Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, often make the headlines. However, they took the world by both storm and surprise when they announced a major lawsuit against the press last week.
The entire affair is just as complicated as any Shakespearean drama or royal affair. Fortunately, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide so you can understand this whole royal mess.
Who Is Getting Sued?
The royals are suing The Mail On Sunday, which is a tabloid newspaper located in England. The primary issue at stake is a personal letter of Meghan’s that the Mail published excerpts from in February 2019.
As you might expect, the whole thing is more complicated than it sounds.
What Do We Know About This Letter?
The letter in question is one that Meghan wrote to her father Thomas Markle soon after her marriage to Harry. They were estranged at the time, and her father did not attend the wedding. A friend of Meghan’s claimed to People Magazine that Meghan wrote the letter in an attempt to heal their rift.
But Thomas told the Daily Mail, “The letter didn’t seem loving to me. I found it hurtful” and that it appeared to be a “final farewell.” He released excerpts from the letter to the Daily Mail in what he claims was an attempt to clear his reputation.
Now, Prince Harry is claiming that the letter’s published excerpts are part of a tabloid campaign to smear his wife.
What’s Wrong With Publishing a Letter?
It’s difficult for many, especially Americans, to understand what’s at the center of this lawsuit. What is wrong with the Mail publishing a letter that they were given to publish?
On the legal side, they may have violated the U.K. Data Protection Act of 2018. This law requires permission of the writer before someone publishes a letter. Therefore, it was not enough to have permission from Meghan’s father if they did not have her own permission.
And on the more subjective side, the Daily Mail only published parts of the letter. In a public statement, Harry is claiming that the publication of Meghan’s private letter was both unlawful and “purposely misled [the public] by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies [the Daily Mail] had perpetuated for over a year.”
Why Is This Unusual?
There is another question that it’s fair to ask at this point: what makes this royal legal drama so special, anyway?
The answer is that Harry and Meghan make it unusual. While the royal family as a whole has been very litigious, these two have not. While Harry in particular has been in the public eye a long time, it is rare to see him make serious legal waves.
Therefore, this could be a shift in how he and Meghan approach both their lives and the press for the foreseeable future.
How Is This Related To Princess Diana?
The Mail released parts of the letter, but only after receiving them from Markle’s father. Why, then, is Harry going after the newspaper instead of keeping this conflict in the family?
In the more immediate past, The Mail and other tabloids have done their best to smear Meghan and her reputation. When Harry released a statement on all of this, he specifically called out the paper’s “ruthless campaign” of “ruthless propaganda” against Meghan as something painful beyond words for him and his wife.
On top of that, Harry’s statement mentioned Princess Diana. Harry said, “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.” In 1997, Diana died in a traffic collision while her driver tried to avoid paparazzi.
Between the death of his mother and the hounding of his wife, Prince Harry has understandable beef with The Mail and other tabloid papers.
The Court of Public Opinion
It seems surprising at first how public Harry and Meghan are being about this. Why not play things quiet and behind the scenes as you would expect royalty to do?
The short answer is that they are playing to the court of public opinion. While Harry may or may not win the lawsuit, he and his wife have enough popularity to seriously sway public opinion. He is one of the most popular royals in history, and his public campaign is helping to turn the public against vicious press and paparazzi tactics that have hurt his family.
Are There Other Factors?
On top of the Diana connection and general Meghan focus, there is another reason Harry might be mad at The Mail. And it all centers on Meghan’s pregnancy.
While tabloids generally focus on celebrities and royalty, many tabloids (The Mail included) went into overdrive when Meghan was pregnant. Harry likely saw this as bad form: they were attacking his wife when she was at her most vulnerable.
And, of course, any attack on his pregnant wife symbolized that Harry’s entire future family would be hounded by the press forever. Unless, of course, he fought back.
What Happens Next?
This brings us to the final question. What, exactly, comes next? This matter has yet to see its day in court.
But the floodgates have been opened. Only days after announcing his lawsuit against the Daily Mail’s parent company, Prince Harry has announced a new lawsuit against the owners of UK tabloids the Sun and the Daily Mirror for allegedly hacking his phone.
Obviously, Prince Harry has had enough of tabloid antics and is ready for a legal fight.