Prince Harry has blamed the tabloid press for “inciting hatred and harassment” in his private life, saying he ended up “playing up to a lot of the headlines” when he was cast as a “playboy prince” and a “thicko” as a young royal.
Details of Harry‘s accusations against the publisher of the Mirror newspaper have been released in his witness statement as he begins giving evidence in court.
The Duke of Sussex wrote: “I genuinely feel that in every relationship that I’ve ever had – be that with friends, girlfriends, with family or with the army, there’s always been a third party involved, namely the tabloid press.”
He said he was bringing the claim “to hold people to account for what they have done, so that they can’t hide behind their own institution or organisation”, and that he was “determined to get to the bottom of it once and for all”.
Members of the Royal Family get “cast into a specific role by the tabloid press”, he said. As “spare” to the “heir” – Prince William – “you’re then either the ‘playboy prince’, the ‘failure’, the ‘drop out’ or, in my case, the ‘thicko’, the ‘cheat’, the ‘underage drinker’, ‘irresponsible drug taker’, the list goes on.
“As a teenager and in my early twenties, I ended up feeling as though I was playing up to a lot of the headlines and stereotypes that they wanted to pin on me mainly because I thought that, if they are printing this rubbish about me and people were believing it, I may as well ‘do the crime’, so to speak.
“It was a downward spiral, whereby the tabloids would constantly try and coax me, a ‘damaged’ young man, into doing something stupid that would make a good story and sell lots of newspapers. Looking back on it now, such behaviour on their part is utterly vile.”
Because of the personality he had been portrayed as, every time he walked into a room he “expected people to be thinking ‘he’s obviously going to fail this test, because he’s a thicko’,” he wrote.
Other key claims from Harry’s witness statement:
• “Intrusion” into his private life caused paranoia around his relationships
• Says he feels “physically sick” at the thought of former Mirror editor Piers Morgan and journalists allegedly hacking his mother Princess Diana‘s phone
• He believes both the UK press and government “are at rock bottom”
• Reveals he has never been an account holder or received a bill for a mobile phone – this was dealt with “by the Institution, presumably for security purposes although that now seems rather ironic”
• Says he was “only 5%” funded by the UK taxpayer as a royal, but that tabloids felt they “owned him”
Harry, 38, is suing the publisher, attempting to prove that reporters for the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People titles were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators, between 1996 and 2010.
MGN is contesting the claims and has either denied or not admitted each of them. The publisher also argues that some of the claimants have brought their legal action too late.
In his statement, Harry writes about how he found it hard to trust people and that he suffered “bouts of depression and paranoia”, and says friends and girlfriends became “instant targets”.
He says that at least one of his girlfriends told hjm “she was warned off me by her parents saying ‘is it really worth all the aggravation?’.”
Writing about his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy, he says that alleged press intrusion “led her to make the decision that a royal life was not for her, which was incredibly upsetting for me at the time”.
On Monday, lawyers for both sides made their opening arguments, with David Sherborne, for Harry, claiming that Mirror journalists listened to voicemail messages from Princess Diana while Piers Morgan was editor of the newspaper.
He also told the court how alleged intrusion caused “mistrust” between Harry and Prince William. There was “no time” in Harry’s life “when he was safe from this activity”, the barrister said, adding: “Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds and there was no protection from this unlawful information gathering.”
In his opening statement, MGN’s lawyer, Andrew Green, told the court there was no evidence to support the duke’s claims.
It was “obvious” that security arrangements around Harry “were like very few on Earth”, he said, and that any journalist “would know they would be taking an absolutely enormous risk” in carrying out any unlawful activity around the royal.
He also dismissed the claim that Princess Diana’s voicemails were hacked as “total speculation” and “without any evidential basis whatsoever”.
Harry did not attend Monday’s court session – much to the “surprise” of the judge, Mr Justice Fancourt – as he only flew into the UK from Los Angeles on Sunday night, having celebrated his daughter Lilibet’s second birthday earlier that day, Mr Sherborne said.
Harry in Court – Watch special programme on Sky News tonight at 9pm