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5 years ago

British royal correspondent reacts to Prince Harry statement

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Britain's Prince Harry issued a rare statement on Tuesday (November 9) criticizing the media for intruding into the private life of his American girlfriend, saying the press had subjected her to "a wave of abuse and harassment".

British newspapers have been running daily stories about Meghan Markle since it emerged at the end of October that the 35-year-old actress had been "secretly" dating the prince, 32, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth, for several months.

Royal correspondent at Britain's Daily Express newspaper, Richard Palmer said he was very surprised Kensington Palace confirmed the new relationship in this way, as officials had given no warning they were about to acknowledge it.

"On this occasion we were getting no help whatsoever from the Kensington Palace press team at all. So to go from that to this seems a huge leap. And the other thing is, as colleagues in the newsroom upstairs have just been saying to me, they are astonished that the palace would take this step at such an early stage in the relationship," he said.

The statement from his communications secretary, which officially confirmed Harry and Markle's relationship for the first time, contained an unusually strong condemnation of the press.

Palmer thinks Kensington Palace have been a bit heavy-handed in their criticism of the press, which he says are just doing what any good journalist should be doing.

"The palace wasn't answering any questions about this relationship at all nor were her publicity people in the States or in Canada, so the natural thing was for journalists to go to her house, stand outside, try to wait for her to come out and ask questions about it. That to me seems perfectly legitimate," said Palmer, who was keen to state journalists shouldn't break laws in pursuit of a royal romance story.

"Obviously if people start following in cars, if they start trying to get into the house, break in or whatever, then obviously that is breaking the law and there is no argument about that," he said.

The statement said royal aides had fought nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories from appearing in papers. It also included a litany of alleged offences by reporters.

The prince understood he enjoyed a privileged life but was worried about Markle's safety and was "deeply disappointed" he could not protect her, the statement said.

Palmer said the problem is more with social media and the fact that anyone armed with a phone can take photos or video.

"I think this was one of the big problems for his last serious girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, that she just felt wherever she went there was always somebody sticking a phone in her face trying to take a photo or take film of her and nine times out of ten that wasn't the journalists that was members of the public and in a way because of social media everybody is a journalist now," he said.

Palmer added that he thinks it a "mistake" for the palace to have issued the statement, as it's propelled the story into headline news.

But members of the public could understand Harry's frustration, even though they didn't see how he could stop invasions of Markle's privacy.

"I'm afraid it's modern life isn't it" said one woman outside Buckingham Palace.

"Now that we've gone that far into social media it's going to happen," said her friend.

Harry, William and William's wife Kate are a staple of the front pages of British newspapers and gossip magazines, which pore over every aspect of their lives.

All three had their phones hacked by employees of the now-defunct News of the World tabloid a decade ago. William has criticized intrusions into Kate's life before they were married and attempts to take unsolicited pictures of his young children, George and Charlotte.

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