Friends of Prince Harry have long remarked on his impetuous nature.
They will tell you that Harry is very much an act-first, think-later kind of guy.
His wife Meghan Markle, while not impatient, is a woman who likes swift and decisive action, as the book Finding Freedom made clear. The incremental nature of committee-based royal decision-making was always likely to be a grind for the Sussexes.
Prince William, by contrast, has appeared to reconcile himself to the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race credo of the royal establishment. He and his wife Kate Middleton now follow the traditional royal strategy of doing nothing to scare the horse; they prize caution over making a splash.
The contrasting personalities of both couples have fed into many aspects of their lives, but are currently are most publicly to be witnessed in their ongoing wars against the media.
Both the Sussexes and the Cambridges hate the media as much as each other, but they wage the conflict in very different ways.
On Wednesday this week, by a quirk of coincidental timing, the contrasting strategies were neatly laid out for all to see.
Prince William issued a measured statement endorsing the BBC’s decision to commission a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the Martin Bashir interview with Princess Diana 25 years ago.
In a statement issued by Kensington Palace, the duke said: “The independent investigation is a step in the right direction. It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time.”
It subsequently emerged that he had been liaising with the BBC about the best way forward for the previous two weeks.
Meanwhile, just hours earlier, on the Sussex side, Meghan was forced into an embarrassing admission that yes, she had in fact supplied personal and private information to a friend and told the friend they could use it to brief Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, the authors of the book Finding Freedom.
In new documents lodged with the High Court as part of her privacy and copyright case against the publishers of the Mail on Sunday, Meghan’s lawyers revealed she was concerned that “her father’s narrative”—that she had abandoned him and cut off contact—might be repeated, prompting her to intervene.
Meghan says she gave her version of events to someone else to pass on, so “the true position… could be communicated to the authors to prevent any further misrepresentation.”
The idea that Meghan and Harry or their surrogates had no input into the book Finding Freedom has long been regarded by most observers as completely laughable.
Yet, as recently as September, the duchess’s legal team were in court documents strenuously denying allegations that she collaborated on the book, as “false”, “fantastical” and “a conspiracy theory.”
They argued that instead of getting information from confidential sources, all the authors did was “collate a vast amount of scraps of information.”
The Mail responded with a little collating of its own: a long list of details from the book, such as her innermost thoughts, which they said could only have come from Meghan and Harry, or sources authorized by them. And if these stories were all made up, they asked, then why had Harry and Meghan not objected to their publication?
However, the amended court documents reveal that the duchess did in fact authorize a contact to brief the book’s authors so that they could convey “the true position.”
Meghan continues to insist in the new documents that she did not speak to Scobie or Durand about the book, never meeting with them or being interviewed formally or informally.
Unhappily, however, an acknowledgment in the book itself reads: “We have spoken with close friends of Harry and Meghan, royal aides and palace staff (past and present), the charities and organizations they have built long-lasting relationships with and, when appropriate, the couple themselves.”
The overall impression is of William and Kate acting with calm aplomb, while Harry and Meghan shoot from the hip, and then have to dot i’s and cross t’s afterwards. (Representatives for both families declined to comment to The Daily Beast for this article.)
Indeed, that Harry and Meghan may have rushed into the action with undue haste has been suggested by many observers since the moment in October last year, when, while concluding a tour of Southern Africa, Harry dramatically announced that Meghan was suing Associated Newspapers, the publishers of the hated Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, over an article that had appeared in the Mail on Sunday replicating parts of a private letter that Meghan had written to her father.
The extraordinary declaration of all-out war on the press stunned observers, not least because it completely overshadowed their tour.
Prima facie, it looked like Meghan had a watertight case; the copyright of a letter belongs to the author, not the recipient, so the fact that Meghan’s father had given it to the Mail and asked them to publish it was irrelevant. And regardless of copyright, how could publishing a private letter be anything other than an invasion of privacy?
The Mail, however, have steadily unpicked that defense, alleging that the letter was not a true private communication if, as they claim, Meghan had herself leaked parts of it to the press (which she still denies) and written it with the assistance of her press officer (Meghan admitted in the new documentation that her press officer read it and offered ideas, but denies he wrote it.)
The retired star libel lawyer, David Hooper, author of the seminal tomes Public Scandal, Odium and Contempt and Reputations Under Fire told The Daily Beast that he believes Meghan and Harry may have “miscalculated” by “thinking that they could, by the exercise of muscle, overwhelm the Mail on Sunday. The Mail have got to get things pretty badly wrong before they cave in.”
Hooper predicts that while a trial “might not be as bad for them as it was for Johnny Depp” they should steel themselves for a “tawdry” courtroom ordeal in which they are likely to be portrayed as “second-rate celebrities rather than the popular members of the royal family that they were.”
Hooper says that, in his opinion, the legal arguments are finely balanced, and it is hard to confidently predict a convincing victory, an advisable position from which to proceed when considering the expensive business of legal action.
Interestingly enough, there was a development in Harry’s phone hacking case this week as well. Harry is claiming damages of more than $260,000 saying he was targeted from the age of 12 and that he ended up questioning his relationships with close friends and family before having a complete breakdown in trust as a result of the articles.
That’s the kind of case Harry is right to pursue, Hooper says. “If it is right that his phones were hacked, and the facts are not in dispute, if it was done from when he was a schoolboy, and going out with girls, and people were taking messages off his answerphone, he is in for a lot of damages.”