Prince Harry knows a thing or two about taking chances. He served two tours in Afghanistan. He saw fit to wear a Nazi uniform to a party. He was linked to X Factor host Caroline Flack. However, he and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex's latest gambit, her taking legal action against British tabloid the Mail on Sunday might be the riskiest yet.

In a 570-word piece posted on the couple's new website, Harry offers a deeply emotional explanation about why his wife has decided to go to court over a story that revealed the contents of a letter she had written to her estranged father Thomas Markle.

He clearly feels deeply, and understandably, aggrieved by the deluge of negative coverage that Meghan has faced this year and the duo are intent on wresting back control. Cue, the new parents resorting to taking a shot across the bow and calling in the lawyers.

But this play could backfire, and badly, for the Sussexes.


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Don't complain, don't explain

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son Archie, on their tour of Africa. Photo / AP
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son Archie, on their tour of Africa. Photo / AP

For decades, the royal family's prevailing stance has been to not comment on scurrilous stories about the supposed goings-on, feuds and contretemps happening behind the palace gates.

The rationale was clear: Firstly, if they started refuting everything that was written about the Windsors, their poor press team would never, ever finish and secondly, any sort of statement only gives a story more oxygen and ensures it stays in the news cycle.

That's why the prevailing regal MO is to simply remain tight-lipped and stay above the media fray. (A notable exception is far more serious cases such as Prince Andrew's friendship with Jeffery Epstein.)

A rare rebuke

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have launched a lawsuit against tabloids. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have launched a lawsuit against tabloids. Photo / Getty Images

In very rare instances, however, the royal family is not averse to unleashing their high-priced lawyers on the press. Most recently, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge went to court after a French magazine published topless shots of her taken during a holiday.

The Queen has twice pursued The Sun legally - after they published a photo of the royal family that had been intended for a Christmas card and when the contents of her annual speech were leaked.

In 1993, Diana, Princess of Wales, took legal action after photos covertly taken of her working out in a gym were splashed across a UK newspaper.

Harry and Meghan's case (though the claim is only in her name) is a departure from this strategy.


To start with, in most of the above instances, the legal moves were taken within days or weeks of the offending story coming out not months later when the public had largely forgotten about the original, disputed piece.

Then there is the fact that the Queen, Diana and Kate's cases were about putting a stop to a specific image or text being printed and were not part of a dramatic broadside targeting much of the media.

But legal moves are the very, very last line of defence for the Queen and her family and the Duke and Duchess' move risks exposing them to bigger problems in the future.

Perilous consequences

To be clear, there is no denying the emotional toll the last year must have had on Meghan and that her suffering is completely genuine however this plan of attack comes with potentially perilous consequences.

Harry and Meghan's readiness to use the most powerful tool in their arsenal sets up a dangerous precedent. They might view going to court as sending a commanding signal but the rapacious tabloids are not going to back off and the Sussexes' move will have little long-term effect on the ferocity of coverage they face.

All of which leaves the couple in a predicament — are they going to call in the lawyers every time a nasty newspaper or magazine story pops up? And what about when negative stories come out about them and they don't issue a legal warning or release a statement — does that mean that by omission they are confirming a story is indeed true?

Tour timing

There is another toll they face by taking this significant step right now, namely completely cannibalising coverage from their successful South Africa tour. In only days they will be back in Britain, ensconced in Frogmore Cottage which surely would have been a far more strategic moment to unleash this salvo.

Rewind to the '90s when Diana was trying, and struggling, to control the media narrative about her, she worked out there was one killer weapon in her personal armoury: Her work. She realised that her efforts on behalf of the underprivileged and neglected spoke for themselves.

After such a great tour of South Africa, with the world back in love with the smart, passionate duo, following in Diana's footsteps might be a far savvier, long-term game plan.

In 2017, Meghan told Vanity Fair, "I don't read any press. I haven't even read press for Suits. The people who are close to me anchor me in knowing who I am. The rest is noise."
That was great advice then and is great advice now.