Prince Harry has always worn his heart on his sleeve and currently that heart is hurting. His wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is finding life in the spotlight uncomfortable at best and unbearable at worst. Her torment behind Palace doors is reminding him of the battles faced by his own mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, he says. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
For Harry and Meghan, the media are at fault, and specifically the British tabloids, which Harry claims are “destroying lives” with their “bullying”. In today’s digital age these “derogatory” fabricated stories, says Harry, are then repeated on clickbait websites and media platforms around the globe (including in Australia). “No longer tomorrow’s chip paper” but a snake that grows heads, spitting more venom as the hours go by, the lies multiplying exponentially.
“There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious,” writes Harry. “I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been.”
Whether the Sussexes are accurate in their sweeping criticism, it is now evident that the endless barrage of criticism – from supposed family rifts, to ideological hypocrisy when taking private jets while espousing environmental activism, and keeping baby Archie away from the public that pays for the roof over his head – is taking its toll on the new parents. Behind the smiles, the heartfelt speeches, the hugs and the infectious energy there is no question that this would-be changemaker couple is struggling.
We’re not okay
Of course, it’s not the first time that royals have been battered in the court of media opinion, but that the sixth in line to the throne wants people to know about their pain is where Harry and Meghan are charting new royal territory. It is rare to know what the Royal Firm thinks. Leaked Palace sources with varying degrees of veracity are often quoted as barometers of House of Windsor opinions, but never the Queen, princes, dukes and duchesses themselves. So, yes, this is different.
First came Prince Harry’s strongly worded statement, released on a previously unused Sussex website, calling out the “British tabloid press” as bullies and liars, and announcing that Meghan had taken legal action against UK’s Mail on Sunday newspaper for “the misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.”
This was all about that heartwrenching private letter that Meghan had written to her father Thomas. The letter was published “unlawfully and in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate,” wrote Harry. Within seconds of its publication TV shows, social media and talkback radio went into meltdown discussing every cough and sniff of Meghan’s epistle. Pandora’s box had been opened and no-one seemed to be considering the author’s distress.
Harry’s angry statement was released on the final day of the Duke and Duchess’ highly successful family tour of southern Africa, and completely eclipsed the positive outcomes of the tour itself. It also came out of the blue for the royal reporters following the tour, some of whom were representing newspapers targeted in this legal action and another which was later revealed. A news website uncovered that Prince Harry had also taken out a lawsuit – he cited The Sun and Daily Mirror newspapers for allegedly hacking his phone for stories published some 15 years ago.
“It’s funny, from the body language of the couple and the way they interacted with the press, there was no hint of what was simmering underneath in terms of the couple’s feelings towards the media,” says Alan Jones, royal correspondent for the UK Press Association. “I didn’t get any sense of their animosity towards sections of the press, which was expressed in Harry’s long statement. At one point, when I was covering a Presidential meet and greet Harry was attending, he even looked up and gave me a smile and a nod as we waited for the foreign head of state to enter the room.”
Finally came the TV documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey. This program had been filmed daily throughout the tour. It was supposed to be about the Sussexes first royal tour as a family and its impact on Africa, but it morphed into something entirely different as the couple opened their hearts to ITV journalist Tom Bradby, a friend of Prince Harry’s.
After watching, we were left in no doubt that Diana’s youngest was not prepared to abide by the supposed ‘never complain’ credo of the House of Windsor.
A line in the sand
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