The 38-year-old complains that the reports have destroyed his relationships and that he suffers from paranoia. The trial against the publisher Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) begins this Wednesday. Harry’s case is one of four being tried.
The prince should not be there at the start, after he recently returned to his family in the USA after a blitz visit to the coronation. But in June, Harry himself wants to testify in court – as the first senior royal since the 19th century. The New Statesman magazine wrote of a “new chapter in Prince Harry’s relentless fight against the British tabloid press”.
Several newspapers sued
It shouldn’t stay with the “Mirror”. Harry has also sued newspapers from media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s empire: the “Sun” and “News of the World”, which was shut down years ago because of a wiretapping scandal. It was an “endless crusade,” commented “New Statesman”. Harry made it clear how important the proceedings are to him when he surprisingly appeared at a hearing on his lawsuit against the publisher of the “Daily Mail” in London at the end of March.
The first trial is about 140 articles in the “Daily Mirror”, “Sunday Mirror” and “Sunday People” from the period 1996 to 2010, from which the newspapers are said to have illegally obtained information. Often in focus: ex-“Mirror” publisher and Harry’s intimate enemy Piers Morgan, today a controversial moderator and columnist who often teases the prince and his wife, Duchess Meghan.
Mirror once bugged celebrities
It is well known that the “Mirror” once tapped the phones of celebrities. The publisher has already had to pay tens of millions of pounds in damages. But the prince, AGM argues, missed a deadline, and several cases are statute-barred. In addition, many articles came about legally: acquaintances of the prince made money out of the stories or courtiers gossiped behind the scenes. When the “Mirror” titled a report that the then 17-year-old was suffering from glandular fever with “Harry suffers from kissing disease”, the true source was father Charles’ press officer at the time – the one with “Mirror” boss Morgan was friends.
For Harry, the campaign against the notorious “Yellow Press” is a deeply personal matter. In his biography and in many interviews since moving to the United States, he has never missed an opportunity to blame the tabloid for the cold and sometimes inhumane climate in the palace, which his wife Meghan has publicly complained about. Harry despises the “Yellow Press”, he makes no secret of that. He blames her for the accidental death of his mother Diana in 1997, who was being followed by paparazzi in Paris.
But it’s not just the press. Harry denounces an unholy alliance between tabloids and royalty. For example, the fifth heir to the throne accused his stepmother, Queen Camilla, of leaking information to put himself in a good light at his expense. The allegations have significantly worsened Harry’s relationship with father Charles and brother Prince William.
Recently, in the course of another lawsuit by Harry, it became known that William received “a very large sum of money” from Murdoch’s publisher in 2020 to ward off a lawsuit from the new heir to the throne. There is talk of a secret agreement between the palace and the press.
“The reason for this was to avoid a situation where a member of the royal family would have to sit on the witness stand and provide specific details of the private and highly sensitive voicemails” that had been intercepted by a News of the World reporter, it said in the brief. The “institution” was incredibly nervous and wanted to avoid further damage to its reputation at all costs. Explicit reference is made to the “Tampongate” scandal: in 1993, a telephone conversation between Charles, still married to Diana, and Camilla became public, in which the heir to the throne said he wanted to live as a tampon in the pants of his then lover.
Consequences for the British media industry
“If Harry wins against Mirror Group Newspapers, this could have far-reaching consequences for the British media industry,” the Guardian newspaper recently pointed out. Because MGN belongs to the publisher Reach, which in turn operates many other tabloid titles. “Journalists on these issues will be following the court proceedings nervously as any large payment to Harry would hit the company’s already shaky finances, which has already led to layoffs.”
It is certain that the press, but also the palace, will have to prepare for new details with the process. “Even if the Duke of Sussex can’t prove any unlawful behavior to the Mirror Group, he’s likely to win some kind of victory,” the New Statesman said. So Harry is at least the moral winner.