Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has filed a legal complaint against the Mail on Sunday and its publisher, Associated Newspapers, for "false" and "deliberately derogative" coverage of his wife, Meghan Markle.
"My wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences," Harry said in a blistering statement released Tuesday that directly referenced the memory of his late mother, Princess Diana.
"My deepest fear is history repeating itself," he said. "I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."
The legal complaint specifically relates to the Mail on Sunday's publication of a letter from Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to her father in February, but Harry emphasized in his statement that this article was "one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behavior by British tabloid media."
"The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question," he said. "In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year."
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a Mail on Sunday spokesperson said that the newspaper stands by the story it published and "will be defending this case vigorously."
"Specifically, we categorically deny that the Duchess’s letter was edited in any way that changed its meaning."
In a separate statement, the royal couple's lawyers said that they have initiated legal proceedings against Mail on Sunday and its publishers, Associated Newspapers (which is now called DMG Media), with misuse of private information, infringement of copyright, and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.
DMG Media also owns the Daily Mail newspaper and the MailOnline website.
A spokesperson for Schillings, the firm representing the Sussexes, described the "intrusive and unlawful" publication of Meghan's letter to her father as "part of a campaign by this media group to publish false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband."
"Given the refusal of Associated Newspapers to resolve this issue satisfactorily, we have issued proceedings to redress this breach of privacy, infringement of copyright and the aforementioned media agenda.”
Harry, Meghan, and their nearly 5-month-old son, Archie, finish up a 10-day royal tour of Africa on Wednesday. The royal couple has received near-universal praise and glowing press coverage for their work during their time overseas — something that Harry highlighted in his statement.
"The positive coverage of the past week from these same publications exposes the double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her almost daily for the past nine months; they have been able to create lie after lie at her expense simply because she has not been visible while on maternity leave," he said. "She is the same woman she was a year ago on our wedding day, just as she is the same woman you’ve seen on this Africa tour.
"For these select media this is a game, and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start. I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in."
Tuesday's letter is not the first time that Harry has warned the media about their coverage of Meghan. On Nov. 8, 2016, days after the news broke that he and his then-girlfriend were dating, Kensington Palace issued a rare statement confirming their relationship and condemning the "wave of abuse and harassment" Meghan and her family were facing from the tabloid press.
"There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behavior, because it destroys people and destroys lives," Harry said in the statement Tuesday. "Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this."
Per the Sussex's lawyers, the royal couple are paying for their court costs privately, and, if the Chancery Division of the High Court rules in their favor, they plan to donate the proceeds from any damages to an anti-bullying charity.
"There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face — as so many of you can relate to — I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been," Harry said.
"We thank you, the public, for your continued support. It is hugely appreciated. Although it may not seem like it, we really need it."