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The Duke of Sussex has accepted an apology and damages from Associated Newspapers, the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over two articles published in October 2020

By Phil Boucher and Simon Perry
February 01, 2021 10:18 AM
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Credit: Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty

Prince Harry has won "substantial damages" from Associated Newspapers, the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, over claims that he "turned his back" on the British Armed Forces after stepping away from front-line royal duties in March 2020.

A remote hearing at the High Court in London on Monday heard that Associated Newspapers accepted the claims made in two "almost identical" articles published in October 2020 were "false."

The articles centered around Harry's relationship with senior members of the British military, written under the headlines, "Top general accuses Harry of turning his back on the Marines" and "Top general accuses Prince Harry of turning his back on the Royal Marines after stepping down from ceremonial role as part of Megxit deal."

Harry has also accepted an apology from the news publisher and intends to donate the damages — the amount of which is undisclosed — to his Invictus Games Foundation for wounded warriors. 

"Today, The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline publicly admitted in open court that they pushed a completely false and defamatory story. And they've apologised for questioning The Duke of Sussex's commitment to the Royal Marines and British Armed Forces. The truth is that The Duke's commitment to the military community is unquestionable," a spokesman for the Duke of Sussex said in a statement.

Meghan Markle Prince Harry Duke Duchess Sussex
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the Mountbatten Music Festival in March 2020

In a twist, Harry's lawyer, Jenny Affia, told the court that Associated Newspapers had also reneged on a previous agreement to donate money to charity at the same time as publishing an apology for the misleading articles, which appeared in The Mail on Sunday's "Corrections and Clarifications" column on December 27.

"Unsurprisingly, The Mail again misled their readers in December by claiming to make a charitable donation as part of an initial apology," the statement continued. "They did no such thing. The Duke is personally donating the significant damages recovered from this legal resolution to the Invictus Games Foundation."

The Duke Of Sussex Carries Out Green Beret Presentation
Prince Harry visits Marines
| Credit: Finnbarr Webster - WPA Pool/Getty

Prince Harry served in the British army for 10 years, where he was known as Capt. Harry Wales. This included two tours of Afghanistan: first as a forward air controller with the Household Cavalry, and later as the co-pilot of an Apache attack helicopter for the Army Air Corps.

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The prince retired from the military in March 2015 and has since dedicated himself to the cause of military rehabilitation through founding the Invictus Games, and his patronage of Walking with The Wounded, and HeadFit, which he co-founded to support military mental fitness.

In December 2017, Harry also took over the prestigious role of Captain General Royal Marines from his grandfather, Prince Philip, 99. While this role has been put on hold during the "period of transition" agreed with the Queen last year, he has continued to be a high-profile advocate for the military and retains the ranks of Major, Lieutenant Commander, and Squadron Leader.

In September, Harry spoke movingly of his connection to the military family in the podcast Declassified, where he talked about the British tradition of wearing a poppy in tribute to veterans and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, saying that he wears one for "the soldiers I knew, as well as those I didn't. The soldiers who were by my side in Afghanistan, those who had their lives changed forever, and those that didn't come home."

Prince Harry
Credit: The Duke of Sussex

Reading from a prepared statement on Monday, Jenny Afia spoke out about how Associated Newspaper's "baseless, false and defamatory stories" sought to tarnish this relationship, describing them as "not only a personal attack upon the Duke's character but also wrongly brought into question his service to this country."

She continued, "The truth is that The Duke of Sussex has made repeated and concerted efforts to continue to support the Royal Marines and other members of the Armed Forces and their families over the past year, even though he was required to step back from his formal military roles in the 'year of transition' during which he must take a reduced role as a member of the Royal Family.

"The Duke is proud to have served in the British Armed Forces for ten years in Her Majesty's name, including on the frontlines during two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He has maintained active links with those forces ever since and will continue to do so in the future."

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Harry's libel settlement comes as his wife, Meghan Markle, awaits a judge's ruling in her own case against Associated Newspapers for the invasion of privacy, infringement of data protection rights, and copyright infringement.

Meghan's lawyers applied for the case to be settled by a summary judgment on January 19 - a legal step which would see her case resolved by a judge's interpretation of the evidence as opposed to a full trial - and are expecting a decision in the next couple of weeks.