The last time he was in the UK, it was for his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in September and the reason Prince Harry is in London is, once again, not for a happy reason.
Along with his wife, Meghan Markle, the Duke of Sussex stood down as a senior member of the Royal family in January 2020 after years of a media “feeding frenzy”, continuous public scrutiny, and an apparent falling out with his brother, Prince William, and his father, the now-King Charles. “There’s a hierarchy in the family, there’s leaking, there’s also planting of stories,” Harry explained in the trailer for his and his wife’s documentary series Harry & Meghan, part one of which landed on Netflix on December 8, 2022. “It’s a dirty game… The pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution, this feeding frenzy.” Meghan added: “I realized they’re never going to protect you.”
On Monday, March 27, 2023, Harry made a surprise appearance at London’s High Court although it is unclear whether he had any plans to meet up with family members while back in his native England.
Why is Prince Harry in London? Harry observed legal proceedings at the High Court after he and a group of public figures—Sir Elton John among them—sued Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over alleged phone tapping and other breaches of privacy. The duke, Sir Elton, actor Sadie Frost and Elizabeth Hurley are among the individuals who allege the company, which publishes the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, partook in illegal information gathering, including:
Hamlins added: “It is apparent to these individuals that the alleged crimes listed above represent the tip of the iceberg – and that many other innocent people remain unknowing victims of similar terrible and reprehensible covert acts. They have now therefore banded together to uncover the truth, and to hold the journalists responsible fully accountable, many of whom still hold senior positions of authority and power today.”
ANL has emphatically denied any wrongdoing, describing the allegations as “preposterous smears.” In a statement obtained by the BBC, the newspaper group said: “We utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old. These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims— based on no credible evidence—appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere.”
During a four-day preliminary hearing, a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for the legal action to proceed but Harry’s presence in court was indicative of how strongly he feels about his right to privacy. The group launched the legal action last year after becoming aware of “compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by ANL, according to a statement by law firm Hamlins released in October 2022.
In a witness statement presented to the court, Harry delivered a scathing assessment of the royal family and their relationship with the press. “Following the death of my mother in 1997 when I was 12 years old and her treatment at the hands of the press, I have always had an uneasy relationship with the press,” he said, referring to his mother, Princess Diana. per People. “However, as a member of the Institution, the policy was to ‘never complain, never explain.’ There was no alternative; I was conditioned to accept it. For the most part, I accepted the interest in my performing my public functions.”
Harry said that in dating Meghan Markle, he’d become “increasingly troubled by the approach of not taking action against the press in the wake of vicious persistent attacks on, harassment of and intrusive, sometimes racist articles concerning Meghan.” He added that “the situation got worse” with his wife’s pregnancy and the birth of their first child, Prince Archie, in May 2019. “The Institution was without a doubt withholding information from me for a long time about NGN’s phone hacking and that has only become clear in recent years as I have pursued my own claim with different legal advice and representation,” he said. “It is not an exaggeration to say that the bubble burst in terms of what I knew in 2020 when I moved out of the United Kingdom.”
“To this day, there are members of the Royal Family and friends of mine who may have been targeted by NGN and I have no idea whether they have or have not brought claims,” he continued. “There was never any centralized discussion between us about who had brought claims as each office in the Institution is siloed. There is this misconception that we are all in constant communication with one another but that is not true.” Prince Harry said the claim was “not just about me.”
“I am bringing this claim because I love my country and I remain deeply concerned by the unchecked power, influence and criminality of Associated,” he said. “The evidence I have seen shows that Associated’s journalists are criminals with journalistic powers which should concern every single one of us. The British public deserve to know the full extent of this cover up and I feel it is my duty to expose it.”
As mentioned, it’s unclear whether Harry will have an opportunity to meet him with his father or brother; as King Charles and his wife, Queen Consort Camilla Parker Bowles, were due to travel to France but due to rioting over pension reforms, the trip was postponed.
It’s not the first time Harry and Meghan have taken legal action against the tabloid press. In July 2022, Harry won the first stage of a libel suit against ANL over an article that alleged he tried to hide his separate legal challenge over Britain’s refusal to let him pay for police security. Per the Associated Press, Harry claimed the Mail on Sunday defamed him when it suggested that the prince lied in his initial public statements about the suit against the government and that he “cynically” tried to confuse the public by authorizing his representatives to put out “false and misleading statements” about his willingness to pay for police protection.
Nicklin ruled that “natural or ordinary meaning” of the article was defamatory. But he stressed that the decision didn’t apply to other issues in the case. “This is very much the first phase in a libel claim,” the judge wrote in his decision. “The next step will be for the defendant to file a defense to the claim. It will be a matter for determination later in the proceedings whether the claim succeeds or fails, and if so on what basis.”
For more about Prince Harry, read his upcoming memoir, Spare. Told for the first time in his own words, the book takes readers through the Duke of Sussex’s life with the British royal family, from the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997 to how the moment led to his decision decades later to move to America with his wife, Meghan Markle, and leave Buckingham Palace for good in 2020. “With its raw, unflinching honesty, Spare is a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief,” the publisher’s description reads.
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