Follow Vogue Arabia

The Story Behind Harry, Meghan, and the Royal Fight for Privacy

The news broke on Friday. Buckingham Palace confirmed that Prince Harry had filed claims against the owners of The Sun and the Daily Mirror for “illegal interception of voicemail messages.”

Photo: Getty Images

The palace did not elaborate any further. However, reports say the allegations are from the early 2000s.

This news alone was bound to drum up some serious press—after all, a senior member of the British royal family is suing two of the country’s most popular tabloids. But this wasn’t the Sussexes’ only legal battle this week. Earlier they announced the duchess’ decision to sue The Mail on Sunday over what they say was the unlawful publication of a private letter. (Although the specific correspondence was not named, it is reported to be one she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. According to her law firm, the publication was a breach of privacy and an infringement of copyright.)

Harry explained their decision on the newly created website “Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences—a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son,” he wrote. “There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behavior, because it destroys people and destroys lives.” The passionate statement is the landing page, and only content, on the website.

Outlets around the world were quick to respond: Prince Harry was at “war” with the British press.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex aren’t the only royals who recently sought damages from a publication. Prince William and Kate Middleton took action against French tabloid Closer after it published topless photos of the duchess sunbathing in 2012. In 2017, the couple was awarded 100,000 euros in damages.

Now, the parallels between Meghan and Harry’s cases and Kate and William’s aren’t exact. Meghan and Harry’s feels more like a crusade, as they are taking on multiple U.K. papers, alleging multiple incidents from various time periods, whereas Kate and William dealt with one conflict in one international press outlet. And although no one in the British royal family is free from scrutiny, the media coverage of Meghan was particularly vitriolic. (Take this Daily Mail headline, for example: “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed—so will he be dropping by for tea?”)

But the common thread is that each couple is fighting for the right to privacy in a 24/7 media age. While royals of an earlier generation may have had to contend with negative stories in papers, royals of this generation have to deal with a much nastier beast: negative stories in papers…that go viral. Kate’s nude photographs, for example, were technically just published in France. But they were splattered all over the internet, available for anyone with a WiFi connection to find. For Meghan, particularly inflammatory or juicy stories are published in one outlet, aggregated by dozens of others worldwide, and soon enough are trending on Twitter, all in the span of several hours. (The international appetite for the royals, who are in a rare category of global superstars, is insatiable.) “In today’s digital age, press fabrications are repurposed as truth across the globe. One day’s coverage is no longer tomorrow’s chip-paper,” wrote Harry of these alleged mistruths.

View All
Vogue Collection