Prince Harry and Meghan's shock announcement caps feud with British media

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By Rachel Elbaum  with NBC News World News
Image: Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle pose for a phot
Prince Harry and his then-fiancee Meghan Markle pose for a photograph in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in London after following the announcement of their engagement on Nov. 27, 2017.   -   Copyright  Daniel Leal-Olivas

LONDON — Prince Harry and Meghan's announcement thatthey would step back from their role as senior royalswas light on specifics, with the exception of one area: their so-far fraught relationship with the media.After months of negative press coverage and a lawsuit against a U.K. tabloid, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they would no longer participate in the established system of media access to the royals, known as the royal rota.Instead, the couple said they planned to release information via their own social media channels, as well as "engage with grassroots media organizations," and other "credible media outlets.""Britain's Royal Correspondents are regarded internationally as credible sources of both the work of members of The Royal Family as well as of their private lives," according to the newly revamped website. "This misconception propels coverage that is often carried by other outlets around the world, amplifying frequent misreporting."

Daily newspapers on Thursday show front page headlines reporting on the news that Britain\'s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan plan to step back as "senior" members of the foyal family.
Daily newspapers on Thursday show front page headlines reporting on the news that Britain\'s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan plan to step back as "senior" members of the foyal family.Daniel Leal-Olivas

They noted that the current arrangement "makes it challenging" to share "moments in their lives" and said they want to "broaden access to their work."That Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne, and Meghan chose to focus on the media's role in their new lives should not be a surprise. A sign of the media's fascination with the couple came on Thursday, when the story dominated the front pages of both broadsheets and tabloids across the country.This interest is not universally positive.In October, the couple revealed a lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday, a major U.K. tabloid,for misuse of private information, among other claims. At the time,Harry released a scathing statement accusing the tabloid press of a "ruthless campaign" against his wife."I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces," he wrote.Harry's mother, Princess Diana, died in a 1997 car accident while trying to escape paparazzi in Paris. A photograph of a young, exposed and apparently devastated Harry walking behind his mother's hearse alongside other male royals has become an iconic image in the country.

Earl Spencer, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Charles attend the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales on Sept. 6, 1997.
Earl Spencer, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Charles attend the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales on Sept. 6, 1997.Russell Boyce

Wednesday's announcement followed months of negative news coverage, with newspapers running story after story about Meghan's estrangement from her father and half siblings, as well as articles criticizing their use of private jets while espousing support for environmental causes.The couple said that the coverage had taken its toll, with Meghan saying in the documentary "Harry and Meghan: An African Journey," that the media attention had been "challenging.""I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair," she said in the documentary.Not long after, the two decided to take a six-week break away from their royal duties, part of which was spent in Canada. On Tuesday, the smiling couple visited Canada House to thank the high commissioner for the hospitality they received during their stay.It seemed to be a return to business as usual for the couple, and there was little warning ahead of Harry and Meghan's surprise "step back."Practical details are still up in the air with even the palace in the dark as to how their new roles will work. How do they plan to support the queen, where will they will live, what will they do and importantly, how do they plan to be "financially independent," are all questions that remain unanswered."Ordinarily, because of the massive changes that will be needed as a result of what has been announced, there would be lots of discussions for weeks, for months," said Chris Ship, royal correspondent for NBC News' British partner ITV News."The statement has been made and no one in the royal family, no courtier really knows quite how to proceed," he added.In addition to their new role in the royal family, the couple said they would split their time between the U.K. and North America, that they would work to become "financially independent," and that they would launch a new charitable entity.

Prince Harry and his then-fiancee Meghan Markle pose for a photograph in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in London after following the announcement of their engagement on Nov. 27, 2017.
Prince Harry and his then-fiancee Meghan Markle pose for a photograph in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in London after following the announcement of their engagement on Nov. 27, 2017.Daniel Leal-Olivas

Discussions were at an "early stage" and "will take time to work through," the palace said in a tersely worded, two-sentence statement from Buckingham Palace.What came after the official statements was just as surprising. Royal correspondents reported that the royal family, including Harry's grandmother the queen, weren't told about the statement ahead of time, according to anonymous palace sources. Senior members of the royal family felt "hurt" and "disappointed," the BBC reported.NBC News was not able to confirm these reports.