It’s all part of a wider battle for Harry, who believes it’s his duty to restore faith in public institutions and root out corrupt elements of the media.
On Tuesday, Harry swept into court to start giving his evidence in the surroundings of courtroom 15 of the High Court Rolls Building. Journalists, commentators and royal fans have packed out the public gallery, with a queue of members of the public forming outside in the hope of grabbing a spare seat late in the day.
Harry has taken aim at journalists, editors, Piers Morgan, Rebekah Brooks, and even the government, in a legal battle that has drawn in his wife Meghan Markle, brother Prince William, and his father King Charles. Here are the key moments so far:
Harry denies newspaper’s claims of drug taking
Prince Harry found himself the subject of a 2002 front page exclusive in the News of the World, facing claims of drug taking with friends at the Rattlebone Inn near Eton. The story was picked up by the Sunday Mirror, and Harry says he suspects unlawful newsgathering was involved. But he told the High Court some of the claims in the story are “untrue”.
“I’ve never smoked a joint in Rattlebone Inn”, he insisted. “I’ve never smoked in my father’s house.” The news story suggested King Charles was “worried sick” by his son’s youthful activities, amid claims there had been drug taking at Highgrove.
Harry says his school life was punctuated by intrusions by the media, creating a climate of suspicion at a time when he had no idea phone hacking was going on. He said stories about his sporting injuries, a birthday visit from his mother, and school escapades fuelled “paranoia” that he was being leaked about.
“It’s only now, realising what the Defendant’s journalists were doing, and how they were getting their information, that I can see how much of my life was wasted on this paranoia”, he said. Harry said he suspected his friends and associates of feeding information to the media, telling the court: “Sadly we are no longer friends.”
Government and media are at ‘rock bottom’
Prince Harry has made this case and others against the tabloid press a personal crusade to clean up standards in journalism. He took aim at sections of the media for having “blood on their hands”, and said he understands journalists are put under immense pressure by editors to land exclusive stories. He said some revelations about his private life were like a “red rag to a bull”, as newsroom utilised every resource at their disposal to get the story.
“My experience is journalists would be under a huge amount of pressure to deliver the goods”, he said.
Harry did not reserve his attacks for the media. “On a national level as, at the moment, our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our government – both of which I believe are at rock bottom. Democracy fails when your press fails to scrutinise and hold the government accountable, and instead choose to get into bed with them so they can ensure the status quo. I may not have a role within the Institution but, as a member of the British Royal family, and as a soldier upholding important values, I feel there’s a responsibility to expose this criminal activity in the name of public interest. The country and the British public deserve to know the depths of what was actually happening then, and indeed now. We will be better off for it.
Piers Morgan is ‘out for revenge’
Prince Harry’s personal animosity with certain national newspaper editors came to the fore during his evidence. Andrew Green KC, for MGN, read out extracts of Harry’s book, Spare, in which he laid bare his dislike of News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks. A wry smile and eyebrows raised when he was asked to name her specifically.
But it was Piers Morgan, the former Daily Mirror editor, who was at the centre of Harry’s attack. Harry said he felt “physically sick” at the thought of Morgan and his journalists listening in to Princess Diana’s messages. And he believes Morgan has made constant “vile” attacks on him and wife Meghan Markle in recent months in retaliation for the legal case against MGN, in which Morgan is personally accused of wrongdoing.
Princess Diana targeted in last months of her life
Harry has laid the accusation that his mother, Princess Diana, was a target of phone hacking in the last months of her life. A story involving her relationship with TV presenter Michael Barrymore broke, with letters from Diana indicating she suspected foul play by journalists. Harry said the two were in contact by phone, and his mother had revealed her “horror” at the Daily Mirror finding out about their friendship. “I can only assume that this information had been obtained via voicemail interception and/or other unlawful information gathering such as live land line tapping”, he said.
“The thought of Piers Morgan and his band of journalists earwigging into my mother’s private and sensitive messages (in the same way as they have me) and then having given her a “nightmare time” three months prior to her death in Paris, makes me feel physically sick and even more determined to hold those responsible, including Mr Morgan, accountable for their vile and entirely unjustified behaviour.”
Harry has been one of the most vocal campaigners in the phone hacking cases brought against the media, with three live cases against the Mirror Group, The Sun, and the Daily Mail. His voice has been heard through an Oprah Winfrey interview, a NetFlix series, and his bombshell book ‘Spare’. But in court Harry struggled to get his voice heard by the ranks of journalist at the back of court.
His barrister David Sherborne told the court Harry’s microphone had to be adjusted in a bid to make the softly-spoken Prince more audible. Even so, the problem remained.
Harry was asked to “raise his voice”, prompting Mr Green to retort: “I hope not raise it in anger.”
Scuffle with a paparazzo
The Duke says his whole life has featured the pursuit of journalists and photographers, with some springing up in unusual circumstances. In October 2004, the then-20-year-old was accused of lashing out at a photographer in a scuffle outside a nightclub. “This was a particularly challenging period of my youth. I had just turned 20, and like most 20 year-olds, I wanted to go out and socialise. However, everywhere I went, the paparazzi seemed to turn up”, he said.
“As I reached the car, I could hear taunting. I was being egged on for a reaction, knowing I’d been out and had a few drinks. A camera hit me across my nose as I was opening the door, I turned, grabbed the nearest camera to me and shoved it backwards.”
Harry says his father was “sympathetic” over the incident, as the Prince added that he has received “no respite” from media “intrusion and harassment”.
A scurrilous rumour that Major James Hewitt is the real father of the Duke of Sussex, rather than King Charles, has long-done the rounds. In his statement to the High Court, Prince Harry addressed the rumours head-on, saying they are untrue and Hewitt only had a relationship with Princess Diana after his birth.
“Numerous newspapers had reported a rumour that my biological father was James Hewitt, a man my mother had a relationship with after I was born,” Harry said. “At the time of this article and others similar to it, I wasn’t actually aware that my mother hadn’t met Major Hewitt until after I was born.”
Harry said it was “common knowledge” among journalists that the rumour was false, and he suggested the “hurtful, mean and cruel” stories may have been because “newspapers (were) keen to put doubt into the minds of the public so I might be ousted from the royal family?”
The media’s disturbing ‘hunt’ for Harry
Prince Harry says it is “deeply disturbing” that journalists and photographers trying to find him during his Australian gap year was considered a “hunt”. The High Court heard his year abroad as a 19-year-old was disturbed by media intrusion, amid reports he may abandon the trip entirely if he was not left alone. Harry complains that he and friends were photographed for a Daily Mirror story while surfing in Noosa, on the ‘sunshine coast’ in Queensland.
“A photographer turned up on a random beach in Noosa where no other people were, it’s incredibly suspicious”, he said.
Mr Green pointed out there had been earlier media reports that Harry was spending time in that part of Australia, and produced a 2018 report from a photographer who said he had been part of the “Sunshine Coast hunt”.
“It is deeply disturbing that looking for me is regarded as a ‘hunt’”, Harry said. He added that there were MGN invoices that hinted at unlawful activity, and he questioned the veracity of the photographer’s account that their activities had been legal. “Based on my experience and knowledge, in a lot of articles and many since, a lot of false information is put into the article intentionally to throw people like me off the scent.
“I somewhat reject an article by a paparazzi or photographic agency as proof of a story. If I was that person, I would make up some story of how the hunt happened, rather than the reality.”
He added: “Some elements are true, clouded, shrouded, and concealed in lots of false information which is why I wasn’t aware I had a claim for so long.”
Brotherly relations break down
Prince Harry said a story about Paul Burrell, his mother’s former butler, caused problems in his relationship with brother Prince William. The story aired differences between the brothers over whether they should meet Burrell, who had been speaking out about Princess Diana.
In The People article, Harry is quoted as referring to Burrell as a “two-faced sh*t” – a phrase the Prince said he would use, and he believes it was lifted from a hacked voicemail. “I would leave voicemails for my brother, and that’s a terminology I used to describe Mr Burrell”, Harry said.
He said the People story is “the kind of article that seeds distrust between brothers”.
Harry said he was in the middle of the Australian outback on his gap year at the time, and cannot remember if he actually wanted a meeting with Burrell. But he added: “I would love to give him a piece of my mind.”
Chelsy Davy under ‘24-hour surveillance’
Prince Harry says his former girlfriend Chelsy Davy was “put under 24-hour surveillance” and a tracking device was fitted to her car by a newspaper’s private investigator. The Duke claimed journalist Jane Kerr had tasked South African PI Mike Behr to keep tabs on Ms Davy when they were dating in 2005.
Their relationship came into sharp public focus when Harry was pictured wearing a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party, and was accused in the media of sitting with another woman on his lap. Harry said claims he was “flirting” with another woman were untrue, as he suggested details of the Daily Mirror stories had been obtained through phone hacking. He told the court Mr Behr “had my girlfriend under 24-hour surveillance in South Africa at the time”, and had “put a tracking device on (her) car”.
The story suggested Harry had received “a tongue lashing down the phone” for his behaviour from Ms Davy – an incident the Prince said he could not remember. But he suggested it was a sign of phone hacking, together with missed calls to his friend Guy Pelly’s phone at the time.
“He would have been one of the people in the know after this party”, he said. “The article contains several quotes from ‘friends’ or other ‘partygoers’, but the details about our telephone communications are not attributed to anyone, so how could the Defendant’s journalists know about this”, Harry said in his written statement.
“I don’t remember if Chelsy and I did argue about the party. Given we were based in different countries, a lot of our relationship was conducted over the telephone, so I know I would have spoken to her a lot over this time because it was a challenging period for me but I don’t recall her reaction.
“I had been immature, I hadn’t really thought about my actions and I had made a stupid decision – and my mistakes were being played out publicly. By this stage, Chelsy was already extremely guarded about our relationship and our circle of friends who we trusted with information about us had shrank considerably.
“Every time these kinds of stories were published, there was a strain put on our relationship, we started to distrust everyone around us. In hindsight, knowing the extent to which MGN journalists were targeting us and intercepting our communications, we probably lost friends needlessly, and put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be secretive and deal with problems without support, out of the sense of paranoia that articles like this created.”
Hurtful newspaper ‘celebrations’ at the end of his relationship
Prince Harry accused Sunday Mirror journalists of “hurtful” celebrations over the 2007 break-up of his relationship with Chelsy Davy. A report, under the headline Hooray Harry’s Dumped, covered the news that the Duke had visited a nightclub to “drown his sorrows” over the split.
“The headline does seem to suggest people celebrating that I had broken up with my girlfriend which seems a little bit mean”, said Harry, who says the article is the product of unlawful information gathering. “I’m not sure how anyone would know we had broken up because we weren’t talking about that.”
When challenged by MGN barrister Andrew Green KC that ‘Hooray Harry’ was a nickname he had attracted, the Prince insisted the headline was “celebrating (him) being dumped”.
“If it had been used before or not, for me as the subject or victim of this, to see that word used in this term is hurtful”, he said.
Do you want to be phone hacking victim?
Harry told the court he would feel “an injustice” if his phone hacking case against Mirror Group Newspaper is unsuccessful. The Prince said it is “beyond doubt” that hacking was going on at tabloid newspapers, pointing to admissions by Mirror Group Newspapers and a reported £1 billion paid out by Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers.
“If the court finds there was never phone hacking by any MGN journalists, would you be relieved or disappointed?” said MGN’s lawyer Andrew Green KC.
Harry said that was “speculation”, but added: “To have a decision against me and any other people coming behind me with claims, given Mirror Group has accepted hacking as well as News Group… I would feel some injustice.”
Mr Green challenged him: “You want to have been phone hacked?” and Harry replied: “No one wants to have been phone hacked.”
Night with a lap dancer
In April 2006, an article in The People reported on Harry’s trip to Spearmint Rhino in central London and his then girlfriend Chelsy Davy’s reported fury at the incident. Harry appeared to accept a dancer had sat on his lap, but disputed the newspaper’s claim that a “statuesque blonde” resembling Ms Davy had been paid for a nude dance. “That’s factually incorrect”, he said.
In a further exchange, Harry said: “I don’t see any quotes from the Lithuanian lap dancer who sat on my lap.”
The Prince accepts someone from the club appears to have been paid for information by The People, but he finds other payments “suspicious” and evidence of suspected unlawful newsgathering. “It’s a classic example of stories originating from a different paper, the Mirror and everyone else being one step behind, and encourage to go and find out more information.
Harry says he believes a detail in the story, that Ms Davy had admonished him for the night out in a 30-minute call, came from journalists “bizarrely” having her phone number and unlawfully accessing call data.
Harry’s distrust of staff at Sandhurst
Prince Harry lost his trust in staff at Sandhurst military academy after details of his medical treatment ended up in a tabloid newspaper, he said as he began a second day of gruelling evidence at the High Court.
The Duke of Sussex’s army training was delayed by a knee injury, with details of the issue ending up in a 2005 article in the People newspaper. Harry said he had not been “freely discussing” the injury, and he believes the People’s story had been the product of hacking or unlawful newsgathering.
“I was not going around freely discussing any medical issues or injuries that I had. I was almost conditioned to feel guarded at this point in my life, worrying I couldn’t trust anyone for fear that it would end up splashed across the tabloids”, he said.
Harry told the court newspaper coverage led to “distrust I ended up having at Sandhurst with the medical staff”. The People’s news story also made reference to 15-minute email sessions Harry had at Sandhurst with his then-girlfriend Chelsy Davy, including quote from another unidentified source that Harry “always came back with a smile on my face”.
“I’d only been at Sandhurst a couple of weeks by this point, and while I can’t remember the specifics of how often I was speaking to Chelsy over email at this time, I wasn’t sharing this information with my colleagues — who I’d only just met — least of all because that kind of thing would have made me seem soft, but also because me and Chelsy were so protective of our relationship and wanted people to know as little as possible for fear of ‘leaks’.”
Challenged over the source of the article, Harry insisted he believes phone hacking was involved.
Harry’s legal claim started with chance encounter
Prince Harry’s legal war against the Mirror Group Newspapers started with a chance encounter in 2018. “I bumped into Mr Sherborne in the south of France”, he said, referring to his star barrister. “It’s in my book”, he added. Harry said he had not sought legal advice over a possible phone hacking claim prior to that meeting.
Mr Sherborne has represented clients including Johnny Depp, Princess Diana and Meghan Markle in the past, and is known for his flamboyant style and florid speeches.
The barrister experienced technical difficulties when he rose to put further questions to Prince Harry. “I can hear myself reverberating all around, which I’m more than happy to endure”, he said.
Drawing laughter in court, Mr Justice Fancourt replied: “I should refrain from commenting on your reverberating, Mr Sherborne.”
Under questioning earlier, Harry said he has not sued the Daily Star or the Daily Record and does not believe those newspapers were responsible for “industrial scale phone hacking”.
In an aside referring to his myriad of legal cases, Harry replied: “I’m quite busy with other litigation as well”.
Harry described a dramatic chase along the embankment in central London after he spotted a suspected photographer lurking outside a private party at his friend’s pub. He jumped into his waiting car, driven by police protection, and they approached the photographer’s car.
“It slammed into reverse and drove off at speed”, he said. “The police driving the vehicle switched on the blue lights and this vehicle decided to increase speed towards the King’s Road.”
Harry said one of his protection officers got out of the car to approach the vehicle when they reached a set of red traffic lights. “The driver turned on to the other side of the road, endangering everyone around them, opposite the fire station on King’s Road, and decided to evade the police from asking questions. That is not normal paparazzi behaviour. We belief there was some form of illegal device in the vehicle, so he had been given instructions, no matter what, not to be caught, not to be searched.”
An emotional end
Harry was repeatedly accused of “pure speculation” by MGN over a series of news stories he believes were the product of unlawful newsgathering.
When his barrister David Sherborne showed the court supporting material for Harry’s case, the Prince struggled to contain his irritation. “For my whole life, the press have misled me and covered up the wrongdoing.
“To be sitting here in court, knowing the defence has the evidence in front of them, and Mr Green (MGN’s barrister) suggesting I’m speculating, I’m not entirely sure what to say about that.”
At the close of his evidence, Mr Sherborne asked Harry how he felt, having sat in the witness box for nearly two days in front of the world’s media. The Prince looked down, drew breath and paused for a couple of seconds before saying quietly: “It’s a lot.”