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Prince Harry and his wife go to war against Britain’s tabloids

GERRY LOUGHRANBy GERRY LOUGHRAN
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The relationship between Britain’s royal family and the media has always been a delicate one, but Prince Harry and his wife last week brought underlying tensions into the open by taking legal action against three newspapers.

Harry filed legal proceedings against owners of the two biggest tabloid groups, the Sun and the Daily Mirror, for phone hacking, while his wife, Meghan, sued the Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter.

The cost of fighting the claims, expected to be in the millions of pounds for lawyers’ fees, will worry an industry which is struggling financially, but experts say the prince’s move also risks backfiring.

Prince Harry and his wife are officially known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Harry, 35, is the younger son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.

Tall, bearded, ginger-haired, he served in the army for 10 years and is sixth in line to the throne. In 2018, he married an American divorcee from Los Angeles, Meghan Markle, 38, an actress and a woman of colour, with a white father and an African-American mother. They have a son, Archie.

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The letter in Meghan’s case is a hand-written one which she sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

Her case is that the newspaper infringed her copyright, which the authors of letters retain in all circumstances.

Prince Harry compared the treatment of his wife to that of Princess Diana, who died in 1997 when her car crashed while fleeing journalists in Paris.

He said, “There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people.”

The Mail on Sunday has run many embarrassing stories involving Meghan’s father. The newspaper declared that it stood by its reporting and would defend the case vigorously.

As for Prince Harry’s own case, Buckingham Palace said claims had been filed at the High Court regarding alleged illegal interception of voicemail messages, known as “hacking,” by the Sun and the Daily Mirror. Details were not specified.

PR specialist Mark Borkowski said he believed Harry was backing himself into a corner with the media. “It’s a tactic to say, ‘I am a fighter, I’m going to come and get you.’”

Royal biographer Ingrid Seward said Harry was a volatile character and the consequences of his statements could be derogatory and negative.

Scotland has made it a criminal offence for parents to smack their children, becoming the 58th country in the world to do so.

Wales is about to proclaim a similar ban and there have been calls for similar action in England, where “reasonable punishment” of minors is still permitted.

The law passed in the Scottish Parliament by 84-29 was hailed as an historic step by the MP proposing the change, John Finnie.

He said it was “staggering” that the country’s smallest and most vulnerable citizens did not previously have full protection from assault.

A report published by a group of Scottish charities in 2015 estimated that between 70 and 80 per cent of parents in the United Kingdom had used physical punishment on their children, mostly those aged between three and seven.

Researchers found that many parents did not like smacking but sometimes found it was “the only thing that will work”.

Government officials have warned consumers to steer clear of some skin lightening creams being sold by rogue retailers and online.

They may be toxic, containing mercury or the bleaching agent hydroquinone, which can “act like paint stripper”, a statement said.

Hydroquinone can remove the top layer of skin, raising the risk of skin cancer, and may cause fatal liver and kidney damage.

If we cannot avoid politics and politicians, at least we can joke about them.

An American and a Russian are arguing about the freedom of the individual in their countries. Said the American, “I can go into the Oval Office in Washington and I can thump the desk and I can say, ‘President Trump, I don’t like the way you are running this country.’”

Said the Russian, “I can do that, too.” The American: “You can?”

The Russian: “Sure. I can go right into the President’s office in the Kremlin and I can thump his desk and I can say, ‘President Putin, I don’t like the way President Trump is running his country.’”

As for Brexit, there was a national referendum back in 2016 which decided by 51 per cent against 48 per cent that Britain should exit the European Union.

Much angry debate has ensued since then, prompting Leave voters to say, “Stop complaining. We had a vote. It’s democracy.”

The trouble is that democracy doesn’t always work. As one comedian pointed out, “if five people democratically elect to take your iPhone, that’s not democracy, it’s a mugging”.