The Duke and Duchess of Sussex don’t like the tabloid press very much, and have launched a flurry of lawsuits against it.
Was that such a good idea?
Reading Prince Harry’s statement on the ‘SussexOfficial’ website, it’s hard not to be moved and, to the extent that they have been the victims of malignant reporting, they have my full sympathy.
But in a Western democracy, a free press, for all its imperfections, is a cornerstone of the way we live. As recipients of large amounts of public money, pointed questions are par for the course, and it’s notoriously difficult to know where the line is drawn between justified criticism and bullying.
In taking legal action, there are likely to be few winners, apart from the lawyers. Cases take years to resolve, public sympathies are volatile, the witness stand a minefield and the whole process drains resources, both emotional and financial.
Writing in last Sunday’s Observer, Patrick Jephson (Princess Diana’s private secretary) recounted one such lawsuit, which despite going their way, proved to be a “deflating” experience. He went on to say: “It occurred to me then that an attack of cold feet at the beginning of the exercise might have been a blessing in disguise.”
Expecting completely reasonable coverage from columnists paid to be anything but is an exercise in madness.
My advice to the royal couple: rise above it.
The first verse of the Serenity Prayer contains good advice:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Because, sadly, for Harry and Meghan, bitchy columnists and social media trolls are two things that they will never be able to change.