Prince Harry, a senior British royal, made history on Tuesday as he gave testimony in a court of law. Speaking both during cross-examination in the witness box and in his written witness statement, Harry shed light on life as a royal and his bitter, personal feud with the press. Now, we break down what you need to know about this rare and unusual event.
Harry is suing the publisher of the Daily Mirror over 33 articles published between 1996 and 2011 that he claims were based on phone hacking or other illegal snooping methods. According to Harry, these articles represent only a fraction of decades of press coverage that has warped his life and the lives of his loved ones. The tabloids cast him in unflattering roles, such as “the ‘thicko,’ the ‘cheat,’ the ‘underage drinker,’ the ‘irresponsible drug taker,’” Harry states in his witness statement.
Harry claims that journalists’ behavior has had a ruinous effect on his mental health, causing bouts of depression and paranoia. He blamed the press for the death of his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi. Harry was distraught to discover that Diana’s private conversations may have been hacked by the Mirror Group and that the newspaper made payments to private investigators for information related to her.
Many of the articles under dispute deal with Harry’s relationships, including his first serious girlfriend Chelsy Davy. He says that these relationships were destroyed under media scrutiny, with newspapers trying to use whatever unlawful means possible to wreck them. Harry even alleges that tabloids wanted him to remain single, believing he was much more interesting for their publication.
In court, Harry’s memory was called into question multiple times. He could not recall reading many of the articles cited in the court case and his lawyer accused Mirror Group’s attorney Andrew Green of “bullying.” Despite this, Harry remains determined to reform the British media, calling for press regulation and accusing some journalists of having “blood on their typing fingers.” He believes that if journalists are policing society, who then polices them?
Having left royal life in 2020 due to unbearable media scrutiny and alleged racism towards his wife, Meghan, Harry remains committed to this cause. He even made a pointed critique of the British Conservative government, stating “our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our government – both of which I believe are at rock bottom.”