Prince Harry and Sir Elton John go back a ways, in friendship and in charitable effort, pictured above in 2016 at the International Aids Conference in South Africa. They are, also, associated as celebrities in a joint libel action with Sir Elton’s husband and partner David Furnish, actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost, against Associated Newspapers (ANL), the publisher of London’s redoubtable tabloid, the Daily Mail and its associated titles, including the Mail On Sunday.
The action alleges that employees of the publisher knowingly engaged in unlawful techniques for gathering information on the individual celebrities in the action, including the placing of illegal microphones in automobiles and the hacking of mobile phones and assorted other illegal methods.
The case, argued by celebrity barrister David Sherborne for the group, has been mired for some time by a series of motions by the legal team for the defendant questioning whether the claims were outdated and/or without merit. On Friday, November 10, Judge Matthew Nicklin rendered that defense claim baseless, finally clearing the way to trial.
If the case is not somehow miraculously settled as per the cliche, on the courthouse steps, it will provide a spectacular melange of British jurisprudence, British celebrity, and British journalism-in-action. The historical snapshot that will be presented in their case by the claimants will, first, not be pretty, and its specifics will not be easy for the defendants to refute. Of the group bringing the charges, Prince Harry and Elton John are clearly the two who bear what we might call global celebrity wattage, but neither man has been shy of appearing in court in support of the, for them, successful swordplay of barrister Sherborne to date. That means that they would be only too delighted to keep that ball rolling.
The second thing that means is that Fleet Street will dispatch platoons, if not entire battalions, of fire-eating judicial reporters to that courtroom to dissect the minutiae of the battle, and yes, that will definitely include reporters from the defendant publisher. Their high-stepping in reporting the testimony and judicial thrust-and-parry will be special. Students of the British media can also hope to look forward to former ITV and current Talk TV anchor Piers Morgan, a former Daily Mail editor-at-large during the Trump years who had much back and forth with the Sussexes, weighing in with his considerable quiver of highly barbed verbal gifts.
For Prince Harry’s highly litigious part, it isn’t the first time that he, or his wife, has crossed swords with representatives of this particular publisher. In 2021, Meghan Markle won summary judgement at trial in London against Associated Newspapers for an historical incident of invasion of privacy when the Mail On Sunday and the Mail Online published excerpts of the letter she wrote to her father complaining about his behavior prior to her 2018 wedding with Prince Harry. The Daily Mail was, also, high among the list of London tabloids and other outlets that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle privately blacklisted from participation in any personal, public, or charitable enterprise whose access the couple could control.
In short, there are Shakespearean levels of enmity between the parties of this matter, and, if the stars align, this trial with set loose the flood.