For over a week it seemed like the relationship between Prince Harry and the press was improving. Though the Duke of Sussex had his issues with the media in the past, the meticulously planned trip to Africa seemed to have turned the tide. For one glowing moment, it felt like everyone was getting along.
But those good feelings came to a crashing halt this week with a huge announcement. Before arriving back home to London, Prince Harry delivered an impassioned speech announcing the news that he planned to pursue legal action against Mail on Sunday for infringement of copyright and misuse of private information. The publication published excerpts from a private letter that Meghan Markle wrote to her father, Thomas Markle.
The timing for the news was especially strange — who ruins a goodwill tour with negativity? Even though Prince Harry supposedly consulted Queen Elizabeth before making the declaration, it is making interactions between the couple and the media quite awkward now.
The timing of Prince Harry’s threatened lawsuit feels significant
There’s never a good time to announce you’re suing someone. But the timing of Prince Harry’s declaration feels intentional; like he’s trying to make a point.
And maybe he is. In the statement, the Duke of Sussex pointed out that all the positive publicity they’ve been receiving in Africa just proves how fickle the media truly is. As he said, it “exposes the double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her [Markle] almost daily for the past nine months.”
Media members had no idea this was coming
Former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt called the announcement “a sledgehammer to the symbiotic relationship once tolerated by the royals and the tabloids.”
“We had no idea this was coming. It was a complete and utter bombshell, and I got the impression that London—Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and Kensington Palace—didn’t really know it was coming either,” a reporter told Vanity Fair.
“The communications team here looked shell-shocked when it broke. I get the feeling that most of them didn’t know this was coming, which might suggest the couple did this on their own or with a very select group of their advisers. The palace are saying the timing of the announcement was due to specific legal advice, but why couldn’t it have been tomorrow?”
Now things are tense between Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and the press
Remember, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex still had appearances to make even after news of the lawsuit dropped. When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrived at the next event in South Africa after the announcement, one source called the atmosphere “awkward and uncomfortable.”
And now the same news outlets that had been telling glowing stories about the couple’s efforts in Africa are covering this story instead, which seems like the opposite effect of what Prince Harry would want. Especially if he has any intention of salvaging his reputation.
Princess Diana’s former secretary and Patrick Jephson told Vanity Fair, “This kind of litigation is easy to start, but nobody can predict the path it will take or the damage it may cause. If the Sussexes have a well-planned strategy it has got off to a strange start, trampling on the good news of a successful tour.”
“Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one,” Prince Harry said in the statement.
We’ll all have to wait and see how this all plays out.