LONDON — Britain's royal family should be used to being fodder for the country's news grinder.
After all, British tabloids and other outlets have poked and prodded into nearly every regal recess, including the meltdown of the marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana and the wearing of a Nazi-style outfit by their son Prince Harry for a costume party years ago.
But now Harry says they have gone too far. In a rare salvo at reporters from the royals, he has strongly condemned the media for its coverage of his American girlfriend, Meghan Markle, alluding to its “racial undertones.” Markle has a white father and an African American mother.
Harry, 32, said that he had tried to develop a “thick skin” about the level of media interest in his personal life but that a line had been “crossed” in the past week.
It was also the first confirmation from Kensington Palace that the prince, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson and fifth in line to the throne, was dating Markle, a 35-year-old actress perhaps best known for playing the character Rachel Zane in the drama “Suits.” The palace said she and Harry have been dating for “a few months.”
In the Tuesday statement, the prince's communications secretary, Jason Knauf, said there has been a “wave of abuse and harassment” that has included “the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and Web article comments.”
He also said that some of the abuse had been hidden from public view, such as “the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life.”
It’s highly unusual for the palace to issue such a blistering and candid statement, but it did not specify which publications or social media trolls had upset Harry. But since the Sunday Express’s “royal world exclusive” late last month, there has been intense coverage across Fleet Street about the relationship.
Several tabloids reported that images of Markle had appeared on the adult website Pornhub. The images were not pornographic pictures but rather clips of love scenes from “Suits.” A spokesman for the Sun newspaper declined to comment when asked about speculation that the prince was unhappy with the “Harry Girl’s on Pornhub” headline.
Columnists have weighed in on Markle as well, including Rachel Johnson in the Mail, who wrote on Sunday: “Genetically, she is blessed. If there is issue from her alleged union with Prince Harry, the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA.”
Markle, who was born and raised in California but lives in Toronto, is a global ambassador for World Vision Canada and an advocate for gender equality. She has described herself as “biracial,” telling Elle magazine that when she is asked where her parents are from (Pennsylvania and Ohio), she responds: “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American. I'm half black and half white.”
Harry said he is worried for his girlfriend’s safety and feels helpless that he can’t protect her.
“He knows commentators will say this is 'the price she has to pay' and that 'this is all part of the game'. He strongly disagrees,” the statement read. “This is not a game — it is her life and his.”