The searing statement is the only document on the Sussex Official website created so as to keep it separate from more positive royal messages, according to reports. The couple also used aggressive defamation experts Schillings rather than traditional royal legal firm Harbottle and Lewis to undertake the proceedings in a move dubbed an “interesting” choice by royal commentator Roy Greenslade.
The Duchess of Sussex is suing the Mail on Sunday’s owners for breach of copyright over a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle, which was published by the newspaper. The firm has previously acted for Naomi Campbell, Roman Polanski and Topshop boss Sir Philip Green.
As fallout from the shock statement continues, it has emerged palace advisers were blindsided by the news which overshadowed positive reports on the final day of the hugely successful taxpayer-funded trip.
Press in South Africa wrote of the royal communications team being “visibly embarrassed” by the statement and the irony of having to change their narrative to cover it rather than the gender-based story the Sussexes had wanted to highlight.
ITV royal editor Chris Ship told of having to drop a package on gender-based violence in order to talk about the couple’s relationship with the press, saying it had left a “sour” taste on an otherwise successful tour.
“Instead of focusing on all those issues in Africa which mean so much to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – we are back to talking about their relationship with the press,” he wrote in a blog.
BBC former royal editor, Peter Hunt, said Prince Harry had “taken a sledgehammer to the symbiotic relationship once tolerated by the royals and the tabloids.”
“Not for the first time, the Queen will be questioning (privately) the actions of one of her relatives. In this case, the timing - the couple are still on tour - and the wisdom of taking on the British tabloids,” he said.
What many royal commentators agree on is Prince Harry’s deep-seated hatred of the press, stemming from its treatment of his mother during his childhood.
Princess Diana was relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi, including by vehicles in the moments before her tragic death in 1997. At times, she would also use them to her advantage, tipping them off to her location and using the media to tell her side of the story.
Majesty magazine editor Ingrid Seward said the very “intense” Harry has “always hated the media.” Recalling how he told her some years ago he didn’t want to go into a room and face the press, she said “it seems to me that deep within him is this fear the media,” she wrote in The Times.
“He blames them for destroying his life; the death of his mother, the failure of his previous romances, he can’t see the wider picture.”
However she also said the case of Meghan and Harry was not “history repeating itself” pointing out that much of the negative press Meghan has been subjected to has been fuelled by her own family, including half-sister Samantha Markle and her father Thomas Markle, who shared the letter with the Mail on Sunday in the first place.
“That does not get them off the hook, but it is indicative of the very specific complexity of the situation” she wrote, adding that Harry is “hot-headed” and “sensitive”.
“Harry used to have star power like Diana’s but I don’t think he does any more. It seems to me that the charming Harry of a few years ago is temporarily buried. He’s angry and defensive. His mother handled things very differently.”
‘I DON’T THINK ANY CHILD SHOULD BE ASKED TO DO THAT’
The Prince was just 12 years old when his mother was killed in a Paris car accident along with Dodi Al-Fayed and driver Henri Paul, leading to a public outpouring of grief to deal with on top of his private pain.
Both Prince William and Prince Harry have made mental health a key plank of their royal work in the years since and, on the twentieth anniversary of her death, Prince Harry opened up about having to walk behind her coffin with his brother, father, grandfather and uncle.
“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he said. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Following his mother’s death, Prince Harry’s late teens and early twenties were chronicled in the British media including pictures of him wearing Nazi clothing, naked in Las Vegas and his relationships and break ups with Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas. By his mid-twenties he decided he needed to “fix the mistakes I was making” and at 28, following Prince William’s advice he sought professional help.
“My mother died when I was very young. I didn’t want to be in the position I was in, but I eventually pulled my head out of the sand, started listening to people and decided to use my role for good. I am now fired up and energized and love charity stuff, meeting people and making them laugh,” he said.
“I sometimes still feel I am living in a goldfish bowl, but I now manage it better. I still have a naughty streak too, which I enjoy and is how I relate to those individuals who have got themselves into trouble,” he told Newsweek in 2017.
He has also admitted he can sometimes have “too much passion” which has “got me into trouble in the past, partly because I cannot stand the idea of people mincing around the subject rather than just getting on with it.”
In November 2016, Prince Harry’s emotional side came to the fore once more when he issued a statement slamming treatment of his new girlfriend, Meghan Markle. Crafted in conjunction with his closest advisers, it was released on the Kensington Palace website and noted that Prince Harry has “never been comfortable with” media attention but “has tried to develop a thick skin about the level of media interest” in his life.
“But the past week has seen a line crossed,” he said at the time. “Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. 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,” it read.
Since then, Prince Harry seems to have grown even more fiercely determined to protect his new wife and now young son, Archie, from press intrusion into their lives. The couple opted to keep Archie’s christening private and have kept the public at arm’s length through releasing images on social media through their heavily curated Instagram account. However this has led to widespread criticism of the Sussexes given their taxpayer-funded renovations, and the government-funded platform they are given to carry out their high-profile work.
On the royal tour, Prince Harry has repeatedly spoken about his love of Africa, the solace it gave him after his mother’s death and the sense of contentment he gains from being there. Now, as he enters his third act as a father and husband, the Prince appears determined to “stand up for what we believe in” and “challenge injustice” in both his public and private lives. How this mission plays out in the British media remains to be seen.
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