Prince Harry’s claim that he was left in the dark about a deal Prince William and other prominent members of the family struck with News Group Newspapers is “hurtful and mistaken”, a friend of the Royal Family has said.
William quietly received “a very large sum of money” in a 2020 settlement with the British newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire for phone hacking, according to court documents aired Tuesday in one of his brother’s lawsuits.
Harry’s lawyer revealed the unspecified payout in a summary of arguments about why Harry’s lawsuit against the publisher of The Sun and now-defunct News Of The World shouldn’t be thrown out.
The suit alleges the newspapers unlawfully gathered information in a scandal dating back two decades.
News Group Newspapers, which Murdoch owns, argued that a High Court judge should throw out phone hacking lawsuits by the Prince and by actor Hugh Grant because the claims were brought too late.
READ MORE: Harry downgraded in Coronation as Duke to be completely separate from senior royals
But Harry, the Duke of Sussex, said he was prevented from bringing his case because of a “secret agreement” between the Royal Family and the newspapers that called for a settlement and apology.
Now, a friend close to the Royal Family has suggested these claims are spurious and will only serve to deepen his rift with the Royal Family.
They took particular exception to Harry’s claim that his father was afraid an infamous incident that became known as “tampongate” would be repeated.
This refers to recordings that were leaked of intimate conversations in which his father, King Charles, speaking with his paramour, now Queen Consort Camilla, compared himself to a tampon.
“The institution was incredibly nervous about this and wanted to avoid at all costs the sort of reputational damage that it had suffered in 1993 when The Sun and another tabloid had unlawfully obtained and published details of an intimate telephone conversation that took place between my father and stepmother in 1989, while he was still married to my mother,” Harry said in his witness statement.
Harry added: “With hindsight, I now understand why staff at Clarence House were being so unhelpful and were seemingly blocking our every move, as they had a specific long term strategy to keep the media (including NGN) onside in order to smooth the way for my stepmother (and father) to be accepted by the British public as Queen Consort (and King respectively) when the time came, and anything that might upset the applecart in this regard (including the suggestion of resolution of our phone hacking claims) was to be avoided at all costs.”
A long standing friend of the King and Queen Consort told The Daily Beast: “Dragging Camilla into it is hurtful and mistaken.”
In the court documents, Harry said he would have brought a lawsuit earlier if not for the agreement, which was reached with senior executives at News Group Newspapers to avoid putting members of the Royal Family on the witness stand to recount embarrassing voicemails intercepted by reporters.
He began pushing for a resolution in 2017 but said he “had enough” after the publisher “filibustered”. He filed suit in 2019.
The court papers said William, heir to the throne, later settled for a large, but undisclosed, sum.
“It is important to bear in mind that in responding to this bid by NGN to prevent his claims going to trial, (Harry) has had to make public the details of this secret agreement, as well as the fact that his brother, His Royal Highness Prince William, has recently settled his claim against NGN behind the scenes,” attorney David Sherborne wrote.
“This is used very much by (Harry) as ‘a shield not a sword’ against NGN’s attack.”
The lawsuit is one of several Harry has brought in his battle against British newspapers.
Two other suits involve phone hacking, including a case against the publisher of The Mirror are going to trial next month — three days after the Coronation of Charles.
Harry is expected to testify in that case in June.
News Group Newspapers argued that Harry didn’t deserve an exception to the six-year time limit for bringing a legal claim because he was aware of the phone hacking by News of the World.
In fact, former News of the World royals reporter Clive Goodman and a private investigator he hired, Glenn Mulcaire, were prosecuted and sentenced to jail for their role in intercepting voicemails. Goodman apologised in court to Harry, William and their father, then Prince Charles, in 2006.
READ MORE: Harry warned Royal Family would become ‘laughing stock’ over hacking claims, emails show
The newspaper apologised to Harry and others, NGN attorney Anthony Hudson said in court papers.
News of the World closed in 2011 after it was revealed that the phone hacking scandal went beyond the Royal Family, politicians and celebrities and intercepted messages of a murdered girl, relatives of deceased British soldiers and victims of a bombing.
The collapse of the News of the World and related litigation cost Murdoch’s UK publishing business more than £1billion ($1.24billion), according to a review of business filings by the Press Gazette.
The Press Gazette noted in a 2021 article that phone hacking cases and related expenses in 2020 — the year of the alleged payout to William — cost NGN £80million ($99million).
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