Prince Harry launches astonishing attack on ‘rock bottom’ government and ‘bloodstained’ press

Duke breaks ‘golden rule’ of not commenting on politics

Joe Middleton,Adam Forrest
Tuesday 06 June 2023 20:22 BST
Prince Harry leaves court after giving evidence in MGN battle
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Prince Harry railed against Britain’s government and press on Tuesday in another day of bombshell allegations at his phone-hacking case against the publisher of the Daily Mirror.

Abandoning the convention that royals do not comment on politics, the Duke of Sussex said both Rishi Sunak’s administration and the media were at “rock bottom”, and that it was harming British democracy.

Harry, the first royal to testify in court since 1891, claimed the government was “scared” of alienating British newspapers “because position is power”.

In a scathing broadside. he accused journalists of having “blood” staining their “typing fingers”.

It prompted some Tory MPs to call for Harry to renounce his title, arguing he had broken the “golden rule” of royals not getting involved in politics.

Harry alleges that 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 contained information Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) gathered using unlawful methods. But lawyers for MGN suggested the royal’s claims of phone hacking are “in the realms of total speculation”.

Prince Harry leaves after giving evidence at the Mirror Group Phone hacking trial
Prince Harry leaves after giving evidence at the Mirror Group Phone hacking trial (Leon Neal/Getty)

In a day of High Court drama, it was also revealed:

  • Harry called Princess Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell, a “two-face s***”
  • The Duke of Sussex feared false stories about James Hewitt being his father were an attempt to “oust him from the royal family”
  • The thought of Piers Morgan listening to his mother’s voicemails made Harry “physically sick”
  • He claimed the former Daily Mirror editor subjected he and his wife Meghan Markle to “horrific personal attacks and intimidation”
  • He accused the tabloids of “constant intrusion” and of “inciting hatred and harassment”
  • Harry claimed he is only 5 per cent funded by the taxpayer as he was a “working royal”
  • The Duke of Sussex said he has never received a mobile phone bill and that this was dealt with by the royal family
  • He said that he was worried Eton would kick him out after stories about drug-taking
  • The duke was singled out as a “p***y” by his peers following press reports of his injuries during his time at school and Sandhurst

In his witness statement, Harry said he was bringing his claim against MGN “not because I hate the tabloid press” but to hold account “the people who have hijacked those privileges”.

He added the British press has shown “no willingness to change” and he wanted to make sure that the alleged unlawful behaviour was “exposed”.

In the statement he said: “This has become a huge problem of which I have a unique perspective and experience perhaps, having had a front-row seat to it.

“Because they have showed no willingness to change, I feel that I need to make sure that this unlawful behaviour is exposed, because obviously I don’t want anybody else going through the same thing that I’ve been going through on a personal level.

“But also, 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.”

The Duke of Sussex in an artist’s sketch being cross examined by Andrew Green KC
The Duke of Sussex in an artist’s sketch being cross examined by Andrew Green KC (PA)

The royal added: “If they’re supposedly policing society, who on earth is policing them, when even the government is scared of alienating them because position is power. It is incredibly worrying for the entire UK.”

Henry Smith, a member of the Tory Common Sense Group, said he felt “sorry for hardworking royals” as the Duke of Sussex continues to cause them “so much embarrassment”.

The MP told The Independent: “It’s very unwise of him to stray into British political comment – but if he wants to he should renounce his title and stand for election. Sussex is disappointed with its absent Duke.”

In other developments, Harry said he felt “physically sick” over eight payments to private investigators related to his late mother.

He said he also lost friendships “entirely unnecessarily” due to the “paranoia” caused by alleged unlawful information gathering.

In his witness statement, the 38-year-old duke said MGN’s alleged intrusion into his life contributed to “a huge amount of paranoia” in his relationships.

He and former girlfriend Chelsy Davy were “never on our own” and could never enjoy one another’s company away from the “prying eyes of the tabloids”, he wrote.

William and Harry bow their heads as their mother's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey in 1997
William and Harry bow their heads as their mother's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey in 1997 (AFP/Getty)

Harry accuses MGN of blagging the couple’s flight details and hotel bookings and/or intercepting their voicemails after journalists turned up while they holidayed on a small island off Mozambique.

He also said stories about rumours his father was Diana’s former lover James Hewitt were aimed at “ousting him from the royal family”.

In his witness statement, he referred to an article in The People from 2002 with the headline “Plot to rob the DNA of Harry” which reported a bid to steal a sample of the duke’s DNA to check his parentage.

“At the time, when I was 18 years old and had lost my mother just six years earlier, stories such as this felt very damaging and very real to me,” he said.

“They were hurtful, mean and cruel. I was always left questioning the motives behind the stories.

“Were the newspapers keen to put doubt into the minds of the public so I might be ousted from the royal family?”

He also hit out at former Mirror editor Piers Morgan, claiming both he and his wife Meghan “have been subjected to a barrage of horrific personal attacks and intimidation”.

The duke is suing MGN for damages, claiming journalists at its titles, which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception, and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

MGN is contesting the claims and argues some of the claimants have brought their legal action too late.

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