Prince Harry has his day in court
This coming week, Prince Harry is due to become the first senior member of the royal family to give evidence, and be cross-examined, in open court since the then-Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) gave evidence in a trial about an alleged incident of card-cheating by an acquaintance in the 1890s.
Harry will be expecting a very different experience in court to his dissolute ancestor, whose evidence was hardly challenged, as he alleges that Mirror Group Newspapers, publishers of British tabloids, the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, and the People, used illegal methods to publish a string of stories about him.
Harry is expected to take the stand on Tuesday and Wednesday. He is also expected to attend the court on Monday in an observational capacity when the outline of his allegations will be discussed by the warring sides. He is expected to arrive in the U.K. late today (Sunday) and will likely stay in a central London location.
Harry’s character and motivations will be questioned and attacked relentlessly. As Jim Waterson, the Guardian’s media editor writes in this excellent primer on what to expect next week: “Leading the charge against the prince will be the Mirror’s barrister Andrew Green, who will have the unusual legal task of being a king’s counsel employed to discredit a king’s son. Earlier in the trial, he highlighted witnesses’ past drug use, accused individuals of fabricating evidence and suggested Harry and his fellow claimants were ‘smearing’ the Mirror’s board by suggesting they organized a high-level cover-up of phone hacking.”
In other words: expect things to get very dirty very fast as the Mirror seeks to discredit Harry and his allegations.
Harry has already submitted an extensive witness statement to the court, and this will form the basis of his evidence and cross-examination, so we have a pretty good idea of what he will say.
One of the main strands of Harry’s narrative will be the effect that the publication of stories about him had on his younger life, particularly with reference to his relationship with his first serious girlfriend Chelsy Davey. He explained in the statement how the non-stop publication of intimate details of his relationship left him completely paranoid as he scrambled to try and figure out which of his friends or inner circle was leaking to the newspaper.
The Mirror concedes only that, on one occasion, they illegally used a private investigator for a story about Harry in a nightclub, but other than that have produced an impressive series of rebuttals to the sample stories cited by Harry as being suspicious.
In one potentially humiliating example, the Mirror says a story that Harry says was likely obtained by voicemail interception actually came from an authorized interview Harry himself had given to a reputable news agency.
More broadly, however, Harry, who is just one of more than 100 claimants acting against the Mirror, aims to show that the paper and its senior executives knew all about phone hacking. A key witness has been the writer and journalist Omid Scobie, who has said that when he was on work experience at the newspaper, he personally witnessed the editor, Piers Morgan, being told that a story about Kylie Minogue had come from her voicemails.
Morgan has, of course, subsequently become one of Harry and Meghan’s chief media critics, and going after him could be seen as a risky proposition for Harry, as it opens him up to the charge that he is just pursuing a personal vendetta.
Morgan has previously said that he never hacked a phone or ordered one to be hacked. However, he told the Leveson Inquiry, that hacking was “an investigative practice that everyone knows was going on at almost every paper in Fleet Street for years.”
In 2003, Morgan was filmed telling the singer Charlotte Church: "There was a spate of stories that came out because of mobile phones. When they first came out, mobile phones … journalists found out that if the celebrity hadn't changed their pin code … You can access, access their voicemail. Just by tapping in a number. Are you really telling me that journalists aren't going to do that? If they know they can ring up Charlotte Church's mobile phone, listen to all her messages?"
Last month Morgan, when confronted by ITV News about allegations he hacked Harry’s phone, said: “All I am going to say is I am not going to take lectures on privacy invasion from Prince Harry, somebody who has spent the last three years ruthlessly and cynically invading the royal family’s privacy for vast commercial gain and told a pack of lies about them. So I suggest he gets out of court and apologizes to his family for the disgraceful invasion of privacy that he’s been purporting...I think Prince Harry should be apologizing for his disgraceful invasion of privacy of the royal family and others by the way.”
This is just one of multiple suits Harry has going through the British courts at the moment, with two actions going on against the Daily Mail (one for libel, one for phone hacking), another against the publishers of the Sun, the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Group Newspapers (phone hacking) and another case against the government seeking automatic protection when on British turf.
If Harry were to lose all four cases, the financial implications, alone would be huge, but more importantly to him, his crusade to clean up the British press, a task which he has been very open about seeing as a personal mission to honor the memory of his mother, who he believes was hounded to her death by the media, will be over.
This week’s star turn in the witness box by Harry will be pivotal.
Harry and William portrait to go unseen
When London’s National Portrait Gallery reopens this month, one of its pictures will no longer be seen on the walls—Nicky Philipps’ portrait of Princes William and Harry, the Times of London reports. The portrait shows the siblings in happier times, long before the bitter rift that currently exists between them. Kate Middleton, Prince William’s wife, is the gallery’s patron.
Both lieutenants in the Household Cavalry at the time of the portrait (it was unveiled in 2010), the brothers are shown wearing the dress uniform of the Household Cavalry, as worn for Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Parade in 2008.
“The gallery will not say why the picture has not been included in the hang for the official opening, but both the gallery and Kensington Palace say that the decision was not at the request of the palace,” the Times says.
A gallery spokeswoman told the paper: “Decisions relating to the portraits on display at the National Portrait Gallery are made by the gallery’s curatorial team. With over 250,000 portraits in our collection, we are only able to display a small percentage within our building, however, as one of the world’s largest and most important collections of portraits, we regularly lend and tour our works, both nationally and internationally. This portrait by Nicky Philipps was included in a touring exhibition—Tudors to Windsors—which travelled between 2018 and 2021. The portrait was last displayed at the gallery between March and August 2018.”
Charles gives up Welsh home
King Charles has given up his Welsh farmhouse home as part of an effort to cut the costs of running multiple royal properties, the Telegraph reports.
His Majesty bought Llwynywermod—near Llandovery in Carmarthenshire—in 2007 for £1.2 million ($1.5 million). It made sense for Charles to have it as a base when Prince of Wales, but now son Prince William holds the title, and so Charles will be spending less time in the country.
Royal sources told the Telegraph that Charles remained “passionate” about Wales, but was giving up the property because it was “unlikely” he would use it in the same way as before. The paper reports that officials are examining figuring out what to do with all the king's residences—including, Birkhall, Clarence House, Sandringham and Balmoral—with one possibility to increase public access to them to help “make them pay their way.”
A spokesperson for William told the paper that he had no plans to establish his own home in Wales, “preferring to stay in hotels to help out the local economy wherever he happened to be.”
Fergie: I’m loud because I’m nervous
Sarah Ferguson says she is “very shy,” which she “overcompensates” for by being very loud. Ferguson, the Times of London reports, was speaking on a new podcast, “Tea Talks with the Duchess and Sarah” (alongside Sarah Thomson, the founder of the children’s newspaper First News).
Describing herself as “deeply sensitive,” Fergie says, “I’m very shy, which people don’t know. I make up for it by overcompensating most of the time, and therefore I am probably judged for being too loud or too this or too that.”
King Charles on first royal trip since Coronation
King Charles is in Romania on the first official royal trip he’s undertaken since his coronation. His trip began with a formal meeting with Klaus Iohannis, Romania’s president, in the capital, the Times of London reports. He’s expected to be there less than week, and is staying in Transylvania where has a number of properties. Queen Camilla is not with him; she is understood to be spending time at her home in Wiltshire.
Camilla’s “head girl”
Speaking of Camilla, here is an entertaining read by the Mail’s resident expert on crashing snobbery, Richard Kay, on Camilla’s chief “companion”—the role she has chosen to replace that of ladies-in-waiting—the Marchioness of Lansdowne.
Known to her pals as Fiona, the marchioness famously was one of the few people publicly authorized to speak out after Harry’s book was published, saying that while it had “hurt” her she wasn’t going to make a fuss, believing that “least said soonest mended.”
Fiona, the piece says, is “head girl” of the Queen’s Companions, who also number Sarah Troughton, Jane von Westenholz, Lady Katharine Brook, Lady Sarah Keswick and Baroness (Carlyn) Chisholm.
“She’s a very confident, jolly, glass half-full type,” an old friend tells Kay. “But best of all, she is able to laugh at herself. That definitely appeals to Camilla. Since becoming queen, Camilla has pared down her circle of friends, but she always has time for Fiona.”
This week in royal history
Happy 2nd birthday today, Sunday, to Princess Lilibet, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s daughter, who was born on June 4, 2021, in Santa Barbara, CA.
What will Harry say on the stand in court about the links between tabloids and the palace—and will he stick to his reported intention of not trashing the royals any more?