Duchess Meghan of Sussex may have been smiling when she was snapped this week walking her dogs with baby Archie in Canada, but she was not amused by the paparazzi pictures.
On Tuesday, London lawyers for Prince Harry and his wife, the former Meghan Markle, sent cease-and-desist emails to British media outlets threatening legal action if they buy, publish or continue to publish what they consider intrusive pictures of Meghan.
Buckingham Palace confirmed to USA TODAY that the Sussexes’ legal team “issued a legal notice to UK press, TV and photo agencies, concerning the use of paparazzi agency photos.”
The snaps, which appeared on the front page of The Sun and other British media outlets, showed Meghan with 8-month-old Archie in a front baby carrier and the two Sussex dogs on leashes as they walked in a wooded area on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, while security officers trailed them.
Meanwhile, new pictures emerged of the borrowed luxury waterside mansion where the Sussexes have been living since Christmas on Vancouver Island. The pictures were obtained from a boat on the inlet where the house is located.
This latest skirmish in the war of the Sussexes against the British media shows that their tense relationship with the paparazzi is not abating anytime soon, despite their recently approved exit as senior members of the British royal family and their departure to Canada in search of more “peace” and privacy.
USA TODAY reached out to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s lawyers from the London firm Schillings for a comment but did not receive a response. The law firm is known for its aggressive stance against what its British clients view as media misbehavior. “They are much disliked by media organizations,” says Mark Stephens, a leading media lawyer at the Howard Kennedy firm in London.
It is not clear yet, Stephens says, whether the pictures taken in Canada of Meghan were “unlawfully” obtained under Canadian privacy laws. Even if they were lawfully obtained in Canada, then it might still be unlawful to publish them in Britain under British privacy laws, which are strict, he says.
Harry and Meghan have retained Schillings (with their own money) to sue The Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Mail on Sunday in two separate lawsuits alleging copyright infringement, phone hacking and invasion of privacy. Stephens and other legal and media experts predict Harry and Meghan will likely win their lawsuits but they could be Pyrrhic victories, unlikely to rein in the unrestrained practices of Britain’s famously rowdy media rags.
Already, the paparazzi shots of Meghan have been published all over the world as Harry remained in London last week to negotiate with his family the terms of his and Meghan’s future new roles, scheduled to take effect in the spring.
There was Meghan last week, wrapped up against the Canadian cold, hopping on a seaplane to fly from Vancouver Island to Vancouver city to visit the staff of a women’s shelter. There she was again, wearing a black cap and sunglasses, driving herself to the Victoria International Airport on the island to pick up her Pilates instructor pal, Heather Dorak, who attended her wedding to Harry in May 2018 at Windsor Castle.
On Monday, the paparazzi found her walking her dogs – black Labrador Oz and beagle Guy – on a path through woods near the luxury mansion where she and Harry and baby Archie had been holed up over Christmas.
The Sun and the Daily Mail, among others, featured those pictures on Monday morning; later, photographers were waiting when Harry’s plane touched down at the island airport Monday night, capturing photos and video of him exiting the small jet, a black cap shoved down over his ginger hair, as he jumped in a black minivan to rejoin Meghan and Archie at their waterside mansion.
It’s not clear if Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, thought the world’s media would leave them alone after the last two weeks of upheaval, family drama, recriminations and regrets over their abrupt announcement that they were stepping back from their roles as senior royals and proposing to create new hybrid roles for themselves.
They didn’t get all that they wanted but they got enough. Now they’re royals-without-HRHs: They’re still members of the family, he’s still sixth in the line of succession, and still and always will be “much loved,” as Queen Elizabeth II put it in her slightly melancholy statements supporting her grandson and his wife’s desire to start a new life elsewhere.
In a farewell speech at a private charity dinner on Sunday night in London, Harry expressed “great sadness” that “it has come to this,” and explicitly blamed the media as a “powerful force” for why they wanted out of the royal life he has always known..
“The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly,” Harry said. “It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always gone at it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option. What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away. And we certainly aren’t walking away from you.”