The latest chapter in the drama surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan’s treatment by the tabloid media was much ado about something.
But exactly what happened Tuesday night in New York when the royals left a gala event and were followed by a group of photographers was not completely clear. What was evident is that the pursuit would likely only fuel Harry’s fury with the media as well as his greatest fear that his wife could meet the same fate as his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash while being chased by paparazzi.
The couple’s representatives claimed they had been pursued by paparazzi in a “near catastrophic car chase” through the streets of Manhattan. Police said the pursuit was relatively short, led to no injuries, collisions or arrests and warranted no further investigation. And a photo agency later contended it was Harry and Meghan’s security guards who acted recklessly.
Harry's perception of what happened — and his whole relationship with the media — is undoubtedly colored by his mother's death when he was just 12 years old. He has said his “deepest fear” is that the same will happen to Meghan, and he already accuses the media of hounding her.
“My mother was chased to her death,” Harry said in the mental health docuseries “The Me You Can’t See.” “And now look what’s happened. You want to talk about history repeating itself? They’re not going to stop until she dies.”
Harry’s battle with the news media has taken two shapes: speaking out against his perceived mistreatment in what he has called his life’s mission to reform the press and taking tabloid publishers to court in London, where one case is currently on trial.
Security for Harry and Meghan has been an issue since the British government stripped them of protection when they moved to California in 2020, and it figures in three of his legal cases against the government and tabloid press. The couple have said they fund their own security.
The pursuit in New York occurred the same day a lawyer for Harry argued in a London court that he should be able to challenge a government decision denying him the right to pay police for his own security in the U.K.
Harry, the younger son of King Charles III, has argued his safety was “compromised due to the absence of police protection” during a short visit to the U.K. in July 2021, when his car was chased by photographers as he left a charity event.
On Tuesday, Harry and Meghan, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were leaving the Ms. Foundation Awards in Manhattan when photographers conducted a “relentless pursuit” that resulted in “multiple near collisions," according to a spokesperson for the couple.
At one point, the couple sought refuge in a police station before attempting to evade the photographers in a yellow cab. The cab driver who drove Harry and Meghan said the photographers “were following us the whole time,” though he wouldn’t call it a chase.
The account led New York Mayor Eric Adams to condemn the paparazzi pursuing them as “reckless and irresponsible.”
A photo agency issued a statement denying the freelance photographers involved had done anything wrong and insisting that they had “no intention of causing any distress or harm.”
On the contrary, Backgrid USA said the photographers present reported that part of Harry’s security escort "was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless.’’ But Backgrid also said it took the couple’s concerns seriously and would investigate the incident.
In moving to the U.S., Harry and Meghan have tried to take control of the narrative. They stepped down as working royals in 2020, citing what they described as the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward Meghan, who is biracial.
They sat for a two-hour TV interview with Oprah, launched a six-part series on Netflix about their life together and Harry released his best-selling memoir, “Spare.”
The media blitz has been met with sympathy and contempt. British tabloid headlines about the couple are often negative.
In the U.S., the TV show “South Park” spoofed the couple in an episode called “The Worldwide Privacy Tour” in which the “prince and princess of Canada” – cartoonish Harry and Meghan lookalikes – jet around the planet in publicity spree to get people to stop talking about them. The episode was widely mentioned in the aftermath of the so-called chase.