Meghan Markle and Prince Harry cooperated with the authors of the book Finding Freedom, something they have always denied, their former press secretary Jason Knauf revealed in a statement released by the Court of Appeal in London on Wednesday.
Knauf said in his bombshell statement that he attended a two-hour meeting with Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand for which Meghan provided “briefing points she wanted me to share with the authors,” which included, “detail on how the tiara for her wedding had been selected and that it had been misrepresented by media.”
After the meeting, Knauf wrote to Meghan that the book would be “a celebration of you that corrects the record on a number of fronts.”
The incendiary claims by Knauf, who is still close to Prince William and is chief executive of his foundation, threaten to blow a hole in repeated claims by Harry and Meghan that they had no involvement in Finding Freedom. A spokesman last year, for example, said they “did not collaborate with the authors on the book, nor were they interviewed for it.”
However Knauf in his witness statement released today said that Meghan and Harry “authorised specific cooperation in writing in December 2018.”
Knauf added that he advised against putting the authors in touch with friends of the duchess, telling Harry “this was not a good idea” and that “being able to say hand on heart that we did not facilitate access will be important.”
However Meghan said in her response statement that when she suggested sending a blanket email to her friends asking them actively not to cooperate, Knauf had advised her to not do so.
Knauf emailed Harry that he would meet the authors to help with “factual accuracy and context.”
Harry replied saying: “I totally agree that we have to be able to say we didn’t have anything to do with it. Equally, you giving the right context and background to them would help get some truths out there. The truth is v much needed and would be appreciated, especially around the Markle/wedding stuff but at the same time we can’t put them directly in touch with her friends.”
Knauf then contacted Meghan, emailing her a list of questions from the authors.
Knauf wrote: “If you’re happy I will see them later this week to set out the factual background and to provide more recent context.”
Meghan replied that evening, saying: “Thank you very much for the info below - for when you sit down with them it may be helpful to have some background reminders so I’ve included them below just in case. I know you are better versed at this than most but assisting where I can. I appreciate your support—please let me know if you need me to fill in any other blanks.”
Knauf then listed “the briefing points she wanted me to share with the authors in my meeting.”
These briefing points, Knauf says, included:
“Information on how she had very minimal contact with her half-siblings throughout her childhood.
“That she had been ‘close [for] most of her life’ with her father and she had supported him ‘…in spite of his reclusiveness.’ She added that ‘media pressure crumbled him and he began doing press deals brokered by his daughter Samantha’ and that ‘despite countless efforts to support him through the past two years, they now no longer have a relationship.’
“Her perspective on the thinking behind a statement in November 2016 issued by me about the way she was being treated by the media.
“Her happiness about moving to Windsor.
“Detail on how the tiara for her wedding had been selected and that it had been misrepresented by media.”
Knauf then received an email from Prince Harry that said: “Also, are u planning on giving them a rough idea of what she’s been through over the last 2yrs? Media onslaught, cyber bullying on a different scale, puppeteering Thomas Markle etc etc etc. Even if they choose not to use it, they should hear what it was like from someone who was in the thick of it. So if you aren’t planning on telling them, can I ?!”
Knauf said he replied saying “Of course—I’ve never stopped!”
Knauf said Harry replied: “Oh how I hope they report on it properly. Good luck!”
Meghan issued a witness statement in response to Knauf’s, in which she admitted that she had misled the court in a 2018 statement that said she did not know if her communications team had any input into the book.
Meghan said: “In the light of the information and documents that Mr Knauf has provided, I accept that Mr Knauf did provide some information to the authors for the Book and that he did so with my knowledge, for a meeting that he planned for with the authors in his capacity as Communications Secretary. The extent of the information he shared is unknown to me.”
Meghan added: “I apologize to the Court for the fact that I had not remembered these exchanges at the time. I had absolutely no wish or intention to mislead the Defendant or the Court.”
Meghan added that other emails between her and Knauf clearly demonstrated there was a “difference between general background factual information that Mr Knauf was already aware of and that I generally accepted that he needed to know for his engagement with journalists where appropriate (as was the same case with the background points for the Book), versus personal information about private matters.
“It also shows that media enquiries of this kind were frequent and routine. Until I saw these emails, I had not given any thought to Mr Knauf’s meeting with this journalist, or any other—those meetings and calls comprised the entirety of Mr Knauf’s job. No particular meeting stood out in my mind, as there was a daily deluge of media inquiries which he was tasked with handling.”
In the astonishing statement, Knauf also said that before Meghan wrote a letter to her father after her wedding, she had “explored options for written communication that might convince him to stop giving interviews, but that could also set the record straight if he gave them to the media.”
When she wrote the letter, she “recognized that it was possible that Mr Markle would make the letter public” and carefully organized it so it could not be selectively leaked.
The letter was duly passed by Thomas Markle to the Daily Mail. Meghan sued the publishers of the Daily Mail for invading her privacy and copyright by publishing it. She won the case, but the publishers are now appealing it.
Knauf said: “She wanted to write a letter rather than an email or text message (other options she had considered and discussed with senior Royal Household staff) as a letter could not be forwarded or cut and pasted to only share one small portion. As part of a series of messages on 24 August 2018 she explained that she had given careful thought to how to prevent the letter being leaked in part or in a misleading way. She explained to me by text that she had numbered the pages at the top to indicate the length of the letter (1/5, 2/5 etc). She also deliberately ended each page part way through a sentence so that no page could be falsely presented as the end of the letter. In the event that it was leaked she wanted the full narrative as set out in the letter to be understood and shared. She said she had ‘toiled over every detail which could be manipulated.’”
Knauf added: “The duchess wanted to make sure that if the letter became public, it would assist with setting out her perspective on the problems with her father’s behavior. In a message on 24 August she said: ‘If he leaks it then that’s on his conscious(sic) but at least the world will know the truth. Words I could never voice publicly.’”
In another message to Knauf that he revealed, Meghan said: “Given I’ve only ever called him Daddy, it may make sense to open as such despite him being less than paternal. And in the unfortunate event that it leaked, it would pull at the heart strings.”
Meghan responded to Knauf’s statement saying: “To be clear, I did not want any of it to be published, and wanted to ensure that the risk of it being manipulated or misleadingly edited was minimized, were it to be exploited.”
The hearing continues.