What drove Harry to snap over Meghan
Few public figures in history have experienced a fall from PR grace with quite the speed or ferocity of Meghan Markle, the former TV actress-turned-Duchess of Sussex.
Around the time of the royal wedding last year, media outlets were clamouring to heap praise on the graceful and intelligent American star. She proved captivating, injecting a huge shot of energy into the monarchy - and, together with Harry, became the face of the new era of glamorous and modern royals.
But over the course of this year, a "relentless campaign" by those same tabloids has painted Meghan in a starkly different light, and the onslaught of negativity has driven Prince Harry to snap.
Harry's extraordinary, emotional public smackdown of the British press over the treatment of his wife was a tirade nine months in the making.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were taking legal action against British tabloid the Daily Mail over its publication of a private letter by Meghan, which the couple allege was published illegally and selectively edited to hide "lies" reported about her.
It follows a rocky year for the couple, who have struggled to modernise expectations in their roles and responsibilities.
Towards the end of 2018, the Commonwealth was truly in the grip of Meghan-mania.
Her popularity reached a feverish peak during the wildly successful royal tour in Australia last year, at the start of which she announced she was expecting her first child with Prince Harry.
She was dubbed Diana 2.0, praised for possessing all the positive traits of the People's Princess, and admired for her innovative approach to royal life.
Fast-forward to today, and she's being compared to Diana for all the wrong reasons.
On the last day of their royal tour to Africa, the Duke of Sussex lashed out at the British tabloid media in an explosive statement, accusing them of "bullying" and warning that the tabloid frenzy is a case of "history repeating itself".
It's hard to pinpoint exactly when, or why, it happened, but reports of a "feud" with her well-loved sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, were probably where the Sussex's nightmare PR run really kicked into high gear.
Leaks from "sources" claiming to be within Kensington Palace painted a picture of a demanding royal bridezilla, who left the Duchess of Cambridge "in tears" after one particularly tense flower girl dress fitting for Princess Charlotte.
Prior to that, there'd been plenty of public criticisms levelled at Meghan from her own splintered family - namely her half-brother and half-sister - but they were largely shrugged off as publicity-hungry opportunists who, by the Duchess' own admission, she "hardly knows".
Her father, Thomas Markle Senior, was harder to ignore. The noise he's managed to cultivate over the past year has been deafening.
The retired TV lighting director, who once enjoyed a close relationship with Meghan, was reportedly "frozen out" by the royals after failing to attend her wedding amid embarrassment over a series of staged paparazzi photos.
In the months that followed, he frequently spoke to the media, alternating between emotional pleas for contact with his estranged daughter and sharp public rebukes to both her and Prince Harry.
In February, he went so far as to release a heartfelt private letter she sent him last August - the contents of which are now the focus of legal action announced by Harry and Meghan today.
Plugging the gaps between the larger negative narratives has been an almost-daily onslaught of small - but significant - Meghan coverage, remarking upon everything from her "excessive" cradling of her baby bump to her decision to close a car door by herself.
As widely varied as these observations were, they shared one thing: a disapproving undertone.
Harry's made it clear he's fed up with the "relentless" and "ruthless campaign" targeting Meghan.
But it's also important to separate mindless abuse with the justified criticisms that come with being a royal.
Public outrage at their hefty $4.4 million renovations to Frogmore Cottage provided a fair debate, as the bill was paid by British taxpayers.
Similarly, backlash over Meghan and Harry's decision to travel via private jet four times in less than two weeks, while preaching to the world about the importance of reducing our carbon footprints, brought up reasonable questions about hypocrisy.
Meanwhile, the couple's demands for privacy and their forging of new rules around the birth of Archie (denying the public the opportunity to see a beaming Meghan with the newborn on the hospital steps caused a veritable s**tstorm) raised fair points on both sides about what access their publicly funded roles should entail.
But after the devastating loss of his mother at the tender age of 11 following years of press hounding, Harry has understandably become highly protective of his wife.
According to numerous palace sources over the years, Harry's relationship with the media is highly strained.
It's claimed he tolerates reporters and photographers as part of his duty but still struggles with the fact he blames them for Diana's death - and all the suffering she endured in the years prior.
According to Majesty Magazine editor Ingrid Seward, Prince William and Harry "hated their mother's celebrity life and they grew to really hate the photographers that were always surrounding her".
After growing increasingly frustrated at his inability to block the barrage of negative attention levelled at Meghan, Harry finally broke after seeing the "painful" result of her private letter being published by the Mail on Sunday - dredging up horrifying memories from the past.
It's never been more clear just how deep the scars of his mum's death run than in this latest statement.
"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," he wrote.
"I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."
Here's Harry's statement in full, published via the royals' official website earlier today:
As a couple, we believe in media freedom and objective, truthful reporting. We regard it as a cornerstone of democracy and in the current state of the world - on every level - we have never needed responsible media more.
Unfortunately, my wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences - a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son.
There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face - as so many of you can relate to - I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been. Because in today's digital age, press fabrications are repurposed as truth across the globe. One day's coverage is no longer tomorrow's chip-paper.
Up to now, we have been unable to correct the continual misrepresentations - something that these select media outlets have been aware of and have therefore exploited on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
It is for this reason we are taking legal action, a process that has been many months in the making. The positive coverage of the past week from these same publications exposes the double standards of this specific press pack that has vilified her almost daily for the past nine months; they have been able to create lie after lie at her expense simply because she has not been visible while on maternity leave. She is the same woman she was a year ago on our wedding day, just as she is the same woman you've seen on this Africa tour.
For these select media this is a game, and one that we have been unwilling to play from the start. I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.
This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media. The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question. In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year.
There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn't acceptable, at any level. We won't and can't believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.
Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. 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.
We thank you, the public, for your continued support. It is hugely appreciated. Although it may not seem like it, we really need it.
Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Sussex has filed a claim against Associated Newspapers over the misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.
The proceedings in the Chancery Division of the High Court relate to the unlawful publication of a private letter.
A legal spokesman from Schillings who are representing the Duchess of Sussex said:
"We have initiated legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday, and its parent company Associated Newspapers, over the intrusive and unlawful publication of a private letter written by the Duchess of Sussex, which is part of a campaign by this media group to publish false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband. Given the refusal of Associated Newspapers to resolve this issue satisfactorily, we have issued proceedings to redress this breach of privacy, infringement of copyright and the aforementioned media agenda."
The case is being privately funded by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Pending a court ruling, proceeds from any damages will be donated to an anti-bullying charity.