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June 7, 2023

‘Sheepish’ Prince Harry ‘rattled’: How press covered his day in court

Mail's Jan Moir writes of "a man who is oddly insubstantial and simply cannot admit he is wrong".

By Bron Maher

For some of Britain’s national newspapers, Prince Harry’s appearance in the High Court on Tuesday was a shambolic affair that saw the prince’s case against Mirror Group Newspapers begin to shake apart.

For others, the Duke of Sussex’s testimony was notable for its forceful denunciations of Britain’s press and government.

And for others still, the trial is best not thought about.

Prince Harry is suing Mirror Group Newspapers over allegations of illegal information gathering centring on 33 news stories dating back 20 years or more. Whilst this civil trial is under way, Harry is also involved in similar litigation against News UK and Daily Mail group.

Press Gazette rounds them up below.

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[Read more: Prince Harry takes stand vs Mirror – ‘Editors have blood on their hands’]

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Daily Mail – Harry ‘simply cannot admit he is wrong’

The Mail‘s coverage of the case was not sympathetic. “He must have longed for the schmaltzy embrace of Oprah!”, it declared.

Columnist Jan Moir added in a front page article: “What emerged from his historic first day in court is, I would venture, a man who is oddly insubstantial and simply cannot admit he is wrong, even when presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He often complained in general terms about his treatment by the media over the years, instead of addressing the specific issues that were being put to him.”

Daily Mail front page Harry in court

The Sun – ‘rattled and mumbling’

On its front page The Sun announced that Prince Harry had “yesterday contradicted himself, was accused of being in ‘the realm of total speculation’ – and spoke of his fears that James Hewitt was his biological father. In astonishing court evidence, he also blasted mum Diana’s butler Paul Burrell for being a ‘two-faced s**t’ and trashed protocol on staying out of politics by saying the Government had hit ‘rock bottom’.”

The red-top’s comment pieces were more scathing. One opinion article by royal reporter Matt Wilkinson described a “sheepish” duke who was “rattled and mumbling”. A news write up by Wilkinson and colleague Julia Atherley said the royal “limped through five hours in a witness box as his case fell apart”.

The Sun front page Harry court case

The Independent

The Independent gave over the entirety of its digital front page to Prince Harry’s appearance in court, giving high billing to his “bloodstained” press and “rock bottom” government comments. Its main write up of the day focused overwhelmingly on the duke’s more forceful claims and statements, and did not mention the Mirror’s barrister, Andrew Green KC, at all.

Independent Harry front page

Daily Mirror

The Mirror – itself the subject of proceedings – had the least emphasis on the High Court story of any of the red tops except the Daily Star, relegating the duke to a relatively mute quarter of the front page alongside the military-stencil words: “Harry vs the press”.

A write up of proceedings by senior reporter Katie Weston was straight down the middle, and the paper does not appear to have published an editorial commenting on the duke’s remarks.

Daily Mirror front page harry high court

Daily Express

The Express, now a stablemate to the Mirror, was also apparently relatively uninterested in the trial. The paper led the front page with news that an appetite-reduction jab would be made more widely available on the NHS, sticking Prince Harry in a corner captioned: “Harry breaks protocol with attack on ‘rock bottom’ government.”

That attack – a “savaging”, according to the Express – was the angle of most interest to the paper in its article, as well as Harry’s claim that the tabloids wanted him to stay single.

Daily Express harry high court front page

Daily Star

The Daily Star, another Reach national title, avoided the case altogether: the story appeared neither on the front cover nor on its website.

Daily Star's harry-free front page

The Times – ‘anything that contradicts his world view is dismissed out of hand’

Describing the duke as “paranoid”, The Times also focused on Harry’s attack on the government.

A sketch on The Times’ website said the duke had “one rock-solid technique in which he clearly put great faith: a simple refusal to accept absolutely anything Green put to him. Because if there is anything that Harry knows, it is that he is right and that nothing that appears in the tabloid press is to be trusted, even if it turns out that it came from a legitimate source.

“He is the fervent believer, and anything that contradicts his world view is dismissed out of hand.”

The Times Harry high court front page

The Telegraph – ‘sulky hypocrisy’

The Telegraph also picked up on Prince Harry’s criticism of the government on its front page. Inside, columnists Allison Pearson and Camilla Tominey described him as “a sulky teenage rebel… his hypocrisy continues to astound” and “a man who has failed to cope with his fame”, respectively.

In news stories, the paper said the duke “struggled to prove his phone-hacking claims” and that he was “forced to concede that he had no idea how the Mirror journalists had obtained their stories, that he had ‘little to go on’ and that he had not even read some of the articles that he alleged had caused him distress”.

Telegraph front page Harry high court

The Guardian

The Guardian‘s coverage was relatively favourable to Harry, focusing on the impact he said tabloid intrusion had had on his life rather than the cross-examination. The paper’s front-page story on the High Court lawsuit did include Andrew Green KC’s comment that the prince was “operating in the realm of total speculation”, but otherwise largely ignored the Mirror’s barrister.

The Guardian's Harry front page

i

The i gave the trial a brief front page mention, and inews.co.uk has carried some explainers on the trial. In an opinion piece Jennie Bond wrote that the duke “is on a mission to show that there are human consequences to what is written” – but also noted: “Harry’s argument that it’s not up to him to deconstruct an article or identify what parts were unlawfully obtained suggests perhaps that he hasn’t understood that this is, in fact, the very crux of the case.”

the i's front page harry high court

The New York Times

The first day of the hearing also made front pages across the Atlantic, with The New York Times reporting Harry “was able to make a broader point about how the tabloid press treats people like him”. However the Gray Lady also observed that, “Lacking irrefutable evidence of hacking, Harry’s lawyers, led by David Sherborne, are relying heavily on inference”.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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