Published:  03:15 PM, 16 January 2020

Meghan Markle makes first public appearance since shock announcement

Meghan Markle makes first public appearance since shock announcement

Meghan Markle has made her first public appearance since she and Prince Harry sensationally decided to quit as full-time royals, visiting two women's charities in Vancouver as British media reported she could face her father in court.

Harry and Meghan are in the middle of a storm after making their bombshell announcement last week -- before they had discussed the plans with Queen Elizabeth II.

That followed Meghan launching legal action against The Mail on Sunday's publishers in October after the tabloid printed a handwritten letter it had been shown by Thomas Markle.

The weekly newspaper has now issued its defence, leading to the possibility that Meghan and her father could be called to testify against each another.

A crisis summit at Queen Elizabeth's Sandringham country residence on Monday was missed by Meghan, who was in Canada -- where she and Harry plan to live part-time.

The Duchess of Sussex on Tuesday visited the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, a non-profit organization that provides support to women who are fleeing violence, dealing with homelessness or living in poverty.

Meghan met with the director and a handful of frontline staff to discuss the challenges women in the neighborhood are facing.

"She was very interested in what goes on for women in this community, who we all know are marginalized women who've faced many challenges and barriers to their wellbeing," said Kate Gibson, the acting executive director of the center.

The Vancouver-based non-profit Justice for Girls also said Meghan had stopped by, tweeting photos on Wednesday of the duchess during her visit.

"Yesterday, The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle visited to discuss climate justice for girls and the rights of Indigenous peoples," said the group, which helps teenage girls who live in poverty.

Final details on how Harry and Meghan's new roles might work are due in the coming days.

The prospect of a high court showdown only adds to the pressure on the couple.

Harry, sixth in line to the throne, married US former television actress Meghan at Windsor Castle in May 2018.

Her father, an award-winning former television lighting director now living in Mexico, did not attend the wedding after staging paparazzi photographs and suffering chest pains in the build-up.

The letter was written in August 2018 and published in February 2019 shortly after the US magazine People ran a story citing Meghan's friends talking about the letter, which shed light on her troubled relationship with her estranged father.

Meghan filed a claim in October last year against publishers Associated Newspapers over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.

In an accompanying statement, Harry lashed out at negative press coverage, claiming British tabloids had mounted a "ruthless" and "malicious" attempt to vilify his wife.

Newly-revealed legal documents outlining The Mail on Sunday's defence show they will rely on evidence from Markle, including that he "had a weighty right to tell his version of what had happened".

The paper's sister publication the Daily Mail said on its front page Wednesday that Markle would be prepared to give evidence against his daughter.

The Mail on Sunday also argues that a "one-sided" article in the US magazine People meant the letter's existence was already in the public domain.

It could be months before any trial takes place.

More broadly, online and television debate has raged as to whether tabloid coverage had been racist towards Meghan.

Departing Labour main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn "agrees" there were "to use Prince Harry's words, racial undertones" in Meghan's press coverage, his spokesman said.

Harry, 38, is due to resurface at Buckingham Palace on Thursday to host the 2021 Rugby League World Cup draw.

He and Meghan, 38, want to step back as senior royals, work towards financial independence from the British taxpayer, split their time between the UK and Canada

and ditch long-established pooled media access arrangements for royal engagements.

Despite Canadians' affection for the royal couple, a large majority (73 percent) do not wish to foot security or other costs for their relocation, according to an Angus Reid Institute survey.

Canadian media have estimated the costs of protecting Prince Harry and Meghan at approximately Can$1.7 million (US$1.3 million) per year. -- AFP

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