Prince Harry testified in London on Tuesday as part of the phone hacking lawsuit he brought against Mirror Group Newspapers, alleging that the tabloid press had hacked his phone and voicemails and those of his friends and associates to illegally obtain information about him. He called the hacking the press’s “twisted objective” in written testimony submitted to the court on Tuesday.
He alleged that the press’s invasion of his privacy had negatively impacted his life and mental health, making it so he could not trust his friends and found it hard to be in romantic relationships. He said that he felt he’d been forced into a role by the press, and that he felt he was helpless in how he was perceived, leading sometimes to reckless actions.
“You start off as a blank canvas while they [the press] work out what kind of person you are and what kind of problems and temptations you might have,” he wrote in his testimony. “They then start to edge you towards playing the role or roles that suit them best and which sells as many newspapers as possible, especially if you are the ‘spare’ to the ‘heir.’ You’re then either the playboy prince, ‘the failure,’ the dropout, or, in my case, ‘the thicko,’ the ‘cheat,’ the ‘underage drinker,’ the ‘irresponsible drug taker,’ the list goes on. As a teenager and in my early twenties, I ended up feeling as though I was playing up to a lot of the headlines and stereotypes that they wanted to pin on me mainly because thought that, if they are printing this rubbish about me and people were believing it, I may as well ‘do the crime,’ so to speak. It was a downward spiral, whereby the tabloids would constantly try and coax me, a ‘damaged’ young man, into doing something stupid that would make a good story and sell lots of newspapers. Looking back on it now, such behavior on their part is utterly vile.”
“Whilst they would, of course, report on my successes in life,” Harry wrote, “it seemed to me that they took far greater pleasure in knocking me down, time and time again.”
He cited the press coverage as a large part of the reason he ended his relationship with Chelsy Davy, his on-again, off-again girlfriend from 2004 to 2010. According to Harry’s legal team, the Mirror Group published around 2,500 stories about Harry in the period the suit covers.
When the prince—who in 2020 took a step back from public life as a member of the royal family with his wife, Meghan Markle, and their family (they now have two children, Archie and Lilibet), a move that was made official in 2021—took the stand, he became the first prominent royal to do so in more than a century.
In response to a question about whether his drug use as a teenager was of public interest, Harry retorted, “There’s a difference between public interest and what interests the public,” according to The New York Times.
This is the latest in a slew of suits against the press in which Harry is a plaintiff. He also recently alleged that his older brother, Prince William, settled his own phone hacking case in 2020. Harry is expected to continue his testimony Wednesday.
Listen to Vanity Fair’s DYNASTY podcast now.