Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s War on the Media Could Backfire

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to take legal action against the tabloid that printed Markle’s private letter to her father is coming under fire from some critics. Is it a bad idea for the Sussexes to move ahead with this “war on the media”? Princess Diana’s closest aide has some thoughts on why it’s a risky move.

prince harry meghan markle war on media
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle | Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Will the move backfire on them?

While many royal fans are applauding Prince Harry and Markle for standing up against the bullying Markle has endured from the media, Princess Diana’s former private secretary, Patrick Jephson, believes it may be “a risky overstretch of finite resources.”

Jephson told The Guardian that he believes their legal action may backfire, considering the “volatile” nature of the public and how they can be fickle with supporting lengthy legal cases. He noted: “Not financial resources, obviously (although potentially years of top-notch legal work will rack up bills to make even a prince’s accountant swallow hard), but the intangible and ultimately more decisive resources of public sympathy and personal resolve.”

He continued: “Public sympathy will reliably start in the duke’s corner but is notoriously volatile — hence probably a gamble on one or more swift settlements to steady the troops. As for the rest… all will depend on the scales of justice.”

“Personal resolve,” Jephson remarked, “is another matter. To stay the course, up to and possibly including personal court appearances, is a punishing trek on which to set out.” He added that they “have set themselves a long march to whatever they have defined as victory.”

Jephson speaks from experience, having worked with Diana when she sued a British tabloid that had acquired pictures of her working out in a gym. With the length of the trial, he said that the energy involved became “deflated.”

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He explained: “In the heat of battle and gripped by self-righteous indignation, the royal hand reaches resolutely for the mighty sword of truth and… waits. And waits. Unless the head of the offending editor(s) can be served up on a plate with the speed to which royal customers are accustomed, the whole business can start to feel like a bad idea. Somebody else’s bad idea, naturally.”

He continued: “Eventually, with the Princess of Wales, our legal champions reached a settlement, but by then it was all rather deflating.”

The time that it took from when Diana first took action to when they reached a settlement, Jephson noted, “didn’t feel like a victory parade and, funnily enough, next day the familiar faces of the press pack wore expressions that were everything except contrite.”

Prince Harry accused the media of “bullying” Markle

When the Sussexes announced their plans to take legal action, Prince Harry issued a lengthy statement that pointed to the bullying his wife has faced.

He wrote: “This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media. The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question.”

“In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year,” he added.

Prince Harry shared his concerns by stating: “My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”