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After car chase, Prince Harry’s long feud with media comes to the U.S.


LONDON — To understand how rattled Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, may have been when pursued earlier this week in New York City by photographers, it is important to recall that Harry believes paparazzi caused the car wreck that killed his mother, Princess Diana, when he was 12 years old.

Everything flows from that event — and from Harry’s stated fear of “history repeating itself” for himself, his wife and children.

On Tuesday night, after an award ceremony at a New York City ballroom, a spokeswoman for the couple said “highly aggressive paparazzi” chased a vehicle transporting Harry, Meghan and Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.

The spokeswoman said the chase lasted two hours and was nearly “catastrophic.” A spokesperson for the New York Police Department said the presence of many photographers made the couple’s transport “challenging,” adding that Harry and Meghan arrived at their destination safely without any collisions or injuries.

Prince Harry, Meghan say they were chased by NYC paparazzi. Cab driver describes incident.

Ken Wharfe, a former bodyguard of Princess Diana’s, and her then two young sons, said the scene in New York appeared to be “badly organized, badly planned.”

“There seemed to be chaos when they were leaving the hotel,” he told The Washington Post. “There was no delineation of barriers. Press were free to roam where they want. … The journey got off to a bad start. All the paparazzi want is a photograph. They aren’t out to kill people.”

He said if he had been there, he would have advised Harry and Meghan to pose for a photograph before they left — “the royals might complain, they always did, but then the paparazzi have the photograph.”

But for Harry, after a lifetime marked by constant contact with the paparazzi, not to mention the fate of his mother, the intentions of the press remain highly suspect. He is currently waging three separate legal battles in British courts against the publishers of three of the largest tabloids in Britain — the Daily Mail, the Mirror and the Sun — over his claims that the publications hacked his phones and invaded his privacy.

His civil lawsuit against the parent company of the Mirror is underway, and the fifth-in-line to the throne could appear in the witness box early next month.

Harry has said his mission in life now is to change tabloid culture, which he believes not only pollutes the lives of media consumers but is responsible for his rift with the royal family.

Similarly, Meghan blames the tabloids for her own estrangement from her father, Thomas Markle, who has boasted that he accepted money to pose for photographers and to give interviews to broadcasters.

Meghan sued the Mail on Sunday for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement following articles published in 2019 that featured extensive segments from a five-page handwritten letter she wrote to her father. In the letter, she begged her father to stop talking to the press, saying that “your actions have broken my heart into a million pieces.” The Duchess of Sussex won her case.

Harry doesn’t just dislike the press; he loathes some its members — a hatred born with the death of his mother and fueled since then by what he considers harassment, with racist overtones, in the coverage of his wife.

In his memoir, “Spare,” Harry wonders aloud why the paparazzi who pursued his mother into a Paris tunnel in 1997 weren’t arrested. “Why were those paps not more roundly blamed?” he asks. “Who sent them? And why were they not in jail?”

He blamed the Daily Mail for Meghan suffering a miscarriage. He said the British tabloids illegally gathered information on him and ruined his relationship with previous girlfriends.

And Harry is determined to do something about it.

When British TV personality Jeremy Clarkson penned an article in the Sun tabloid, saying that he “hated” Meghan on a “cellular level” and fantasized about her being “made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her,” Harry didn’t do what royals have traditionally done — which is nothing.

He publicly called out Clarkson, describing the piece as “hurtful and cruel.” The British public largely backed the prince. The Sun withdrew the column, a response that appears unprecedented.

In “Spare,” Harry writes of the damage done “all because a dreadful mob of dweebs and crones and cut-rate criminals and clinically diagnosable sadists along Fleet Street feel the need to get their jollies and plump their profits and work out their personal issues by tormenting one very large, very ancient, very dysfunctional family.”

In interviews, in his memoir and in the couple’s six-hour, self-produced documentary series for Netflix, Harry and Meghan return repeatedly to their treatment by tabloids, both in Britain and the United States.

Prince Harry suit against Murdoch reveals secret Prince William payoff

In many ways, Harry’s rift with his family is all about media. Harry charges that the PR teams working for his brother, Prince William, his stepmother, Queen Camilla, and his father, King Charles III, actively offered negative stories about him and Meghan in exchange for better coverage for themselves.

His family members have not responded to those allegations.

The prince said on ITV that changing the media “may be incredibly hard, and I don’t know how long it is going to take, but it is 100 percent worth it.” He added that he is “happy with them talking crap about me every single day because I know it is not true, but what I draw the line at is when you are inciting hatred on myself and on my wife and on my children.”

He hopes to change the media landscape with a series of ongoing court cases. In his case against the publisher of the Daily Mirror, where he is expected to take the stand, Harry alleges that his voice mails were hacked and other information illegally obtained between 1996 and 2011. He scored an early win in the trial when the publisher admitted to unlawfully gathering information on Harry in one instance. But the publisher denies that the paper hacked his phone and argues that the case shouldn’t go forward because too much time has passed.

Harry is also suing Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper group, News Group Newspapers (NGN), for unlawful acts — including hacking his voice mails — that he alleges were committed from 1994 until 2016. In court documents in that case, Harry claimed that there was a secret settlement between Murdoch’s company and Prince William.

And he is suing the publisher of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday for alleged phone hacking and misuse of private information. Harry showed up for a pretrial hearing at the High Court in London in March — something he didn’t need to do, but it underscored how seriously he is taking the case. The publishers deny the allegations.

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