Prince Harry appeared before London’s High Court on Tuesday, where he became the first senior royal to take the witness stand in 130 years.
The Duke of Sussex, along with three other plaintiffs, has accused the publisher of British tabloid The Daily Mirror of using unlawful methods, such as phone hacking, to secure stories. Mirror Group Newspapers has previously admitted to hacking phones, but denies that the technique was used in the cases described in the claim. The case is one of five pending cases brought by the royal family against British media.
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Harry seemed relaxed when he arrived at court, grinning at the crowd before patting a member of his team on the back and stepping into the building. A swarm of photographers surrounded the entrance alongside curious onlookers, including an artist handling an eccentric painting of Harry and his wife Meghan Markle on an easel.
Harry made his appearance after failing to attend court on Monday when he was originally expected to testify. Judge Fancourt expressed his “surprise” that Harry was not present, although sources indicate the Duke was not instructed by his legal team to attend. Royal family representatives said Harry stayed behind in California to celebrate his daughter Lilibet’s birthday.
Over the course of Tuesday and possibly even Wednesday, Harry will prove how illegitimate techniques were used to report stories about him between the 1996 and 2009 period. The prince is expected to provide facts or convincing circumstantial evidence to support his claims against each of the 33 articles.
In a 55-page written testimony released and reviewed by him at Tuesday’s hearing Varietydescribes Harry’s role of the tabloid press in his life, and outlines a number of “associates” he interacted with via voicemails during the period, including the late “Love Island” presenter Caroline Flack, sports presenter Natalie Pinkham, his mother Diana, brother Prince William and ex-girlfriend Chelsea Davy.
“Despite the common misconception, I was not funded more than 5% by the taxpayer while I was a working Royal in the UK, but it felt like the tabloid press thought they were absolutely my property and deserved to know all there is to know . know about me, my life, my movements and the lives of those people who came into my orbit,” Harry wrote in the February statement.
The royal family also described the “unusual” mobile activity that led him to believe he was a victim of phone hacking: “I wouldn’t leave my voicemail unless the little envelope symbol on my phone flashed to indicate I had a new message. Sometimes it disappeared. this symbol before I had a chance to listen to the voicemail I don’t know how long after listening to them the symbol was gone, presumably right away I also clearly remember people saying to me ‘didn’t you get my voicemail received?’ on both a personal and work-related front, I was like “no,” and sometimes I’d go back to my voicemail to look for it, but still couldn’t find it.
Harry also specifically mentions documents released by Mirror Group Newspapers as part of the case, including some private letters from Diana to British TV presenter Michael Barrymore.
“All three letters were written during Piers Morgan’s editing of the Daily Mirror,” Harry wrote. “Thinking of Piers Morgan and his gang of journalists getting their ears into my mother’s personal and sensitive messages (in the same way they did to me) and then giving her a ‘nightmare time’ three months before her death in Paris , makes me feel physically ill and even more determined to hold those responsible, including Mr. Morgan, accountable for their vile and wholly unwarranted behavior.
The rest of the extensive document contains Harry’s written evidence of why each of the 33 articles in the center of the case related to alleged illegal reporting techniques.
Harry was questioned in court by Mirror Group Newspapers lawyer Andrew Green KC. Asked about the royal family’s “hostility” to local media, which Green says preceded alleged unlawful methods of news-gathering by the tabloid press, Harry replied: “I’ve experienced hostility from the press since I was born.”
“Each article has brought me sadness,” added Harry.
Green repeatedly pointed out on Tuesday that stories described in Harry’s case had previously appeared in other publications, suggesting that the Mirror Group newspapers were merely following the news cycle with their own versions of a story.
While royals have appeared in court before — Princess Anne, for example, pleaded guilty in 2002 to failing to prevent one of her dogs from biting a child — Harry’s case marks the first time since 1891 that a senior royal has entered the witness box. (Prince Andrew narrowly escaped testimony after settling his sexual assault case with Virginia Giuffre in February 2022.) In the 19th century, Prince Edward VII, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, served as a witness in a defamation trial involving a card game. In 1870 he also testified as part of a divorce case in which he was falsely accused of being the lover of an MP.
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