding Freedom, indirectly or otherwise, they have confirmed.
The four, who were among the Duchess’s closest and most senior aides, insisted they would remain “strictly neutral” and had no interest in helping either side in her legal action against the Mail on Sunday.
In a letter lodged with the High Court on their behalf, Samantha Cohen, her former private secretary, Christian Jones, former deputy communications secretary, Jason Knauf, former Kensington Palace communications secretary and Sara Latham, former communications director, said they would also provide evidence about the creation of the letter Meghan sent to her father, as well as the draft, and whether she anticipated that it might be made public.
Antony White QC, for Associated Newspapers, owner of the Mail on Sunday, said the group could clearly “shed light” on the issues at stake, noting that the case “cried out” for further investigation at trial.
The Duchess is suing Associated for breach of privacy and copyright relating to the publication of five articles, three in the MailOnline and two in the Mail on Sunday, in February 2019.
She has applied for summary judgment, a legal step that would negate the need for a trial.
Credit: Television Stills
In the letter sent on behalf of the “Palace Four” legal firm Addleshaw Goddard said none of them wanted to be involved with the trial, not least due to the sensitivity and discretion involved in their roles within the Royal Household.
It added: "Nor does any of our clients wish to take sides in the dispute between your respective clients. Our clients are all strictly neutral.
"They have no interest in assisting either party to the proceedings. Their only interest is in ensuring a level playing field, insofar as any evidence they may be able to give is concerned."
The letter continued that their lawyers’ "preliminary view is that one or more of our clients would be in a position to shed some light" on "the creation of the letter and the electronic draft".
It said they may be able to shed light on "whether or not the claimant anticipated that the letter might come into the public domain" and whether or not the Duchess "directly or indirectly provided private information, generally and in relation to the letter specifically, to the authors of Finding Freedom".
The Duchess has accused Associated of a “triple barrelled” breach of her rights, for publishing extracts of the “private” letter she sent to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018.
Her legal team has described the letter as “a message of peace,” a desperate plea, begging Mr Markle to stop talking to the press.
Mr Markle, 76, described it in rather different terms, revealing in his witness statement that the critical five-page missive “signalled the end” of their relationship.
Mr White said the decision to involve the Kensington Palace communications team in composing the letter “requires careful and penetrating investigation” at trial, suggesting that
their input bolstered its claim that the letter was part of a “media strategy”.
“Why were they involved at all in the wording of a letter if it was a wholly private letter?” he asked.
Mr White also argued that an article published in People magazine, based on interviews with five of Meghan’s friends, “set the scene” for unfolding events.
The article, headlined The Truth About Meghan, provided the first public reference to the letter.
Mr White noted that the Duchess had admitted the article’s description of the tone and purpose of her letter was inaccurate.
“She admits the letter was not an attempt at reconciliation, it was an admonishment,” he said.
The Palace Four
Four royal aides who will be asked to give evidence in a potential trial have confirmed they will provide information that will shed light on various issues at stake.
Jason Knauf, who at the time was communications secretary to both the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, advised Meghan as she wrote the letter to her father.
Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA
The Duchess has admitted that Mr Knauf, a close confidante who is now chief executive of the Royal Foundation, "provided feedback" in the form of "general ideas".
Ted Verity, editor of the Mail on Sunday, said he had been told Mr Knauf worked on the drafts with the Duchess.
Samantha Cohen, former private secretary to the Sussexes and long-standing senior royal aide.
A former assistant private secretary to the Queen, she is said to have been planning to leave Buckingham Palace in 2018 but agreed to stay on to help guide the Duchess of Sussex through her first months in the Royal Family.
Samantha Cohen, pictured at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding
Credit: Mark Stewart
The popular Australian left the royal fold in 2019 after almost 18 years of service, to work for environmental charity Cool Earth, later becoming chief executive of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council.
Christian Jones, former deputy communications secretary to the Sussexes who is currently acting private secretary to the Cambridges.
Christian Jones, left, with Jason Knauf, right
Credit: Mark Stewart
The communications specialist who previously worked at the Treasury and on Brexit, is a popular member of the team, heading up the Cambridges’ press office when the two couples formed separate households.
He has recently handed in his notice and will head up corporate communications at a private equity firm.
Sara Latham, who at the time was the Sussexes’ director of communications and is now a senior Buckingham Palace advisor working on the Platinum Jubilee, is said to have helped “fact check” Finding Freedom, the favourable biography about the Sussexes.
Mr Verity said he had been told Ms Latham had assisted the book’s authors, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, by making sure they got nothing wrong.
The editor also claimed that a third member of staff, “a woman called Keleigh” (Thomas Morgan) at Sunshine Sachs, had been responsible for “making calls to open doors” to the authors.