The Behind-The-Scenes Reaction To Meghan And Harry’s Bombshell Legal Action

Meghan's lawsuit and Harry's emotional open letter were unprecedented. Guy Pewsey reports on a week of royal drama.

Meghan and Harry

by grazia |
Updated on

It was 10 days of royal perfection. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with adorable baby Archie in tow, charmed Africa on their first royal tour as a family.Then, without warning, a bombshell: the announcement that Meghan was launching a legal battle against the Mail On Sunday, which reproduced a letter she wrote to her father.

The news wasaccompanied by an emotional statement, written by Harry and published on a newly set-up website, separate from their official one. After more than a week of smiling public appearances in South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Malawi, the announcement shocked both the Palace and media, but sources tell Grazia that this is a sign of things to come as the couple mount their fight back.

Harry and Meghan had boarded their flight to South Africa in the knowledge that the pressure was on. ‘Ahead of the tour, I was told by a senior Palace source that there was a lot riding on their trip,’ says Katie Nicholl, one of the press team that accompanied them. ‘It had to be a success, and the Sussexes needed to turn their public image around.’ This followed a summer of royal controversies, over everything from their house renovation to using private jets.

So ending the tour with such a statement might seem a surprisingly divisive move, but a source tells Grazia that it was an emotional reaction, rather than one of pragmatism. That was certainly evident in the letter, with Harry writing, ‘I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long,’ and, ‘Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people.’

So what had prompted the move? ‘Harry and Meghan are kept briefed throughout the tour on how the public is responding,’ says our source. ‘So they were aware of how positively the media was depicting them. After a year of stinging criticism, such a turnaround was the last straw; they found it grossly hypocritical and felt that they had to speak out.’ Harry was, Grazia understands, asked to reconsider the move by senior staff on his team – they feared that the good work achieved during the tour would be eclipsed – but he chose to speak out regardless.

While Palace aides have said the timing was to do with legal factors, sources close to the prince have told Grazia that Harry wanted the statement to be released before their return to Britain, for maximum impact. It is also possible that Schillings, the legal firm renowned for celebrity clients, which Meghan chose to represent her instead of the royal family’s usual firm, Harbottle & Lewis, was also keen to make the announcement while the world’s cameras were still fixed upon them.

‘Harry is totally focused on Meghan,’ a Palace source explains. ‘He will do anything to protect her, and feels responsible for the press attacking her.’ For him, her opinion surpasses anyone else’s, and that goes right to the top. ‘Remember, he wouldn’t shave off his beard for the wedding, even though the Queen asked him to, because Meghan hadn’t seen him without one.’

For Harry, the echoes of his mother’s death grew too loud. ‘I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,’ he wrote. ‘I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.’

‘Harry wears his emotions on his face,’ says Angela Levin, who accompanied him on his royal duties for a year, and has met him at his old home at Kensington Palace. ‘Watching him, you see a charming, charismatic person. But then a cloud comes over. He is almost haunted. He is terrified of losing Meghan the same way he lost his mother.’ Ironically, however, PR Mark Borkowski believes Diana would have advised against these actions. ‘Diana knew more about media than any PR,’ he says.

Prince Charles is said to be ‘surprised’ by the outburst, but will stand by the couple.

‘You’ve got to play a poker game.’ Indeed the royal family’s usual attitude to scrutiny is: ‘never complain, never explain’. ‘I’m astonished that Harry released the letter now,’ adds Angela. ‘The tour has had rave reviews. Meghan has been seen at her best. Archie has been cooed over. But no Harry has changed the focus entirely.’

Journalists in South Africa reporting on the tour say the atmosphere changed overnight. ‘The day after the bombshell, it was awkward and uncomfortable, and it was tense between Harry and the press pack,’ a source says. ‘There was a sense of disbelief about it all, especially the timing.’ A royal reporter, who asked not to be named, got the impression that ‘most of [the royal staff ] did not know this was coming’

The same is thought to be the case for Palace aides, who were informed of the High Court case, but had no idea that Harry would release a public statement. ‘The consensus in the Palace is that the statement is far too emotional,’ a source tells us. ‘They believe the royal family are supposed to conduct themselves in a certain way, and not through emotional outbursts. It has not gone down very well.’

But higher up the ranks, the view is more nuanced. Prince Charles is said to be ‘surprised’ by the outburst, but will stand by the couple. ‘He adores Meghan,’ a source says. ‘He thinks she’s a wonderful influence on Harry.’ Meghan’s own father, Thomas, is yet to address the controversy: sources tell Grazia that he has pledged to keep quiet in the hope of an eventual reconciliation.

Now that the bombshell has dropped, the couple will ponder their next steps. Palace aides say that so much planning has gone into the tour, there hasn’t been much time to think through the next few months, during which the spotlight will shift to William and Kate anyway, as they head to Pakistan. This will offer Harry and Meghan some respite. Pursuing the lawsuit will take up much of Meghan’s time, but she is unlikely to back down. ‘Harry is defiant,’ a source says. ‘If the safety of his family is put into question, then he will move mountains to protect them.

As such, royal insiders aren’t surprised by continued rumours Meghan and Harry are looking for respite by spending more time abroad. ‘They have apparently sounded out sources in Botswana about buying a lodge there,’ says Katie. ‘And with Meghan keen for Archie to spend more time in America, a second home in the States is something they are said to be seriously considering.’

Nevertheless, with the case set to run and run, Harry and Meghan’s fight is only just beginning.

Take a look at Meghan's royal tour outfits:


Meghan Markle Africa Royal Tour Outfits - Grazia

Meghan Markle Africa outfits1 of 12

House of Nonie Trench Dress

Meghan recycled this gorgeous dress, for a meeting with Graça Machel, the widow of Nelson Mandela. The last time Meghan wore it, she visited London's Southbank Centre with Harry, where they looked at a display honoring the former president on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Meghan Markle Africa outfits2 of 12

Co Belted Midi Shirt Dress

Meghan keeps it chic for her last day on the tour in this gorgeous belted shirt dress! The Duchess was visiting the Youth Employment Services (also known as the Yes organization) in Johannesburg, which is dedicated to creating new work opportunities in the area.

Meghan Markle Africa outfits3 of 12

Room 502 Imperial Cotton Shirt Dress

For a visit to Action Aid on October 1, Meghan wore a cotton dress by sustainable brand Room 502, which... you guessed it, is now sold out!

Meghan Markle Africa outfits4 of 12
CREDIT: Getty Images

Banana Republic Double-Breasted Trench Dress

Meghan started the day in a Banana Republic Double-Breasted trench in khaki, which is now sold out in that colour and a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes.

Meghan Markle Africa outfits5 of 12
CREDIT: Instagram/@sussexroyal

Aritzia Wilfred Shirt Dress

For a visit to Victoria Yards in Johannesburg, Meghan wore a navy Wilfred Shirt Dress by Aritzia, and a pair of orange 'The Editor' slingbacks by Everlane, which are both still available to buy.

Meghan Markle Africa outfits6 of 12
CREDIT: Getty Images

Everlane Japanese Go Weave Essential Jumpsuit

Also on day three, Meghan wore a £100 Everlane jumpsuit, Manolo Blahnik BB pointy pumps in black and a pair of £174 GAS Bijoux Gormette Circle earrings.

Meghan Markle Africa outfits7 of 12
CREDIT: Getty Images

Club Monaco Dremah Silk Dress

Day three begins! And Meghan Markle starts the day with a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu wearing a Club Monaco Dremah silk dress, and in case you're wondering Baby Archie is wearing £12.99 dungarees from H&M.

Meghan Markle Africa outfits8 of 12
CREDIT: Getty Images

Martin Grant striped maxi dress

For an evening reception in Cape Town, Meghan Markle rewore a sold out Martin Grant striped maxi dress she wore on the previous royal tour, and a pair of Nina Bosch Flora Leaf earrings which are still available to buy for £400.

Meghan Markle Africa outfits9 of 12
CREDIT: Getty Images

STAUD Millie Dress

While visiting the Auwal Mosque in Cape Town, Meghan Markle wore a khaki STAUD dress which is available for pre-order, a cream headscarf and a pair of £85 'Sally Flats' by Sam Edelman

Meghan Markle Africa outfits10 of 12
CREDIT: Getty Images

Madewell Jean Jacket

For a visit to NGO Waves for Change at Monwabisi Beach, Meghan rewore a £113 Madewell jean jacket, J. Crew Perfect Shirt in Irish Linen which is now sold out, black jeans and a pair of Brother Vellies 'Hurraches' flats, which are £157

Meghan Markle Africa outfits11 of 12
CREDIT: Getty Images

Veronica Beard 'Cary' Dress

Keeping her £80 Castaner wedges on, Meghan changed into a dress she's also worn on the previous royal tour: the 'Cary' dress by US brand Veronica Beard, which is now sold out.

Meghan Markle Africa outfits12 of 12
CREDIT: Getty Images

Mayamiko Dalitso Maxi Wrap Dress

Starting off the tour in style, Meghan Markle wore a Dalitso Maxi Wrap Dress by Malawi-based brand Mayamiko, which is now sold out. And a pair of 'Carina' espadrilles from Castaner which she wore on the previous royal tour, which are £80 and still available to buy.

READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About Meghan Markle

READ MORE: Meghan Markle Says The Royal Tour Was Based Around Baby Archie's Feeding Times: 'They Have Been Kind To Me'

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