9 bombshell claims from Prince Harry in first witness box showdown

Prince Harry’s decision to become the first royal in 130 years to enter a witness box has revealed a host of claims about his life and relationship with the British press, as he gave five hours of testimony in his blockbuster trial against The Mirror publisher.

In the first day of his cross-examination, the Duke of Sussex was grilled by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) barrister Andrew Green KC over his claims to have been the victim of illegal information-gathering such as phone hacking.

While much of the interrogation on Tuesday focused on the details of 20 out of 33 articles selected to be considered at the trial, the duke also sought to land wider blows against the “bloodstained” tabloid press, its relationship with a “rock bottom” government, and former Mirror editor Piers Morgan.

With Harry returning to the High Court on Wednesday, The Independent has taken a look at the key moments from his first day giving evidence:

The UK’s ‘bloodstained’ press and ‘rock bottom’ government

Launching a wider attack on the tabloids, Harry accused the press of having “blood” staining their “typing fingers”, alleging it was responsible for causing pain, upset and death.

He branded journalists the “mothership of online trolling”, saying: “People have died as a result and people will continue to kill themselves by suicide when they can’t see any other way out.”

Calling on journalists “to expose those people in the media that have stolen or hijacked the privileges and powers of the press”, the royal stoked anger among Tory MPs as he claimed the state of the UK’s press and government were both “at rock bottom”, accusing politicians of being “scared to hold [the media] accountable”.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

James Hewitt paternity rumours ‘aimed at ousting Harry from royal family’

The duke suggested that rumours his real father was Diana’s former lover James Hewitt were aimed at “ousting” him from the royal family.

In his testimony, Harry referred to a 2002 article in The People which reported a bid to steal a sample of the duke’s DNA to check his parentage.

The duke said stories like this “felt very damaging and very real to me” at the time, adding: “Were the newspapers keen to put doubt into the minds of the public so I might be ousted from the royal family?”

Press intrusion into Diana’s life made him feel ‘physically sick’

Prince Harry spoke of his disgust at the way his mother Diana, the Princess of Wales, had been treated.

The duke alleged that there had been eight private investigator payments made in relation to his mother, “which I have only learnt of since bringing my claim”, adding: “This makes me feel physically sick.”

He also referred to letters between Diana and former entertainer Michael Barrymore detailing “secret” meetings just weeks before her untimely death in a Paris car crash while being followed by paparrazi, which were shared with the court on Monday in a bid to show her phone may have been hacked.

Harry said: “The thought of Piers Morgan and his band of journalists earwigging into my mother’s private and sensitive messages, in the same way as they have me, and then having given her a ‘nightmare time’ three months prior to her death in Paris, makes me feel physically sick and even more determined to hold those responsible, including Mr Morgan, accountable for their vile and entirely unjustified behaviour.”

James Hewitt (left) and Diana, Princess of Wales (Getty)
James Hewitt (left) and Diana, Princess of Wales (Getty)

Harry: I’ve always thought Paul Burrell is a ‘two-faced s***’

The duke was challenged in court over discrepancies between his autobiography Spare and his witness statement over whether he had previously wanted to meet with ex-royal butler Paul Burrell, whom he admitted branding a “two-faced s***”.

Harry agreed he would have used the phrase to describe Mr Burrell, with the words appearing in a 2003 article in The People newspaper, which he alleges must have been taken from a voicemail he left for his brother, Prince William.

From the witness box at the High Court, the duke said of his mother’s former butler: “That is how I have always seen him.”

Stories ‘sowed distrust’ between Harry and William

Harry said in his witness statement that a report in The People “accurately” set out his “disagreement” with William, with his brother wanting to meet Mr Burrell and Harry “firmly against” doing so.

Harry told the court: “This kind of article seeds distrust between brothers. Those are words that I used and I certainly left voicemails on my brother’s phone.”

A 2003 article in The People focused on a potential meeting between Harry, William and Paul Burrell (Court handout/PA Wire)
A 2003 article in The People focused on a potential meeting between Harry, William and Paul Burrell (Court handout/PA Wire)

But Mr Green read out an excerpt from Spare showing Harry had written: “It made my blood boil. I wanted to fly home to confront him”, and that it was a “shame” that a meeting did not happen at that time.

Harry told the court: “The time gap between the original article and when I wrote this book was rather a large gap between the two”, adding: “I honestly can’t remember whether I wanted a meeting or not.”

Duke accuses Piers Morgan of intimidating him and Meghan Markle

Harry alleged that former Mirror editor Piers Morgan had been intimidating him and his wife since he launched legal proceedings against the publisher, saying the presenter had subjected he and his wife “to a barrage of horrific personal attacks”.

Asked about Prince Harry’s remarks by journalists outside his home on Tuesday evening, the presenter claimed he “didn’t see it”, adding: “But I wish him luck with his privacy campaign [and] look forward to reading it in his next book.”

Illegal drug-taking stories caused ‘extreme worry’ about being expelled from Eton

The duke said he was "extremely worried" about being expelled from Eton after reports in the Mirror and now-defunct News of the World claimed he had taken illegal drugs and detailed what he told his father, now King Charles.

Harry said: “This article, along with the News Of The World coverage, had a huge impact on my life. Eton had a zero drugs policy in place and I was extremely worried I was going to be expelled.”

Mr Green asked Harry if he accepted it was a matter of public interest someone in line to the throne was allegedly taking drug, to which he replied that there was a difference “between public interest and what interests the public”, adding of the story: “Every element of it was distressing”.

Harry: ‘Utterly vile’ press tactics saw me labelled a ‘thicko’

Describing how he believes royals are “cast into a specific role” which the tabloids feel “[suits] them best and which sells as many newspapers as possible”, Harry said: “You’re then either the ‘playboy prince’, the ‘failure’, the ‘dropout’ or, in my case, the ‘thicko’, the ‘cheat’, the ‘underage drinker’, the ‘irresponsible drug taker’, the list goes on.

“As a teenager and in my early 20s, I ended up feeling as though I was playing up to a lot of the headlines and stereotypes that they wanted to pin on me mainly because I thought that, if they are printing this rubbish about me and people were believing it, I may as well ‘do the crime’, so to speak.

“It was a downward spiral, whereby the tabloids would constantly try and coax me, a ‘damaged’ young man, into doing something stupid that would make a good story and sell lots of newspapers. Looking back on it now, such behaviour on their part is utterly vile.”

Duke accused of entering ‘realms of total speculation’

The barrister for MGN repeatedly sought to display a lack of evidence for Harry’s claims as they pored over newspaper articles he claimed had been sourced illegally, including a Mirror report in 2000 about Harry breaking his thumb.

The duke admitted he was not aware that the information about his thumb had been reported by the Press Association news agency the day before the Mirror story, which quoted a St James’s Palace spokesperson, and by the BBC.

Yet Harry said he believed information in the Mirror article which was obtained through unlawful means included a paragraph stating that doctors had told him he could not play football for a few weeks, which had meant he was left unable to “trust the doctors” at his school.

Harry said he believed the story by then royal editor Jane Kerr was a result of unlawful information-gathering, claiming it was “either probably herself or she got someone else to do her dirty work for her”

Asked whose phone he believed was hacked to find out the information, he said: “The doctor’s? I am not sure”, before denying Mr Green’s suggestion that he had entered “the realms of total speculation”.