Prince Harry has won a small victory in his high court battle: a judge ruled this morning that his privacy case against Associated Newspapers, the publishers of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, can proceed to trial.
Harry is part of a group of seven, including Doreen Lawrence and Sir Elton John, who have accused the newspaper group of all manner of reprehensible behavior, including listening in on private telephone conversations, accessing confidential records and even planting bugging devices within vehicles. Associated denies the accusations, calling them “preposterous smears.” It asked the judge hearing the case, Mr. Justice Nicklin, to dismiss the case without trial. But Nicklin refused to do so, paving the way for a return to the witness box for Harry.
The battle is won, but the war remains ongoing
There is no doubt that the news is, unequivocally, a win for Harry and his co-plaintiffs, all of whom have been vocal about the invasions of privacy that the tabloid press have visited upon them. Members of the public retain a great deal of sympathy for Baroness Lawrence, whose son Stephen, was murdered in a racist attack in 1993. But does that sentiment extend to Prince Harry? At the very least, it’s hard to keep up with the various cases that he is involved with. At the last count, the former Netflix star is engaged in litigation with Associated Newspapers, the Home Office (over security arrangements for his family in Britain), Associated once again (over libel claims relating to his Home Office legal action), Mirror Group Newspapers and News Group Newspapers, publishers of his bête noire the Sun. Harry’s case against the latter was partially dismissed in July, but the bulk of it will still proceed to trial in January 2025.
The question now is what, exactly, the Duke of Sussex hopes to gain from all the legal action that he has so vigorously contested. He would argue, as he has done before, that he is attempting both to stand up for his and his family’s privacy, and that by taking on the venal forces of British tabloid journalism — and winning — that he will not only ensure that false and inaccurate stories about him are not published, but also that he is a sufficiently powerful and high-profile figure to stand as a champion of those without the same level of influence. His grandmother and father always presented themselves as dedicated to public service; perhaps, in his own way, Harry might say that he is doing the same, albeit with what Jonathan Aitken once vaingloriously called “the simple sword of truth.”
Yet Harry has strained public sympathies over the past few years. What might once have been seen as an understandable anger with his enemies has now broadened into such a widespread dissatisfaction with any number of nemeses that he runs the risk of seeming petulant and thin-skinned.
Today’s news will undeniably be welcome for him, but the Duke runs the risk of spreading himself far too thin with these cases. What’s more, at the back of his mind, there is the uncomfortable knowledge that he has to win every single action he is involved in. The alternative can only be humiliation, and a persistent irritation with this most litigious of members of the royal family, who has long since ignored the Firm’s edict to “never complain, never explain.” The battle is won, but the war remains ongoing.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.