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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s fraught relationship with the media

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s fraught relationship with the media

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced they are stepping back from royal duties, no longer to be considered “senior” members of the Royal Family.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s fraught relationship with the media

Stepping away from royal duties also means stepping away from the media glare, with the pair being open about their struggles to cope with press scrutiny.

We take a look at Harry and Meghan’s relationship with the media.

New media relations approach 

After announcing they will be stepping into “progressive new roles” within the Royal Family, the Duke and Duchess launched a website – sussexroyal.com – which promptly crashed.

On the media page of the website, it says the couple will “amend their media relations policy to reflect their new roles”.

“In the spring of 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be adopting a revised media approach to ensure diverse and open access to their work,” says the website.

The “updated approach” will see the couple “engage with grassroots media organisations and young, up-and-coming journalists”, and will “provide access to credible media outlets focused on objective news reporting to cover key moments and events”.

Meghan and Harry will “continue to share information directly to the wider public via their official communications channels”.

They also announced they will no longer be participating in the Royal Rota system, a pool that gives UK media exclusive inside access to the official engagements of members of the Royal Family.

View this post on Instagram

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on

Shirking the spotlight

The Duke and Duchess chose to spend Christmas abroad this year, away from the royal festivities that would require them to appear in public. They kept a low profile while holidaying with their son Archie in Canada.

It was the lastest in a string of occasions where the couple sought to avoid paparazzi. Meghan faced criticism after her security team asked onlookers not to take photos of her as she attended Wimbledon in July.

She also spent much of her pregnancy out of the public eye, and the Duke and Duchess chose not to introduce Archie to the world immediately after his birth in the way the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had done with their three children.

It was a sign of things to come when Meghan and Harry announced their engagement at Kensington Palace, during which reporters were forced to yell questions across the pond that the couple stood on the other side of.

In a rare move for the private pair, they offered an insight into their lives with an ITV documentary during their tour of Africa in October. They used the documentary to reveal the difficulty they have faced with the intense media attention. “I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair. And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile,” said Meghan.

Prince Harry also revealed the “constant management” needed to deal with his mental health and the pressures of life in the spotlight.

Taking legal action

Harry and Meghan have both taken legal action against the press for alleged invasion of their privacy. In October, Buckingham Palace announced Prince Harry was suing the owners of tabloids The Sun and The Daily Mirror, claiming his phone had been hacked and alleging his voicemail messages were accessed.

It came shortly after Meghan launched legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday over the publication of a private letter.

The legal action came after a series of strongly-worded statements from the Palace on behalf of Prince Harry regarding the press interest in his relationship with Meghan.

Early in their relationship, Kensington Palace released a statement saying Meghan had been subject to “a wave of abuse and harassment”, including “racial undertones of comment pieces”.

Fears of history repeating itself

When Meghan launched legal action, Prince Harry issued a scathing and emotional statement criticising the media for the treatment of his wife.

Likening Meghan’s media treatment to that of his late mother, Princess Diana, Prince Harry said his “deepest fear is history repeating itself”.

“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,” he said.

“I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

Prince Harry was just 12 when his mother died in a car crash in Paris after being followed by paparazzi.

Many people attributed her death to media harassment.

Harry warned against the “human cost” of the “relentless propaganda”, and said he could not “begin to describe how painful” it had been.

I have been a silent witness to [Meghan’s] private suffering for too long,” he said.

In another sign of how the pair has struggled, Harry thanked the public for its “continued support”, saying “although it may not seem like it, we really need it”.

MAJORCA, SPAIN – AUGUST 10: Diana, Princess of Wales with Prince Harry on holiday in Majorca, Spain on August 10, 1987. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

Prankster Prince in the headlines

Harry was no stranger to scandal himself in his younger years. He faced widespread condemnation in 2005 after the paparazzi snapped him wearing a Nazi armband at a costume party.

He was then in the headlines again in 2012 for being filmed naked at a pool party in Las Vegas shortly before his deployment to Afghanistan.

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