Harry and Meghan’s difficult relationship with the media

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s relationship with the press has been a turbulent affair.

Harry’s dislike of the media seemingly intensified following the birth of his son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, as he sought to protect his family.

The Queen’s grandson, who, along with Meghan, has quit as a senior working royal, grew up fully aware of the impact of overwhelming media intrusion on the daily life of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

Diana and her sons
The Princess of Wales with her sons Princes Harry and William in 1991 (Martin Keene/PA)

He was only 12 when the princess was killed in a crash after her car, driven at speed by a drunk chauffeur, was chased through the streets of Paris by the paparazzi.

Soon after he began dating American actress Meghan Markle, Harry attacked the media over its “abuse and harassment” of his girlfriend.

Kensington Palace warned on his behalf: “This is not a game – it is her life.”

In October 2019, the Sussexes overshadowed the end of their official tour to Africa by each bringing separate legal actions against parts of the press, with Meghan suing the Mail On Sunday over an alleged breach of privacy when it published a private letter between her and her estranged father.

Harry and Meghan
Harry and Meghan at the Invictus Games in 2017 before their engagement (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Mail On Sunday said it stands by its story and will be defending the case vigorously.

Harry later filed his own proceedings at the High Court against News Group Newspapers, which owns The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World, and Reach plc, which owns the Daily Mirror, in relation to the alleged illegal interception of voicemail messages.

Along with the legal action, Harry released a scathing attack on the tabloid press, in which he heavily criticised certain sections of the media for conducting what he called a “ruthless campaign” against his wife.

“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces,” he said.

In the ITV television documentary following the tour, Harry said he was determined to protect his family.

Harry in Angola
Harry follows in Diana’s footsteps by walking through a minefield in Dirico, Angola (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Meghan admitted to feeling vulnerable, and spoke of the pressures of royal life amid intense tabloid interest.

The duchess, who rose to fame in the TV legal drama Suits, was already skilled at red carpet appearances, interviews and promoting herself in the press.

Harry and Meghan celebrated their engagement with a press photocall and television interview, and their televised royal wedding was a high-profile affair, complete with a carriage ride through the streets of Windsor.

But the duchess later revealed how she underestimated the tabloids’ interest in her after she began dating Harry.

“When I first met my now-husband my friends were really happy because I was so happy, but my British friends said to me: ‘I’m sure he’s great but you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life’,” she said.

She added: “I think I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip.

“I tried, I really tried, but I think what that does internally is probably really damaging, and the biggest thing that I know is that I never thought this would be easy but I thought it would be fair, and that is the part that is hard to reconcile, but (I) just take each day as it comes.”

Royal visit to Africa
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex depart after a visit to the Tembisa township in Johannesburg during their tour of South Africa (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Sussexes dropped their Megxit bombshell at the start of the year, saying they intended to step back as senior royals for a dual role earning their own money and supporting the Queen.

The royal crisis ended with them quitting the monarchy completely and having to drop the use of their HRH styles.

In the aftermath, Harry spoke of how he wanted his family to have a “more peaceful” life away from the royal family.

In an emotional speech at a Sentebale dinner, Harry described the media as a “powerful force”.

“I was born into this life, and it is a great honour to serve my country and the Queen,” he said.

“When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing.

“You’ve looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful, because this is so much bigger than just us.”

The couple had already declared their intention to adopt a new approach to the media.

They used their website to criticise Britain’s royal correspondents and reveal they would no longer participate in the “royal rota” system which has been used by Buckingham Palace for decades.

Their vow to end co-operation with four British tabloid newspapers – the Daily Mail, Daily Express, the Daily Mirror and The Sun, along with their Sunday and online versions – is them setting this new media policy in motion.

Harry and Meghan
Harry and Meghan at a press photocall after announcing their engagement (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A letter sent on Harry and Meghan’s behalf to the publications’ editors hit out at reporting it claimed was “distorted, false, and invasive beyond reason”.

“When power is enjoyed without responsibility, the trust we all place in this much-needed industry is degraded,” the letter said.

It added: “Media have every right to report on and indeed have an opinion on The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, good or bad. But it can’t be based on a lie.”

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