opinion

Harry and Meghan went looking for a "peaceful life" in Canada. The paparazzi were waiting.

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It’s been just three days since Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, struck a deal with the Queen to step back as senior, working members of the Royal family. The couple is now living part-time in Canada, stripped of their HRH titles and divorced from the public purse.

Yet, in an effort to carve out “a more peaceful life”, the Duke and Duchess have found themselves subject to a new kind of scrutiny.

Watch: the Duchess speaks about struggling with scrutiny. Post continues after video.

Video by ITV

On Tuesday, paparazzi photographs were published by British tabloid press that featured the former Suits star walking through a Vancouver Island park with her 8-month-old son, Archie, cradled to her chest.

(Note: Mamamia does not, and will never, publish these or any other paparazzi photos. We don’t support the paparazzi economy.)

According to various media outlets, the couple responded swiftly with letters threatening legal action. Their lawyers reportedly claimed the images were taken without the Duchess’ permission by photographers who concealed themselves from her view. They also claimed others with telephoto lenses have been camped outside their residence.

Paparazzi, armed with long lenses, hiding in bushes, stalking a Royal’s every move. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

When Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, cast herself adrift of the Royal family through her divorce from Prince Charles she was hounded by the tabloid media. As Prince Harry described in a 2017 interview with the BBC, ” [the photographers were] like a pack of dogs, followed her, chased her, harassed her, called her names, spat at her, tried to get a reaction to get that photograph of her lashing out, get her upset.”

Sadly, a similar reality now likely awaits him and his family.

Prince Harry with his mother in 1987. Image: Getty.
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By living in Canada, the pair have stepped out from behind crucial protections afforded to them in the UK.

In Britain, they are beneficiaries of the Editor's Code of Conduct; a set of self-imposed guidelines for British print media enforced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation. These govern magazines and newspapers on various issues, including an individual's right to privacy.

The code was significantly bolstered in the wake of Princess Diana's death to ban journalists and photographers from obtaining material "through intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit". (Such was the criticism of paparazzi who, in August 1997, chased Diana's vehicle into the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris where her driver crashed, killing himself, the 36-year-old Princess and her partner, Dodi Fayed.)

This code is the reason you've likely only ever seen a handful of paparazzi photographs of the Duke and Duchess, or of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, or any other Royal, for that matter.

Instead, the press must rely on the 'Royal Rota': a system that affords most major outlets access to official appearances and events. By stepping down as working Royals, Prince Harry and Meghan are no longer part of that rota.

Listen: Experts explain the Royal Rota, and what will happen now that Meghan and Harry have abandoned it.

Of course, not all journalists and outlets treat the code as gospel.

The Duke and Duchess last year filed lawsuits against The Mail on Sunday for publishing a letter the Duchess wrote to her estranged father, and The Mirror and The Sun over an alleged phone hacking.

In a statement regarding the former suit, Prince Harry wrote, “My deepest fear is history repeating itself. 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. I lost my mother, and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

This came in tandem with a dogged campaign from certain, vocal British journalists, that positioned the Duchess as 'narcissistic’, even ‘diva-ish’.

Now, the paparazzi pack finally have their chance to attack, too. And legal threats or not, they're going to take it.

Feature image: Getty.

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