Prince Harry and the Mirror newspaper group are embroiled in a legal battle that is expected to captivate the media and create unease within the royal family. This week, Prince Harry will take the stand, accusing the British tabloid press of invading his privacy by hacking his cellphone over a decade ago.
As the younger son of King Charles III prepares to be cross-examined in this landmark case, the House of Windsor braces itself for an uncomfortable milestone. Prince Harry’s testimony will delve into his life before his marriage to Meghan and his relationships with other members of the royal family, shedding light on the strain that has developed since he and Meghan stepped back from their royal duties in 2020 and moved to Southern California.
Usually, the royal family prefers to settle legal disputes rather than face the scrutiny of a courtroom. For example, Prince William settled a phone-hacking case with Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper group in 2020, reportedly for a significant sum of money. However, Prince Harry has chosen a different path, turning his campaign against the tabloid press into a defining cause. He holds these publications responsible for the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana, in 1997, which he believes was a result of relentless pursuit by paparazzi.
In addition to the Mirror Group, Prince Harry has filed lawsuits against the News Group, the publisher of The Sun and The Times, as well as the publisher of The Daily Mail. He is even taking legal action against Britain’s Home Office for removing his police protection after stepping back from his royal duties. His determination to challenge these media entities has made him a prominent figure in the fight against irresponsible journalism.
The Mirror Group trial primarily revolves around the alleged hacking of Prince Harry’s cellphone, along with those of his brother, aides, and a former girlfriend, during the early 2000s. Four plaintiffs, including Prince Harry, are involved in the case, along with two actors from the popular British TV series “Coronation Street.”
Lawyers representing the Mirror Group argue that Prince Harry and the other plaintiffs waited too long to file the lawsuit for acts that occurred between 1991 and 2011. However, the Mirror Group admitted to engaging in phone hacking in 2014, offering a front-page apology the following February to victims of this unethical practice.
The upcoming trial is expected to become a media spectacle, shining a spotlight on Prince Harry’s life before his marriage and fatherhood. It will revive attention on his past relationship with Chelsy Davy, with whom he was romantically involved. Legal filings reveal that intercepted voicemail messages from Davy resulted in intrusive articles that strained Prince Harry’s relationship with her.
Suspicious calls to Davy’s cellphone in September 2009 were followed by Mirror Group newspapers featuring headlines such as “Chelsy’s Hard Enough” and “Chelsy Breakup ‘Was on Cards.'” Both articles discussed the couple’s impending split in intimate detail. Despite their efforts to keep their lives private, reporters often managed to find them, leading to trust issues and added pressure on their relationship. The constant scrutiny caused significant distress and embarrassment to Prince Harry, considering the security concerns for himself and his protection staff.
Besides disputing the timeliness of Prince Harry’s lawsuit, the Mirror Group’s lawyers cast doubt on his claim that the hacking occurred with Chelsy Davy’s phone. They suggest that the calls were likely made to gather comments after reports of their alleged breakup. Furthermore, given that employees of the News of the World tabloid had already been sentenced for phone hacking by 2009, the Mirror Group’s lawyers find it unlikely that their journalists would risk intercepting voicemail messages from Prince Harry or Davy.
Prince Harry’s testimony might also draw attention to Piers Morgan, the former editor of The Daily Mirror from 1995 to 2004, the period when the newspaper faced allegations of phone hacking. While Morgan denies involvement in hacking or commissioning articles based on it, Harry’s lawyers find it hard to believe he was unaware of these practices.
Piers Morgan has emerged as a vocal critic of Prince Harry and Meghan in recent years. In response to the trial, he remarked, “I am not going to take lectures on privacy invasion from Prince Harry, somebody who has spent the last three years ruthlessly and cynically invading the royal family’s privacy for vast commercial gain and told a pack of lies about them.”
As the legal proceedings unfold, the trial promises to expose the inner workings of the tabloid press and its impact on the lives of public figures. Prince Harry’s testimony and the potential revelations could have far-reaching consequences for both the British monarchy and the future of responsible journalism.