Diana and Prince Harry Both Struggled With This "Toxic" Force as Royals

Both Diana and Harry were often consumed by hurt and fury over this facet of royal life, insiders say.

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There are many deeply personal revelations that have come to light in Finding Freedom, the new tell-all that chronicles the evolution of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's relationship, as well as the events that led up to their decision leave the Royal family. But there is one disclosure in the book that connects the Duke of Sussex to his late mother that's particularly heartbreaking. According to the tell-all, like Princess Diana, Harry reads the tabloids and he too has often been consumed by hurt and fury over the many untruthful stories and malicious reports about himself and the people he cares most about.

"Diana became obsessed with her media coverage and when Harry began dating Meghan, he was much the same," one royal insider told me. "Reading the negative stories and the outright lies was toxic for both of them. The effect on them was powerful. Their hurt and anger towards some segments of the media was and is understandable, but there's a danger of making things worse. Only Diana's closest friends knew how upset she would become, but Harry has become increasingly vocal about it. When Meghan became pregnant, there was a definite change. Palace aides have seen the prince become absolutely furious over certain stories. There was a bit of walking on eggshells when he got very emotional about it."

In Finding Freedom, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand allege that after getting engaged to Meghan, Harry "often scoured the press" and even kept up with some of the royal correspondents' Twitter accounts. While he has long been aware of the negative coverage he received during his days when he was known as "The Party Prince," most of his ire directed at the media recently has been over how Meghan is treated by the press. As a young boy, Harry watched his mother be driven to despair as she was hounded by the paparazzi and victimized by unrelenting coverage after her 1996 divorce from Prince Charles. The memories all came flooding back when he became involved with Meghan.

Princess of Wales being mobbed by photographers and wellwishers as she leaves the Royal College of Nursing in London's Cavendish Square with her friend Catherine Soames (right) after attending a launch of The Child Bereavment Trust.
PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

In the now infamous ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey in 2019, Harry told reporter Tom Bradby: "I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum. Everything that she went through and what happened to her is incredibly raw every single day, and that is not me being paranoid. That is just me not wanting a repeat of the past."

In fighting back against the press, Harry and Meghan have broken the Royal family coda of "never complain, never explain" and have filed lawsuits against various media outlets claiming invasion of privacy, among other things. But one Palace insider said it has not stopped Harry from obsessing over the constant coverage devoted to his wife and son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.

In Finding Freedom, the authors report the prince was "disgusted" by the way he was portrayed in a particular tabloid article and was horrified by the accompanying vicious comments. "Harry instantly regretted opening the link. His stomach tied into the same knot every time he saw those sorts of comments," Scobie and Durand write. One particularly hateful remark really stung. It read: "H&M disgust me. They are a disgrace to the Royal family."

"There is a sort of aggressive intrusiveness and a reckless, irresponsible almost hostility to the media's actions that's deeply harmful," one source in the book said. "The sort of ruthless malevolence of some sections of the media and it is malevolent, is genuinely bad."

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Even though Diana became one of the most famous women in the world before the dawn of the internet, she was also exhaustively covered by the media and while most of the stories were positive, she kept a close eye on those that portrayed her in a bad light. While interviewing Princess Diana's friends for my book Diana: The Secrets of Her Style, one of her close confidants told me she kept a scrapbook of all of her press coverage—the good and the bad—and that she read the tabloids over breakfast at Kensington Palace. In fact, she even invited the editors of The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, and the Express for private lunches at the Palace because "she recognized it was a two-way street," my source said.

"Diana was masterful during these meetings," the insider continued. "It gave her a chance to size up the people who were writing about her and gave her the opportunity to personally present her side of the story. That's why she was devastated when there was negative coverage about her. She couldn't understand the mean-spirited nature of it at all."

In an article for The Guardian in October 2019, Diana's former press secretary, Patrick Jephsoncautioned Harry about resorting to lawsuits to protest media coverage and starting an all-out war with the press. "I went through something similar with Harry's mother when we sued the Mirror for sneakily acquired pictures of her working out in a gym. In the heat of battle and gripped by self-righteous indignation, the royal hand reaches resolutely for the mighty sword of truth and… waits. And waits," he wrote. "Unless the head of the offending editor(s) can be served up on a plate with the speed to which royal customers are accustomed, the whole business can start to feel like a bad idea." And for more inside scoop on the royals, check out 3 More Explosive Royal Tell-Alls That Shed New Light on Harry and Meghan.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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