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‘Wave of abuse’: how Harry and Meghan endured unwelcome media scrutiny

In revealing his relationship with the mixed-race American actor last year, the prince highlighted his distaste for the media’s ‘racial undertones’

“Since he was young, Prince Harry has been very aware of the warmth that has been extended to him by members of the public.”

That was the start of the statement that announced to the world in November 2016 that Prince Harry was in a relationship with Meghan Markle, the Canada-based actor.

However, rather than a heart-warming expression of his love for her, the statement was an unprecedented attack on the British press by the prince for its coverage and harassment of Markle.

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Despite the fact the couple’s relationship has played out in public over the subsequent year – with the prince and Markle offering just enough public appearances and comments to satisfy interest – this first statement highlighted his distaste for the media’s interest in his private life.

The prince’s press secretary accused the media of introducing “racial overtones” into comment pieces on his relationship with Markle and claimed that she had been subjected to a “wave of abuse and harassment”. It added: “Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.”

As speculation about their relationship grew in the months before this statement, articles had included a Sun piece headlined “Harry girl’s on Pornhub”, which was about clips of Markle from the legal drama series Suits appearing on an adult website, and a comment in the Mail On Sunday by Rachel Johnson that said if the couple had children “the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA”. Markle’s father, Thomas, is white and her mother, Doria Ragland, is African American.

There was another clash with the media when the Mail Online – the biggest English language website in the world – published photographs of the prince on a private beach in Jamaica while on holiday with Markle. The Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled that his privacy had been breached by the use of a long-lens camera. The prince encouraged the press regulator to order Mail Online to publish the ruling against it at the top of its website, which it did.

Markle did not make her first comments about the relationship until September – 10 months after the initial statement – and they were not even seen together until 25 September, when they were photographed at the Invictus Games, a sporting event for injured soldiers set up by the prince.

Markle’s comments were to Vanity Fair magazine rather than UK newspapers. She revealed they had met in London through friends in July 2016 and were now “really happy and in love”. She said scrutiny of the couple since their relationship became public “has its challenges” but that she has not changed. “We’re a couple. We’re in love,” she said. “I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time.”

Now, as it is announced their relationship is taking the next step, so will their relationship with the media.

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