A recent blockbuster book about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not have the couple’s authorisation – and any suggestion they collaborated on it is “false”, author Omid Scobie has insisted.
He claimed Harry and Meghan were not interviewed for Finding Freedom, co-authored by Carolyn Durand, and the book was always intended to be “independent and unauthorised”.
The duchess, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers (ANL) over the publication in the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline of a “private and confidential” letter sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle, 76. in August 2018.
At the latest preliminary High Court hearing on Wednesday the publisher is seeking to amend its written defence to Meghan’s claim to argue that Finding Freedom, was published with the couple’s “extensive co-operation”.
In a written witness statement, Mr Scobie said: “Any suggestion that the duke and duchess collaborated on the book is false.
“They did not authorise the book and have never been interviewed for it.
“The book was always prepared on the understanding that it was to be independent and unauthorised.”
Mr Scobie goes on to insist that he has spoken to both the duke and duchess “on occasions in the past”, but “never about the book”.
He claimed that in his work as a royal correspondent, he had spoken to the couple when they were working members of the royal family, including speaking to Harry on his tour of South America in June 2014.
The witness statement says: “In the book’s authors’ note, we have said that we spoke directly to the couple ‘when appropriate’.
“It is discussions of this nature that I was referring to. To reiterate, we have not had any discussions with the duke or duchess about the book.”
Mr Scobie’s statement says he and Ms Durand spoke to “to a large number of people (more than 100)” for Finding Freedom, “some of whom were close to the duke and duchess and who gave us information”.
“We did not speak with or reach out to the claimant’s (Meghan) mother or father out of respect for their privacy.”
Mr Scobie also claims that the authors approached Kensington Palace in a way that was “consistent with protocol in the royal circle when writing a book”, adding “we were not solely relying on the Palace to introduce us to people close to the duke and duchess”.
“In fact, we made clear that we would be writing the Book regardless of the Palace’s views: because we were confident in the reliability of the sources we were already able to bring to the table.
“We were put in touch with many people close to the couple via other sources who we already knew. There were also people who did not answer our emails.”
Mr Scobie says that his book makes “brief reference” to the letter at the centre of Meghan’s claim against ANL, including “very short extracts” of it which were taken from the Mail on Sunday article of February 10, 2019.
He claims that “given this information was already in the public domain, I did not seek the consent of the duchess or anyone else to include this information in the book”.
He adds: “The issue was widely known following the publication of the Mail articles and the subsequent interviews by The Duchess’s father provided to numerous media outlets.”
In written documents, lawyers for ANL argue that Mr Scobie’s witness statement “seems to confirm that people working on behalf of the claimant co-operated with the authors and gave them the names of people close to the claimant who would help, and that the authors spoke to such people and received information from them”.
But Meghan’s lawyers argued that references in the book to her letter to Mr Markle were simply “extracts from the letter lifted from the defendant’s own articles” and denied that the duchess “collaborated” with the authors.