Prince Harry’s lawyers accused a British tabloid publisher on Monday of sowing “the seeds of discord” with his elder brother Prince William, after the royal earlier failed to appear at his lawsuit at London’s High Court.
Harry, King Charles’ younger son, is one of more than 100 high-profile figures suing the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, and Sunday People, for alleged phone-hacking and other unlawful behavior between 1991 and 2011.
The prince will face hours of questioning in the witness box on Tuesday, becoming the first senior British royal to give evidence in court for 130 years, after he did not attend court as expected on Monday morning – which MGN’s lawyers said was “absolutely extraordinary.”
The trial began last month, as lawyers representing Harry and three other test claimants attempted to prove that unlawful information gathering was carried out with the knowledge and approval of senior editors and executives.
Harry’s allegations are the focus this week, and his lawyer David Sherborne on Monday accused MGN of engendering the “mistrust” between him and his brother William, the heir to the throne, 20 years ago.
His lawyer said Harry and William’s disagreement over how to deal with their late mother Princess Diana’s former butler was the subject of a 2003 article, which contained the “tell-tale” signs of unlawful information-gathering.
He said the article showed how “the seeds of discord between these two brothers are starting to be sown.”
“Brothers can sometimes disagree but, once it is made public in this way and their inside feelings are revealed in the way that they are, trust begins to be eroded,” Sherborne said.
The two brothers have had a high-profile falling out in recent years since Harry and his American wife, Meghan, stepped down from royal duties and moved to the US. Harry wrote in his recent memoir that William knocked him to the floor during a 2019 argument over Meghan.
Princess Diana ‘hacked’
Outlining Harry’s case, Sherborne said some 2,500 articles had appeared about Harry’s private life in the MGN titles during the period the allegations covered, from when he was a young boy at school through to the death of his mother in 1997, his later military training and adult life.
“Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds and there was no protection from these unlawful information-gathering methods,” Sherborne said.
He also suggested Diana’s phone had been hacked, referring to handwritten letters she had sent to a well-known TV presenter, Michael Barrymore, which detailed secret meetings between them after he had publicly disclosed he was gay.
In one letter, sent months before her death, she said she was devastated that the Daily Mirror had been contacting her office to ask about the meetings.
“Plainly the Daily Mirror has been listening in to voicemail messages,” Sherborne said.
Royal aides in focus
MGN, now owned by Reach, apologized at the start of the trial for one admitted occasion that the Sunday People had unlawfully sought information about Harry, accepting he was entitled to compensation.
The publisher has previously admitted its titles were involved in phone-hacking and has settled more than 600 claims at a cost of more than 100 million pounds ($120 million) in damages and costs.
But it has rejected all Harry’s other allegations, saying he had no evidence for his claims. Buckingham Palace is likely to feature prominently in Harry’s cross-examination, with MGN arguing that some information had come from royal aides.
This week’s appearance will be the second time this year Harry has attended the High Court, after joining singer Elton John and others for hearings in March over their lawsuit against the publisher of the Daily and Sunday Mail tabloids.
Harry, the fifth-in-line to the throne, is engaged in several legal battles with the British press, including a similar phone-hacking case against Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper arm.
The prince has also accused his family and their aides in his memoir and Netflix documentary series of colluding with tabloids. The palace has not commented on those accusations.
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