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  1. ITV Report

'I fear history is repeating itself,' says Harry as wife Meghan takes legal action against newspaper

  • Video report by ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship

Prince Harry has voiced his anger at the “relentless propaganda” being pitched against his wife, Meghan, from the British tabloid press.

Referencing the coverage his mother Princess Diana received, the Duke said his “deepest fear is history repeating itself”.

In a powerfully personal statement, he wrote: “I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.

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

He goes on: "There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been."

Harry's statement was issued as it was revealed Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has started legal action against the Mail on Sunday newspaper over an allegation it unlawfully published one of her private letters.

  • ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship says he's "astonished by the ferocity and timing" of the statement from Harry

Law firm Schillings, representing the duchess, said she had filed a High Court claim against the paper and its parent company Associated Newspapers over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.

A spokesperson for the firm claimed the “intrusive” publication of the letter was part of the media group’s campaign to write “false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband”.

The newspaper said it "stands by" the story it published and will "defend" it "vigorously".

In a lengthy and highly personal statement published on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official website on Tuesday, Harry said the royal couple had been driven to take legal action after “painful” impact of “relentless propaganda” against his wife from the British tabloid press.

Prince Harry says he fears his wife is 'falling victim' to the same forces that plagued his mother. Credit: PA

The legal proceedings in the Chancery Division of the High Court are being privately funded by Harry and Meghan.

Depending on the court ruling, proceeds from any damages will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.

The Schillings spokeswoman added: “Given the refusal of Associated Newspapers to resolve this issue satisfactorily, we have issued proceedings to redress this breach of privacy, infringement of copyright and the aforementioned media agenda”.

In a statement the Mail on Sunday said it "stands by the story it published and will be defending this case vigorously.

"Specifically, we categorically deny that the Duchess’s letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning."

The Duchess of Sussex is taking legal action against the newspaper. Credit: PA
  • Read the statement from the Duke of Sussex in full below

As a couple, we believe in media freedom and objective, truthful reporting. We regard it as a cornerstone of democracy and in the current state of the world – on every level – we have never needed responsible media more.

Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences – a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son.

There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been. Because in today’s digital age, press fabrications are repurposed as truth across the globe. One day’s coverage is no longer tomorrow’s chip-paper.

Up to now, we have been unable to correct the continual misrepresentations - something that these select media outlets have been aware of and have therefore exploited on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.

It is for this reason we are taking legal action, a process that has been many months in the making. The positive coverage of the past week from these same publications exposes the double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her almost daily for the past nine months; they have been able to create lie after lie at her expense simply because she has not been visible while on maternity leave. She is the same woman she was a year ago on our wedding day, just as she is the same woman you’ve seen on this Africa tour.

For these select media this is a game, and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start. I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.

This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media. The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question. In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year.

There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.

Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.

We thank you, the public, for your continued support. It is hugely appreciated. Although it may not seem like it, we really need it.

– Duke of Sussex