One of the undoubted advantages of not being rich – or, more to the point, famous – is the ability to forget about the existence of tabloid newspapers. The only time I have to be aware of them these days is when I’m caught in a queue at my local supermarket.
Prince Harry, otherwise known as the Duke of Sussex, is not so lucky. You have to pity a man whose entire life, according to his own account, has been harried by the tabloids. Harried Harry, as they might put it. They have a weakness for puns and alliteration.
For the past couple of days, the press has been able to devote even more of its pages to the self-styled ‘spare’ who recently fled to California and, as the Daily Mail maintains, fell into ‘the schmaltzy embrace of Oprah’.
It wasn’t this that annoyed Harry, though, when he read the Mail’s front page recently, so much as the reference to him frequenting ‘the realms of speculation’. It was a quote served to them on a plate by the King’s Counsel no less, a man called Andrew Green who is known affectionately to his colleagues as ‘the Beast’.
The pang Harry felt at this charge was understandable. He is, after all, trying to get some recompense for a lifetime of being the subject of speculation.
Whether he will be able to substantiate any of his claims regarding some 33 articles chosen from countless examples is doubtful. What with burnt phones, deniable blagging and similar examples of the dark arts journalists from Mirror Group Newspapers are alleged to have employed, it will be a miracle equivalent to nailing a jellied eel to the wall.
A long overdue showdown
Nonetheless, this showdown is long overdue.
A feud between Harry (and his wife Meghan Markle) on the one hand and the erstwhile Mirror editor now their critic-in-chief, Piers Morgan, has all the revenge-eaten-cold appeal of the long tussle between Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors, just in time for the tennis season too.
But, oh, the pity of it! For the purposes of the High Court case, a string of old papers has been summoned back from oblivion, along with the dreary puns that the hacks were no doubt so smug about at the time.
In the longer view of history, they appal the soul:
‘Snap.. Harry breaks thumb like William’
‘Rugger off Harry’
‘Harry is a Chelsy fan’
‘Down in the dumped’
And this is just a sample of what they were churning out. If future generations need reminding of the tawdriness in the nation’s recent past, headlines like this ought to be studied in history classes.