"People actively prevented her from responding to stuff that we knew to be untrue," a source says of Meghan Markle

By Simon Perry and Stephanie Petit
July 08, 2020 09:00 AM
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Meghan Markle was left frustrated by the way the palace handled "untrue" tabloid stories, says a source.

Court documents that surfaced last week as part of Meghan and Prince Harry's lawsuit against a British media company revealed that the Duchess of Sussex felt unable to defend herself against media intrusion.

"The go-to position [at the palace] was no comment or to ignore stories, and people actively prevented her from responding to stuff that we knew to be untrue," a source close to Meghan and Harry tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "That is what she is taking issue with."

The new documents filed by Meghan's legal team claimed that the false reports caused "tremendous emotional distress and damage to her mental health," leaving her feeling "unprotected by the institution and prohibited from defending herself" during her pregnancy with 1-year-old son Archie.

Archie, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Samir Hussein/WireImage

A source with close knowledge of the workings of the royal household tells PEOPLE that the royal family's history of silence on news stories comes from their desire to not heighten the situation.

Meghan Markle
Samir Hussein/WireImage

"The palace teams are faced with the difficulty that when things go wrong — particularly on private life matters — quite often any action taken with the media makes it worse," says the source. "It's not that the royal household doesn't want to help — more that they don't want to make it worse by giving a gossipy story more oxygen."

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
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In February 2019 five of Meghan’s close friends spoke to PEOPLE about the “global bullying” they said was aimed at the Duchess of Sussex. “As her friends had never seen her in this state before, they were rightly concerned for her welfare,” state the new court papers.

The source close to Meghan and Harry notes that the remarks in the documents are not aimed at the royal family. “Some people are making [these documents] about individuals. It is about the [institution] as a whole and its practices.”

Meghan, 38, is suing publishers Associated Newspapers and the Mail on Sunday for publishing extracts of what she describes as a "private and confidential" letter sent to her father, Thomas Markle, in August 2018 — three months after her wedding to Prince Harry, 35.

"This case centers on a private and hand-written letter from a daughter to her father that was published by The Mail on Sunday," a source close to the couple tells PEOPLE. "This gross violation of any person's right to privacy is obvious and unlawful."

Meghan Markle
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Following a pre-trial hearing in April — to which Meghan and Harry listened in from their home in Los Angeles, where they relocated after stepping down from their senior roles in the royal family — the legal case will focus on whether the Mail on Sunday infringed on Meghan's privacy and U.K. laws surrounding copyright and data protection by printing excerpts of a handwritten letter she sent to her father in August 2018.

The lawsuit is expected to go to a full trial in late 2020 or early 2021.