Meghan faces court showdown with barrister who got Cambridge first in theoretical physics

Patrick Sawer
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arriving at a roundtable discussion on gender equality with The Queens Commonwealth Trust (QCT) and One Young World at Windsor Castle in October 2019 - AFP

Giving evidence can be nerve wracking at the best of times, particularly when being questioned by some of the country’s finest legal minds in a case already being described as the trial of the century.

Spare a thought then for Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who faces being cross examined by a man so clever he got a first in theoretical physics at Cambridge before turning to the law and one who got a double first at the same university.

Last autumn she announced her intention to sue the Mail on Sunday over its publication of excerpts of a letter she had sent her father Thomas Markle, accusing him of breaking her heart “into a million pieces”.

The Duchess claims this was in breach of copyright and an intrusion into her privacy.

But Adrian Speck, the 51-year-old QC appointed with Antony White QC to represent the paper in its defence against the Duchess, is unlikely to find himself star struck or overly impressed by either her royal status or her breezy Hollywood charm.

Indeed the comprehensive school educated barrister is expected to subject her claim that publishing the letter was a breach of copyright to meticulous, forensic scrutiny while Mr White will turn his legal brain to her claim the newspaper intruded on her privacy.

Meghan has already had a taste of what might be in store for her should the case reach the High Court without being settled beforehand.

The Mail on Sunday’s defence document lodged with the High Court last week mercilessly exposes the Duchess and her father Thomas’s deteriorating relationship while at the same time accusing the Duchess of allegedly being - in part at least - an architect of her own breach of privacy. 

It suggests that when she wrote the letter to her father, she was aware it would likely end up in the public domain.

Furthermore, in what made for uncomfortable reading, the 44-page defence submitted by Associated Newspapers, the owners of the Mail on Sunday, contains details of text messages and phone calls between the Duke and Duchess and Mr Markle both in the run-up to and in the aftermath of their wedding on May 19th 2018.

The document, drafted by Mr White QC, of Matrix Chambers, and Mr Speck QC, of 8 New Square Chambers, is the sort of combative defence which suggests that their line of questioning will be far from the sort of deferential exchange to which the Duchess may have grown accustomed, both as a Hollywood celebrity and, since her marriage to Prince Harry, a senior member of the royal family.

It points out that the Royal family are public figures supported “largely by public funds” and that, by way of example, the security bill for their Windsor Castle wedding cost the taxpayer £30million. 

In addition it claims the Duchess, 38, enjoys the lifestyle of someone with “extreme wealth or elite connections” flying to Ibiza, again by example, on a private jet.

Mr Speck, who was born in Brighton, was educated at Seaford Head Comprehensive School in East Sussex before going on to King's College Cambridge. Here he gained a first class degree in Physics and Theoretical Physics.

He then switched to the law, obtained a Distinction in the Common Professional Examination before being called to the Bar in 1993 with the Wilfred Parker Prize.

Should she be in any doubt about his pedigree Mr Speck’s reviews across a number of legal websites will make uncomfortable reading for Meghan and her legal team.

"Very good, clever and tenacious; he doesn't luxuriate in the law for its own sake, but takes delight in the rough and tumble of advocacy,” says one.

Another in the legal ranking site Chambers and Partners proclaims: "He is super clever and a real legal brain who thinks outside the box."

The legal background of Mr White, known for his quick thinking and clarity in court, is likely to prove just as intimidating.

He gained a double first at Cambridge and is regarded as leading silk precisely in the field of defamation and privacy on which the Duchess has chosen to pick a fight.

Chamber and Partners says of Mr White: "He has a fantastic intellect, great advocacy skills and is perfect with clients."

Another review states: “He is an absolute star, who is extremely bright, an excellent communicator and a great advocate.”

And here is one that should really concern the Duchess’s advisors: “Quietly and methodically destroys an opponent’s argument rather than engaging in theatrics”

Whatever Meghan is expecting it will not be an easy ride.