Revealed: The inside story of how Harry spun himself into a fight with the MoS … and a £750,000 legal bill

In the end, Prince Harry’s embarrassing defeat in his libel action against The Mail on Sunday was confirmed last Friday by a solemn legal notice bearing a nine-word statement. ‘The Duke of Sussex discontinues all of this claim.’

And so ended case number QB-2022-000595 in the High Court of Justice King’s Bench Division.

It came suddenly – and tellingly – just hours before a deadline for Harry’s lawyers to disclose a list of documents.

These might have included emails or other messages and could eventually have been aired in a libel trial centring on claims that he was responsible for a ‘masterclass in the art of spinning’ designed to mislead the public.

When and how did this at times puzzling dispute that dragged on needlessly then foundered so abruptly, leaving Harry facing a £750,000 legal bill, actually take root?

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When and how did this at times puzzling dispute that dragged on needlessly then foundered so abruptly, leaving Harry facing a £750,000 legal bill, actually take root?

Duke of Sussex arrives at the Rolls Building of the High Court in London

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Duke of Sussex arrives at the Rolls Building of the High Court in London

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Invictus Games in Düsseldorf in September 2023

What the documents reveal we will now probably never know.

So when and how did this at times puzzling dispute that dragged on needlessly then foundered so abruptly, leaving Harry facing a £750,000 legal bill, actually take root?

The flower-scented Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace on July 2, 2021, is as good a place as any to start.

As Harry and William ambled around the gardens that day it was almost possible to imagine that all was right in their world.

The sun was shining. The roses, tulips, lavender and dahlias were in bloom. And to gladden hearts, the brothers were chatting amiably, occasionally even laughing.

The significance of Harry¿s drastic legal action could not be overstated. Never before had a member of the Royal Family brought a case against the Government

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The significance of Harry’s drastic legal action could not be overstated. Never before had a member of the Royal Family brought a case against the Government

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex walks outside the Rolls Building of the High Court in London

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex walks outside the Rolls Building of the High Court in London

Whispers of a rapprochement, though, were off-target.

This was the two princes putting on a unified show as they unveiled a statue of their mother, Diana, at her former home on what would have been her 60th birthday.

Harry’s geniality in the garden masked growing anger. And that day he had reason to be more het up than usual.

On his last visit home, for Prince Philip’s funeral, he was met on the Heathrow tarmac by Scotland Yard protection officers. This time there were none.

The day before the statue unveiling he attended a charity event and afterwards was chased by paparazzi – or as his lawyers put it, ‘his security was compromised due to the absence of police protection’.

It was with this in mind that, two months later, the Duke threatened the Government with legal action over its decision to withdraw his taxpayer-funded security, something The Mail on Sunday later discovered from a well-informed source and revealed in a world exclusive story.

Worth noting at this point is the existence of a February 2020 letter to the Duke informing him that as he was no longer a working Royal he would not receive publicly funded police protection.

Instead it would be provided on a case-by-case basis depending on the circumstances.

So the absence of police bodyguards when he flew in for the statue unveiling should really not have surprised him.

The significance of Harry’s drastic legal action could not be overstated. Never before had a member of the Royal Family brought a case against the Government.

Before publication of our story, the paper’s assistant editor Kate Mansey had emailed Harry’s lawyers, Schillings, seeking comment.

One might have expected Schillings to seize the chance to put its case.

After all, the firm states on its website that it works closely with clients to help them establish their ‘true narrative’ – a phrase that would doubtless resonate with the California-based Sussexes.

Kate Mansey revealed that Harry tried to keep details of his legal battle to reinstate police protection secret from the public. Pictured, Harry and Meghan with their family

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Kate Mansey revealed that Harry tried to keep details of his legal battle to reinstate police protection secret from the public. Pictured, Harry and Meghan with their family

Harry¿s lawyers were so confident that they asked Mr Justice Nicklin to have the libel case ruled in the Duke¿s favour without even having a trial

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Harry’s lawyers were so confident that they asked Mr Justice Nicklin to have the libel case ruled in the Duke’s favour without even having a trial

Neither Schillings nor Harry and Meghan’s Archewell organisation bothered to reply. Not that either were idle.

Our presses began rolling on Saturday January 15 2022, and the story first appeared on MailOnline at 10.12pm that night.

Six minutes later, the Press Association news agency, having been briefed in advance by Harry’s camp, reported that the Duke had offered ‘to pay personally for UK police protection’ and quoted his lawyer saying: ‘He remains willing to cover the cost of security.’

For several reasons, this caused bemusement in the Mail’s Kensington HQ.

For one thing it was odd that Harry’s camp was withholding information from this newspaper that it was sharing with others.

Stranger still was Harry’s belief that he could buy the services of the police.

Never in the recent history of this nation, which follows the rule of law, had an individual ever done so.

As a former Minister would later note, ‘The police are not a commodity to buy like a packet of biscuits’.

The Press Association report went further. It said that the Duke of Sussex had filed a claim for a judicial review against a Home Office decision not to allow him to personally pay for police protection for himself and his family.

At a Sandringham summit held in January 2020 to thrash out Harry and Meghan’s exit from the UK, the Duke says he made an offer to pay for his own security.

It was ignored. Present at the meeting were the late Queen, Charles, William and officials of the Royal Household.

However, no such offer to pay was made to Ravec, the Home Office committee that reviews Royal security.

Nor was it mentioned in the letters that Harry’s lawyers sent to the Home Office before launching his legal action in September 2021.

In fact, court papers state that in April 2020, in an email to the Queen’s Private Secretary Sir Edward Young, Harry ‘made clear at the [Sandringham] meeting that he and his wife were not in a position to privately fund security arrangements until they were independently earning’.

Prince Harry enters through the rear loading dock of the Beverly Hilton Hotel

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Prince Harry enters through the rear loading dock of the Beverly Hilton Hotel

The Duchess of Sussex attend the Ms. Foundation Women of Vision Awards

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The Duchess of Sussex attend the Ms. Foundation Women of Vision Awards

In the days after our story broke, the MoS’s political editor Glen Owen met with senior Home Office sources, who expressed anger and surprise angry at Harry’s actions.

‘Like other members of the public, he and his wife are not able to hire armed cops at will – no how much they offer to pay,’ one source told him.

‘We don’t allow people to wander the streets with guns here.’

In a briefing document sent to journalists – but withheld from The Mail on Sunday – an unnamed spokesman for the Sussexes had written: ‘The UK Home Office ignored pleas for more help and greater flexibility.’

They went on to say that this led the Duke to apply ‘for permission to bring judicial review proceedings’ against the then Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The following month the MoS published the story that prompted Harry to sue for libel.

In it, Kate Mansey revealed that Harry tried to keep details of his legal battle to reinstate police protection secret from the public.

And she went on to write that when the MoS revealed that he was suing, ‘his spin doctors swung into action, briefing journalists that Harry was being denied the right to pay for bodyguards’.

This, said Harry, unfairly accused him of trying to mislead the public.

The report added that High Court documents showed no such offer to pay for protection was made in the Duke’s initial ‘pre-action’ letters to the Home Office, suggesting he expected British taxpayers to cover it.

‘The revelations are a crushing rebuttal to Harry’s initial public statement that implied he had always been willing to foot the bill,’ said the story.

This, then, was Harry seeking to confuse the mainstream media’s response to the story, which, as the MoS pointed out, was ironic given the Duke now has a role with a Silicon Valley firm tackling ‘misinformation’ online.

Nevertheless, Harry’s lawyers were so confident that they asked Mr Justice Nicklin to have the libel case ruled in the Duke’s favour without even having a trial.

But last month, the judge rejected this request, ruling the newspaper had a ‘real prospect’ of demonstrating at trial that the Royal ‘was responsible for attempting to mislead and confuse the public as to the true position’.

His ruling was a blow to Harry and meant the case progressed toward a trial, that was due to be staged between May 17 and July 31 this year.

This, then, was the position when shortly after 10am on Friday it emerged that Harry had decided to abandon the case at the last minute, avoiding the scrutiny of a court testing the truth of his claims.

Meanwhile, Harry’s judicial review case against the Home Office over police bodyguards is still rumbling on – along with cases against publishers of The Sun and Mail titles.

Prince Harry

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