Prince Harry has won “substantial damages” from the UK publisher of the Mail On Sunday and MailOnline over “baseless” claims he snubbed the Marines after stepping down as a senior royal.
The Duke of Sussex, 36, sued Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) over reports published in October that he had “not been in touch” with Britain’s armed forces since his last appearance as an honorary Marine in March.
Harry, who served in the British Army for 10 years, had been “personally affronted” by the articles, according to papers he filed to the High Court in London.
The Mail On Sunday printed an apology in December and said it had made a donation to the prince’s charity after accepting that Harry had contacted the Royal Marines after his departure from the UK.
The Duke of Sussex accepted an apology and damages, which he will donate to the Invictus Games Foundation he set up in 2014, issuing a strongly worded statement after Monday’s short hearing.
“Today, the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline publicly admitted in open court that they pushed a completely false and defamatory story,” the prince said in the statement released on his behalf.
“And they’ve apologised for questioning the Duke of Sussex’s commitment to the Royal Marines and British armed forces.
“The truth is that the duke’s commitment to the military community is unquestionable.
“Unsurprisingly, the Mail again misled their readers in December by claiming to make a charitable donation as part of an initial apology. They did no such thing.
“The duke is personally donating the significant damages recovered from this legal resolution to the Invictus Games Foundation.”
Harry and wife Meghan Markle have been locked in an increasingly bitter war with the media, particularly the tabloid press, since they stepped back from frontline royal duties early last year.
The Duchess of Sussex, 39, is locked in a legal battle with the same publisher for printing a private letter to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. Harry has also brought separate claims against two British tabloids related to alleged phone-hacking.
Judge Matthew Nicklin heard details of the ANL settlement at a remote hearing on Monday.
The Duke of Sussex “made repeated and concerted efforts to support the Royal Marines and other members of the armed forces and their families in the past year, even though he was required to step back from formal military roles”, said his lawyer Jenny Afia.
His lawyers said that ANL accepted the allegations were false “after considerable damage was already done”, according to the Sun.
Afia said the apology “used wording which significantly underplayed the seriousness of the accusations made against him” and “did not expressly acknowledge that the allegations were false”.
She said the baseless stories “constituted not only a personal attack upon the duke’s character but also wrongly brought into question his service to this country”.
Harry was donating his damages “so he could feel something good had come out of the situation”, added his lawyer.
Harry, who served in Afghanistan, had his honorary military titles stripped when he and Meghan stepped back from the royal family last January. He later said he was “devastated” at having to give up his titles but that he had “no choice”.
Afia said the duke had continued to support the Royal Marines and other members of the armed forces and their families over the past year, “even though he was required to step back from his formal military roles in the ‘year of transition’ during which he must take a reduced role as a member of the royal family”.
The transition is due for review in March.
Meghan’s team has lodged an application for a summary judgment in her case against ANL for publishing her letter, hoping to avoid a high-profile public trial.
— to www.nzherald.co.nz