Prince Harry’s legal fight with the Press could backfire spectacularly, according to his mother’s former aide.
Patrick Jephson, who was private secretary to the Princess Diana for eight years, said that ‘volatile’ public attitudes could turn against the prince and his wife Meghan.
Harry is suing the publishers of the Sun and the Daily Mirror for alleged phone hacking.
His wife has launched a separate legal action against the Mail on Sunday – this newspaper’s sister title – for publishing a letter she wrote to her estranged father.
Harry said his wife had been driven to the courts by the ‘painful’ impact of ‘relentless propaganda’ against her from the tabloid Press. Mr Jephson said the tactics could be seen as a ‘risky overstretch of finite resources, of the kind that decides the outcome of most long wars’.
He said royal life involved a ‘historic deal that’s overseen by the British media holding to account public figures whose lives are subsidised by (usually) benign British taxpayers’. Describing the legal action as ‘unprecedented’, Mr Jephson wrote in the Observer: ‘Public sympathy will start in the duke’s corner but is notoriously volatile.’
He stressed how important it is for modern royals to ‘learn the difference between bullying and criticism’. He added: ‘Here’s a respectful suggestion: unclenching your fists will help.’ Mr Jephson said that Diana did not use ‘invective more normally found in the White House to communicate with a free and fundamentally friendly Press’.
The intervention came as Meghan’s estranged father Thomas Markle claimed he released the letter only after friends of his daughter ‘misrepresented’ its contents to an US magazine.
Mr Markle, 75, told the Mail on Sunday: ‘I have to defend myself. I only released parts of the letter because other parts were so painful. The letter didn’t seem loving to me. I found it hurtful.’
His daughter has filed a High Court claim against the Mail on Sunday and its publisher Associated Newspapers over the alleged misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018. The newspaper has said it stands by the story and will vigorously defend itself.
Buckingham Palace confirmed on Friday that Harry has lodged papers at the High Court claiming his voicemails had been illegally intercepted.
The details have not been made public but are believed to relate to dates in the 2000s when the prince was in his early twenties.
The hacking actions will reportedly include claims that the newspaper groups deliberately destroyed evidence that they targeted Harry and his associates and form part of a group action.