Prince Harry says his “deepest fear is history repeating itself”.
The Duke of Sussex has launched legal action against publishers of The Sun and the Daily Mirror over alleged phone-hacking, as his wife Meghan sues The Mail on Sunday over the publication of a private letter which the couple says was published in an “intentionally destructive manner”.
Harry’s legal action comes less than a decade after the phone-hacking scandal at News International which saw the launch of the Leveson Inquiry, and the shutting down of the News Of The World after more than 160 years in print.
Several members of the Royal Family were found to have had their phone messages intercepted by the paper.
But it’s not just phone-hacking. Here’s how the young royals have fallen victim to the press in recent years.
William and Kate
In 2014, the Old Bailey heard that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were hacked almost every day by the News of the World.
Prince William was hacked 35 times while Kate’s phone messages were intercepted 155 times in the space of a few months between 2005 and 2006 – including on Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day.
In 2017, a court ordered France’s Closer magazine to pay €100,000 in damages to the couple over topless pictures of Kate.
The photos of the pair on holiday in the south of France were published in Closer and in regional magazine La Provence in September 2012.
They filed a criminal complaint for invasion of privacy and got an injunction preventing further use of the images.
In a statement read to a Paris court by a lawyer, Prince William said the case was “all the more painful” because of the way the paparazzi hounded his mother before her death in the French capital 20 years ago.
He said the “clandestine way in which these photographs were taken was particularly shocking to us as it breached our privacy”.
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Harry and Meghan
The Duke of Sussex was hacked nine times by the News Of The World.
When it emerged Prince Harry was dating actress Meghan Markle, they both quickly became the focus of newspapers and magazines in the UK and the US.
In 2016, just a few months after they started dating, Harry’s communications secretary released a statement on the prince’s behalf, saying Meghan was being “harassed”.
It said that although Harry is aware that there is significant curiosity about his private life and has tried to develop a “thick skin about the level of media interest” in it, a line had been “crossed”.
The statement said: “His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
It added that Harry was worried about Meghan’s safety, and that he was “deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her”.
It went on to say: “It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm. He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it is her life and his.
“He has asked for this statement to be issued in the hope that those in the press who have been driving this story can pause and reflect before any further damage is done.”
However, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s legal action proves the problem didn’t go away.
Prince George and Princess Charlotte
Royal children are not immune to press intrusion.
In 2015, a letter from Kensington Palace was published warning paparazzi photographers about going to “extreme lengths to observe and monitor” the children – in particular Prince George.
While it thanked British media for respecting their privacy and refusing to “fuel the market for the unauthorised photos”, it said photographers are still trying to “covertly capture images of him [George] to sell to the handful of international media titles still willing to pay for them”.
The statement described a “disturbing incident”, where a photographer “rented a car and parked in a discreet location outside a children’s play area”.
It said: “Already concealed by darkened windows, he took the added step of hanging sheets inside the vehicle and created a hide stocked with food and drinks to get him through a full day of surveillance, waiting in hope to capture images of Prince George.
“Police discovered him lying down in the boot of the vehicle attempting to shoot photos with a long lens through a small gap in his hide.”
It then said the incident was not an isolated one, and listed all the violations “in recent months” in which photographers:
- on multiple occasions used long-range lenses to capture images of the duchess playing with Prince George in a number of private parksmonitored the movements of Prince George and his nanny around London parks and monitored the movements of other household staffphotographed the children of private individuals visiting the duke and duchess’s homepursued cars leaving family homesused other children to draw Prince George into view around playgroundsbeen found hiding on private property in fields and woodland locations around the duke and duchess’s home in Norfolkobscured themselves in sand dunes on a rural beach to take photos of Prince George playing with his grandmotherplaced locations near the Middleton family home in Berkshire under steady surveillance
Prince Harry, after announcing legal action against the Mail on Sunday for publication of Meghan’s private letters, said: “I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.
“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.
“We thank you, the public, for your continued support. It is hugely appreciated. Although it may not seem like it, we really need it.”
The Mail on Sunday said in a statement: “The Mail on Sunday stands by the story it published and will be defending this case vigorously.
“Specifically, we categorically deny that the duchess’s letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning.”
News Group Newspapers, which owns The Sun and owned the now defunct News Of The World (NOTW), confirmed it had received a claim, and said it had no further comment.
MGN Limited, which owns the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The Sunday People, has been revealed in court documents as the other company that has received a claim.