Duke of Sussex argued he could not pay for private security until he had a job

harry - REUTERS/Toby Melville
harry - REUTERS/Toby Melville

The Duke of Sussex argued that he and his wife, Meghan, could not afford to pay for their own security until they could earn their own money, court documents have revealed.

Prince Harry sent an email to Sir Edward Young, the late Queen’s private secretary, in April 2020 in which he says he “made it clear we couldn’t afford private security until we were able to earn”.

The message was disclosed in legal documents relating to the Duke’s libel claim against the Mail on Sunday, which hinges on a “false claim” concerning his willingness to pay for his own police protection in the UK.

He has asked Mr Justice Nicklin to rule in his favour without a trial, an application the newspaper said was “wholly without merit”.

The Duke is suing Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) over an article published last February concerning his legal challenge against the Government’s decision to deny him and his family the right to automatic police protection in the UK.

The article said he had tried to keep “secret” parts of his legal fight with the Home Office over his security and had attempted to “spin” the dispute in his favour by claiming he had offered to pay for protection himself.

It suggested that when news of the Duke’s legal battle with the Government was first revealed, his PR team released a statement saying that he had offered to “pay personally for UK police protection”, but that it was refused.

harry meghan - REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
harry meghan - REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The Duke argued that the story suggested he had lied and had “improperly and cynically tried to manipulate and confuse public opinion”.

Prince Harry insists that he offered to pay for his own security during the so-called Sandringham Summit in January 2020, a meeting at which the late Queen and King Charles were present, but that the offer was dismissed.

He reiterated the offer at a meeting with Sir Mark Sedwill, then cabinet secretary and UK home security adviser, the following month, he says.

An email then sent to Sir Edward is also said to have referred to his offer to pay, but at the same time suggested that he could not afford to do so until he and Meghan had become financially independent.

The Duke eventually sought a judicial review against the Home Office decision to deny his family automatic security in September 2021.

ANL is contesting the claim on the basis the article expressed an “honest opinion” and that it did not cause “serious harm” to his reputation.

It argued that the Duke’s offer to pay for his own security was not made or communicated to the Home Office committee that makes such decisions - the Executive Committee for the Protection of Royalty and Public Figures (Ravec) - before the Duke launched legal proceedings.

'Nothing to do with the Royal family'

Andrew Caldecott KC, for ANL, said: “The fact that the claimant asked at a family meeting at Sandringham is nothing to the point unless that offer was communicated to the Government.

“It is the Government that makes the decisions. It's nothing to do with the Royal family.”

He added: “This whole case is built on sand.”

Justin Rushbrooke KC, for the Duke, said it would be “ludicrous” to suggest that the Sandringham Summit was “some sort of cosy fireside chat” involving members of the Royal family.

He said Harry “believed and hoped” that his request to pay for his security would be passed on to those responsible for making the decisions.

The court heard that the Mail on Sunday sent a series of questions to the Duke’s lawyers seeking clarity about the judicial review application before publishing its article.

However, its questions were “ignored”, prompting Mr Justice Nicklin to observe: “I don't understand the reluctance to answer what appear to be straightforward questions about legal proceedings.”

Meanwhile, the newspaper argued that the public statements issued on the Duke’s behalf criticising the Government’s decision were “materially misleading”.

He added: “The public statements were a criticism by a prominent member of the Royal family of an alleged and specified government decision directly affecting him to his detriment.

“That is a serious context requiring accuracy…. on the claimant’s case, an offer was made to his family and dismissed by them.”

The Duke won the right to a judicial review after arguing he had been denied a “clear and full explanation” of the composition of Ravec and others involved in its decision making. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

The judge reserved judgement.