Britain’s Prince Harry confirmed on Tuesday he is dating US actress Meghan Markle as he blasted the racist “wave of abuse and harassment” directed towards her since their relationship began.
In what Kensington Palace admitted was an “unusual” statement, the prince, 32, urged media to refrain from “further damage” as he hit out at the “racial undertones” of newspaper coverage.
Harry also took issue with the “outright racism and sexism” on social media directed against mixed-race Californian television actress Markle, 35, best known for her role as Rachel Zane in the US TV drama “Suits”.
“The past week has seen a line crossed,” said the statement from Harry’s communications secretary Jason Knauf.
“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm.
“He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game — it is her life and his.”
Ms Markle’s mother is black and her father is white.
A grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, Harry is fifth in line to the throne behind his father Prince Charles, brother Prince William, and William’s children Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
He spent a decade in the British army, serving on two tours of Afghanistan.
Since leaving the military in June last year, he has focused on the Invictus Games, a Paralympics-style sports event he founded for wounded service personnel. The Sunday Express newspaper reported that the prince met Markle in May while promoting the Toronto 2017 event. The statement said Harry knew he led a privileged life and felt lucky to have warm public support.
DEVELOP THICK SKIN
While aware of curiosity about his private life, “he has never been comfortable with this, but he has tried to develop a thick skin about the level of media interest,” the statement said.
In 2012, royal officials complained to press regulators after pictures emerged of Harry partying naked in a Las Vegas hotel room.
But Kensington Palace on Tuesday said Harry had rarely taken formal action over “fictional stories” and had tried to develop a “professional relationship” with the media, focused on his work.
However, recent coverage had gone too far, the statement said, citing “the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments”.
It also said there had been “nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers”.
Reporters and photographers have attempted to gain “illegal entry” to Markle’s home, while her ex-boyfriend had been offered “substantial bribes” by newspapers and “nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life” had been living under “bombardment”, said Knauf.
In a front-page story in The Sun last week, Markle’s sister called her “shallow”.
Both Harry and William, 34, are acutely sensitive about media intrusion.
Their mother Diana, princess of Wales, who had a stormy relationship with the media, died aged 36 in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by photographers.
Normally the palaces do not comment on the royals’ private lives and Tuesday’s statement was the first confirmation that Harry has been in a relationship for several months.
“He has asked for this statement to be issued in the hopes that those in the press who have been driving this story can pause and reflect before any further damage is done,” said Knauf.
Kensington Palace did not comment when Harry split with socialite Cressida Bonas in 2014, or when William split with Kate — now his wife — in 2007.
Harry previously had a seven-year, on-off relationship with Chelsy Davy, the daughter of a Zimbabwe safari operator, between 2004 and 2011.