Harry became the first senior member of the British royal family to take to the witness box in more than a century on Tuesday, enduring a grueling day of cross-examination in his attempt to bring a reckoning on the more dubious practices of the UK tabloid press.
The prince submitted 33 articles where he alleged that media outlets owned by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) had engaged in unlawful information gathering or fact checking.
However, after the first few exchanges, the rhythm of the cross-examination began to progress along predictable lines. Here are some of the main themes:
* Uncertain timelines: Andrew Green, the barrister representing MGN, began by asking the prince when he had seen each article that he alleged had caused him “distress.” This became Green’s first line of defense. “If you don’t have any recollection of reading the article at the time, how do you say that this article caused you distress?” he asked the Duke of Sussex. Harry repeatedly claimed that he could not remember the first instance he had come across each article, as many of them were written more than 20 years ago.
Instead, Harry argued that the press coverage fed into a “general environment” that played a “destructive role” during his childhood and adolescence. Green, however, tried to press the prince on this point, asking if some of the articles had really caused Harry distress during this time – or if he had only come across them in preparation for this civil case.
* Not just The Mirror: Green tried to demonstrate that MGN newspapers were among many other papers covering the prince’s life – and in many cases simply retold stories that were already “in the public domain.” The barrister often pointed to articles published by The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, and other outlets, to suggest that the Daily Mirror had not engaged in nefarious practices of its own in many instances. Harry conceded that he could see “similarities” between some of these stories. When asked why he had not launched complaints about the outlets that first put the stories into the public domain, Harry said he had not been made aware of each of them.
* “Ask the journalist”: Green pressed Harry on several occasions to specify whose phone he believes was hacked to obtain private information. But most exchanges ended with Harry claiming that Green would have to “ask the journalists” if they had engaged in phone hacking. “I don’t believe as a witness it’s my job to construct the article or instruct which parts were unlawfully obtained or weren’t, the journalist should be doing that,” Harry told the court.
In a more heated moment, Green asked: “Are we, Prince Harry, in the realms of total speculation?” Harry responded: “I don’t believe so.”
The court will return tomorrow, when Green will resume his cross-examination of the prince.