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Eight takeaways from Prince Harry's seven hours on the witness stand

It’s been a busy, tumultuous few days for Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex as he took his place on the witness stand in his trial against the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) at the Rolls Building, part of the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. He is one of a group of four people who are suing MGN, who publish the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People, in this test case. Prince Harry is the first royal to give evidence in court since the 19th century. He was questioned first by Andrew Green KC, on behalf of MGN, and then by his own lawyer David Sherborne. Here are my top takeaways from his two-day grilling:

1. The MGN case is about protecting his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex

Prince Harry said that one of the reasons that he decided to bring the case against MGN is because of the attacks in the press against his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. He said that he wanted to end the “absolute intrusion and hate that was coming towards me and my wife and see if there was any way to find a different course of action, rather than relying on the institution’s way”.

2. Harry has accused Piers Morgan of a personal vendetta

It’s common knowledge that there has been no love lost between Piers Morgan, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. Morgan is really at the centre of Harry’s case against Mirror Group Newspapers, for his potential role in phone hacking during his tenure as editor of the Daily Mirror – something he has always vehemently denied. Harry talked about how he felt physically sick thinking about Morgan hacking into his mother’s phone, but he also said that Morgan has made constant “vile” attacks on both him and his wife in recent months because he has a vendetta against them.

3. The idea of Diana’s phone being hacked makes Harry feel physically ill

Prince Harry said in his personal statement that was read out at the beginning of court proceedings on Tuesday morning, that the thought of his mother having her phone hacked made him feel physically sick. Harry claims that his mother was the victim of phone hacking by the Daily Mirror in an attempt to find out more about her relationship with TV presenter and entertainer Michael Barrymore.

Prince Harry said that, “I can only assume that this information had been obtained via voicemail interception and/or other unlawful information gathering such as live land line tapping” because Barrymore and his mother were in contact via phone. In his statement he went on to say, “The thought of Piers Morgan and his band of journalists earwigging into my mother’s private and sensitive messages (in the same way as they have me) and then having given her a “nightmare time” three months prior to her death in Paris, makes me feel physically sick and even more determined to hold those responsible, including Mr Morgan, accountable for their vile and entirely unjustified behaviour.”

4. Harry believes the press tried to have him ousted from the Royal Family

One of the stories that has followed Prince Harry around for most of his adult life is surrounding his parentage and questions over whether King Charles III, the then-Prince Charles, is really his father or could it be Maj. James Hewitt, someone whom his mother had a relationship with. In court Harry said, “Numerous newspapers had reported a rumour that my biological father was James Hewitt, a man my mother had a relationship with after I was born. At the time of this article and others similar to it, I wasn’t actually aware that my mother hadn’t met Major Hewitt until after I was born.” Prince Harry denied that this could be true, because his mother only met Hewitt after he was born. He also states that even though it was widely known that this rumour was baseless and untrue it continued to circulate saying, “newspapers (were) keen to put doubt into the minds of the public so I might be ousted from the royal family”.

5. Harry says the U.K. government and media are at ‘rock bottom’

It’s no secret that Prince Harry has made it his life’s work to try and clean up the press and hold newspapers to account for how they obtain stories. That is, of course, why he is in court this week. He says that sections of the U.K. media, “have blood on their hands” and according to Prince Harry, the U.K. government and the press are at rock bottom.

In his statement he said, “On a national level as, at the moment, our country is judged globally by the state of our press and our government – both of which I believe are at rock bottom. Democracy fails when your press fails to scrutinize and hold the government accountable, and instead choose to get into bed with them so they can ensure the status quo. I may not have a role within the Institution but, as a member of the British Royal Family, and as a soldier upholding important values, I feel there’s a responsibility to expose this criminal activity in the name of public interest. The country and the British public deserve to know the depths of what was actually happening then, and indeed now. We will be better off for it.”

6. Disdain for Paul Burrell caused a rift between Princes Harry and William

Princes Harry and William have always been pretty vocal about their feelings towards Paul Burrell, the former butler to their mother Diana, Princess of Wales. In an article in The People newspaper, Burrell was referred to as a “two-faced s**t”, a term Prince Harry fully admits to using in voicemails with his brother. The story in the paper was about whether the brothers felt they should meet with Burrell who had been selling his own stories about Diana, Princess of Wales. He said the fact that the term appeared in the paper sowed seeds of distrust between the brothers as to how the term made it into the article. Harry maintains it could only be through phone hacking.

7. Articles written about Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy led to ‘paranoia’

Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy dated on and off from 2004 to 2010, during which time there were a slew of stories written about their relationship. Prince Harry claims the relationship failed because of the scrutiny from the press. He claims that a tracker was found on her car, and was put there a private investigator who he also believes was following him.

He also says that stories about Chelsy being furious about him going to a strip club, as well as stories about their break-up could only have been obtained by illegal phone hacking means because of the level of detail they contained.

He and Chelsy were not confiding in anyone, so attributing these stories to friends as sources, as was done in the articles, was false.

In his statement he said, “Every time these kinds of stories were published, there was a strain put on our relationship, we started to distrust everyone around us. In hindsight, knowing the extent to which MGN journalists were targeting us and intercepting our communications, we probably lost friends needlessly, and put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be secretive and deal with problems without support, out of the sense of paranoia that articles like this created.”

8. The case has taken an emotional toll

At the end of a day-and-a-half of testimony, a pretty gruelling seven hours in total, the emotional toll that it had taken on Prince Harry was clear. He choked up as he was asked by his own lawyer David Sherborne what it was like being on the stand, reliving all those stories and giving evidence to which, he paused and then replied, “It’s a lot.” Prince Harry recounted earlier on how hard it was growing up with all these stories swirling around him, and the damage they have done is clear to see.

So, Prince Harry’s time in court is up but the case continues. The judge will hear more evidence from claimants over the next few weeks before deliberating and delivering his verdict. Top Stories

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