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November 9, 2016updated 10 Nov 2016 10:06am

Prince Harry privacy plea prompts more front-page coverage of Meghan Markle romance

By Dominic Ponsford

Prince Harry’s heartfelt plea for the press and social media users to leave him and his new girlfriend alone prompted more front-page newspaper coverage today.

The Sun and Daily Mail also wrote defiant leader columns defending the public interest in ongoing coverage of the prince’s private life.

The statement from his PR representative was the first official confirmation that the royal is dating US actress Meghan Markle.

In it communications secretary Jason Knauf condemned “the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments”.

Markle has, he said, faced a nightly battle to keep defamatory stories out of the media and her mother has had to “struggle past photographers” to get out of her front door.

The relationship has prompted hundreds of newspaper articles since it was broken by the Sunday Express and Daily Star Sunday on 30 October.

Today, Harry’s statement prompted coverage on the front pages of The Sun, Daily Star, Daily Express, Metro, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail.

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The Sun today quoted royal historian Robert Lacey who said: “Kensington Palace are mad if they think they can defeat the sharks [on social media] – they are not the professional British media.

“The media are on Harry’s side and want to help him, and he does seem to be antagonising them, which I do think is a mistake.

“Even if Harry thinks this isn’t our business, it is.”

The paper’s royal correspondent Emily Andrews said: “I fear he’s been badly advised on attacking the press. Legitimate press interest in who’s dating the fifth in line to the throne is exactly that. Entirely legitimate…

“Sure, the British press have contacted her friends and family to see if they want to comment. Some did, some didn’t, and that was respected. Harry, we’re on your side.”

In a leader column, The Sun said today: “We understand Harry’s worries about the level of interest in them. But he needs to get real. He is an heir to the throne, living a privileged life at public expense. He didn’t choose it, but it is what it is: media attention is unavoidable…

“The UK press isn’t to blame for the most serious allegations. The Sun abides by strict rules against intrusion and harassment – and we agree that Meghan shouldn’t be hounded.”

The Daily Mail today covered the story on pages one, three, five, six and seven, with a further full page comment piece by Sarah Vine on page 17.

The Mail also hit back at the “hot-headed prince” in a leader column.

It asked why Kensington Palace did not ask press watchdog IPSO to issue a “desist” notice, warning newspaper editors against harassment of the couple, before issuing yesterday’s statement.

It said: “The public has a legitimate interest in the life story of a woman romantically connected to the son of our future king – a woman who has assiduously courted publicity to promote her commercial interests, accruing more than a million followers on social media..

.”…there is a worrying tendency, particularly among young royals, to expect all the advantages that go with their birth, while at the same time wanting to enjoy the privacy afforded to those of the Queen’s subjects who have to work nine-to-five for a living.”

In her comment piece, Sarah Vine pointed out that Markle is an acress who has chosen to court publicity to promote commercial interests such as her fashion line.

She said: “…the idea that Miss Markle is some media ingenue, some hapless victim of unfair and unwarranted publicity, is simply preposterous.”

The Guardian said in a leader column that the tabloids are “at their old game again of deliberately confusing what is in the public interest with what is interesting to the public”.

It said: “It is time that Ipso, the new newspaper-backed press regulator (to which the Guardian does not subscribe) showed that it is ready to prove its worth.”

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