The press was often fairer, more supportive and generous to Harry and Meghan than he makes out - GulfToday

The press was often fairer, more supportive and generous to Harry and Meghan than he makes out

Sean O'Grady

@_SeanOGrady

Associate Editor of the Independent.

Harry and Meghan

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle.

For a man who prefers the media to keep out of his life, Prince Harry certainly seems to be doing a poor job of keeping his head down. He is, if you haven’t noticed, conducting a campaign to reform the British press; and he is inevitably going to fail. Indeed, his current legal cases against the respective publishers of the Sun, Mail and Mirror only serve to furnish them with more material, more headlines, more dramatic pictures and more sensationalism. He is in fact a walking, talking story generator. Who needs hacking when Harry’s ready to reveal the most intimate of secrets?

He’s the only member of the House of Windsor to have done this on the scale he has, dishing out astonishing stories about (for example): a racist comment by a member of his family about Archie’s skin colour; the fights, physical and otherwise, he had with his brother, William; their estranged relationship; the hush money the new Prince of Wales allegedly took from Rupert Murdoch; what the Queen wanted him to do about the reptiles; and why his father, now King, is such a coward and Queen Camilla such a villain.

He spills more beans than a distracted Heinz employee. Prince Harry should better understand that the media works by selling stories, and every time he files a legal petition, writes a book or bangs out a Netflix documentary he’s selling papers and attracting more clicks. He is, as we say these days, good for traffic. All that’s probably not what he had in mind when he embarked on his crusade; but even if it was, and it has had a second consequence of embarrassing his family and damaging the institution of monarchy, he simply cannot win.

The British press has resisted every attempt to civilise and restrain it, and indeed to make it operate within the law, and every attempt has been, at best, only partially or temporarily successful. A free society needs a free press; and that, unfortunately, contains elements that are irresponsible, intrusive and cruel. Much of what Harry and Meghan say about the media is demonstrably fair, but their error is in believing that they, even in alliance with other celebrities, can muzzle the feral beast. He says: “At no point did I have a girlfriend or a relationship with anyone without the tabloids getting involved and ultimately ruining it, or trying to ruin it, using whatever unlawful means at their disposal.”

That is true, but his court case isn’t going to change a thing, even if he wins it. As Charles and William have reluctantly realised, they have to find a way of living with “the scum of the earth” in the media. Besides, the press was often fairer, more supportive and generous to Harry and Meghan than he makes out. When he was at Eton he was mostly left alone, and it is no one’s fault but his that he smoked cannabis. When he dressed up as a Nazi for a fancy-dress party, that was his own youthful folly. Nobody forced Harry and his latest squeeze to go to nightclubs. And then when the time came for him to marry Meghan, the coverage was as warm and fawning as the British tabloid press can be. Harry says he’s only 5 per cent funded by the taxpayers, and therefore the public doesn’t “own” him; but that’s only partly true. For most of his life he has enjoyed luxury and privileges as a member of an institution that is basically an arm of the state, and is only there because of public consent. In other words, if he had a republic, then very little of what all the ex-royals were up to would be of that much interest, and Harry and Meghan would be able to live out their lives much more normally. Perhaps that’s what he really needs, if he did but know it. Harry should really be campaigning for the abolition of the monarchy. Now, that really would be a story.

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