The Duchess of Sussex received a day-late birthday present Wednesday when a High Court judge ruled that the identifies of five friends who defended her last year will remain secret—at least for now. The issue is part of Meghan Markle's lawsuit against Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Mail on Sunday, which published portions of Markle's private letter to her father in February 2019, per ABC News. Thomas Markle said he shared the letter to set the record straight after one of Meghan's friends referred to it while speaking anonymously to People. Five friends who'd defended the duchess to People then had their names included in a confidential court document. Associated Newspapers argued their identities should be made public as they are "important potential witnesses on a key issue."
But Markle said the paper was "threatening to publish the names of five women—five private citizens—who made a choice on their own to speak anonymously with a US media outlet … to defend me from the bullying behavior of Britain's tabloid media." "These five women are not on trial, and nor am I," she said in a witness statement, adding the paper was trying "to create a circus and distract from the point of this case." Her lawyers further argued that exposing the friends' names was an "unacceptable price to pay" for pursuing legal action over the publication of portions of a private letter and that the women had "a basic right to privacy," per the Guardian. Justice Mark Warby ruled Wednesday that the friends' identities will remain secret "for the time being at least." A trial date has not been set. (Read more Meghan Markle stories.)