King Charles and Prince William and their spouses will be “massively irritated” by the implications of a court judgment Thursday that Prince Harry will return to the High Court witness box, potentially spilling more embarrassing details about his family, a friend of the family told The Daily Beast.
However, the friend added that the royals would do their best to avoid being “distracted” by Harry’s legal battles as they launch into a busy two years of global travel to try and shore up the royal brand overseas.
The family friend told The Daily Beast: “Everyone in the family completely accepts that Harry is a private citizen and can do what he likes without reference to the family. That doesn’t mean they have to like it. Of course they are massively irritated by the prospect of more blockbuster Harry trials but they have been expecting it; there is also the defamation case against the Mail don’t forget. Their goal is just to keep plugging away and not get distracted by any of it.”
Another source said that Harry or Meghan making court appearances, publishing further books or making films was now widely considered inevitable, and that the policy of not commenting or reacting had been judged a success by the family and there would be “no change” to the overall strategy.
The reactions came after a senior judge ruled on Thursday that Harry can proceed with a key part of his ongoing legal action against News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publishers of British tabloid the Sun. Harry can proceed to trial with allegations that the Sun and the now-shuttered News of the World used unlawful information gathering techniques, such as “blagging,” which involves tricking third parties into disclosing confidential information about targets, to get stories on him.
However, there was huge relief for the royals after Harry was told he cannot proceed with phone hacking claims. The judge said Harry’s allegation that a “secret agreement” about phone hacking was made between the royals and NGN, which hid information from him, had not reached “the necessary threshold of plausibility” and that no “witness or documentary evidence” supporting the claim had been offered.
Neither the king or Prince William’s office responded to a request for comment on the judgment. Harry has not so far commented on the ruling.
NGN, understandably, hailed the judgment as a victory because it threw out the phone hacking portion of Harry’s claims. However Evan Harris, a former British member of Parliament affiliated with the Hacked Off pressure group told The Daily Beast that the judgment was a “major strategic setback for NGN” because it was “all or nothing for NGN” who wanted to get rid entirely of the claims being made by Harry and his co-plaintiff, the actor Hugh Grant, to avoid a court showdown.
Harris made the point that NGN have paid out millions of pounds (including, as Harry alleged, a “very large” settlement to Prince William) precisely to avoid being dragged into court.
An independent observer, media lawyer Mark Stephens, a partner at firm Howard Kennedy, told The Daily Beast he believed that it could be argued that the newspapers “had shaded it” over Harry, given that more of the case had been thrown out (phone hacking) than left in (blagging), and it was not possible for Harry to “dress the judgment up as a victory.”
But, echoing Harris’ argument, he said: “The papers’ aim was to get the whole thing thrown out and they have failed. That is a problem for them because the newspapers have to win everything to win overall, Harry only has to show one example of unlawful newsgathering to win overall.”
“The prospect of legal cases stretching into the event horizon is likely to be particularly annoying to Charles and William who are reportedly keen to burnisH the royal brand on the international stage.”
The trial was due to start in January of next year. However, legal sources told The Daily Beast that there had been some rumblings that the timetable may have to be changed. In the written judgment handed down, the judge said the trial might take place in “2024 or 2025.”
The prospect of legal cases stretching into the event horizon is likely to be particularly annoying to Charles and William who are reportedly keen to make the next few years all about burnishing the royal brand on the international stage as part of an effort to stop the breakup of the Commonwealth, a club largely made up of former imperial countries, that was essentially held together by the determination of and affection for the late Queen Elizabeth II.
The Mail on Sunday recently reported that, “State visits are back in business,” and added that Kate and William are even considering taking their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis with them on the brand-building overseas forays.
The royals are thought to be keen to make maximum use of Charles and Camilla’s good health to get them to make frequent overseas trips, especially to farther flung destinations which have not been visited by a reigning monarch since the queen gave up long haul travel in 2013.
A friend of the king’s told The Daily Beast that the king would “not give a second’s thought” to Harry’s litigation timetable when making his plans for overseas travel for the next two years.
The trouble is, of course, that the rest of the world, not to mention the global news cycle, might not be quite so blasé.