Prince Harry Labels Tabloid Apology Incorrect in Attack on 'Baseless' Story

Prince Harry has accused a U.K. tabloid of printing a "baseless, false and defamatory" article about his commitment to the military—before publishing a misleading apology.

The Mail on Sunday ran an article in October claiming he had turned his back on the Royal Marines since stepping down as their Captain General, in order to pursue a new life in America, outside the royal family.

The report suggested the Duke of Sussex had not been in touch with the commandos since March—which the newspaper now accepts is false.

The Mail on Sunday is the same organization wife Meghan Markle is suing for breach of privacy and copyright over a letter she sent her father.

The prince's lawyer claimed the allegations would "unfairly tarnish and diminish" armed forces' charities that he works with in a strongly worded court statement today.

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle at Baseball Game
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees baseball game held in support of the Invictus Games Foundation, at London Stadium on June 29, 2019 in London, England. The prince donated damages from a libel claim against the Mail on Sunday to the charity. Peter Nicholls - WPA Pool/Getty

Jenny Afia, Harry's attorney, told the High Court in London: "All of these allegations are false, as the Mail on Sunday and the MailOnline have now accepted, albeit after considerable damage was already done.

"The truth is that The Duke of Sussex has made repeated and concerted efforts to continue to support the Royal Marines and other members of the Armed Forces and their families over the past year, even though he was required to step back from his formal military roles in the 'year of transition' during which he must take a reduced role as a member of the Royal Family."

The Mail on Sunday settled with Harry out of court in December and published an apology stating the prince had "been in contact in a private capacity with individuals in the military including in the Royal Marines to offer informal support."

The correction added that the newspaper had made a donation to charity the Invictus Games Foundation—though this appears to have sparked a new dispute with the royal.

The prince's lawyer said the original story was given greater prominence in the paper, taking up a full right-hand page, where it was likely to be read by more people.

Afia told the court: "In stark contrast, the apology had no such prominence. It was published at the bottom of page 2 of the Mail on Sunday, a left-hand page, on 27 December 2020 under the generic heading 'Corrections & Clarifications.' There was no headline."

She added: "One of the reasons why The Duke has had to make a statement in open court is because the [Mail on Sunday] used wording which significantly underplayed the seriousness of the accusations made against him.

"It did not expressly acknowledge that the allegations were false.

"Furthermore, the apology incorrectly stated that the [Mail on Sunday] had made a donation to the Invictus Games Foundation.

"Although the [Mail on Sunday] had, when making its settlement proposal, offered to directly donate The Duke's damages, The Duke wanted to bequest any damages received to Invictus Games Foundation himself so he could feel something good had come out of the situation.

"Consequently he personally is donating the damages from this case to the Invictus Games Foundation."

During the remote hearing, Afia said the prince agreed to the wording of the apology "so as not to unnecessarily protract the litigation" despite his concerns about "the content and prominence."

A correction published by the newspaper last year read: "An article on 25 October 2020 reported that Prince Harry had been accused by a top general of turning his back on the Royal Marines since withdrawing from his military roles in March and that, in an apparent snub to the Armed Forces, he had failed to reply to a letter from Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff.

"We now understand that Harry has been in contact in a private capacity with individuals in the military including in the Royal Marines to offer informal support since March and that whilst he did not initially receive the letter from Lord Dannatt referred to in the article due to administrative issues he has since replied on becoming aware of it.

"We apologize to Prince Harry and have made a donation to the Invictus Games Foundation."