Prince William received a “very large sum of money” from Rupert Murdoch’s media company to quietly settle a phone-hacking claim, according to new documents presented to court.
Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN) – publishers of the Sun and the now defunct News of the World – made the payment in 2020 after the Prince of Wales brought a legal claim against it.
The secret deal between Prince William and NGN was revealed in documents submitted to a London court by Prince Harry at the start of his legal action against three publishers, including Murdoch’s media company.
A three day hearing involving the Duke of Sussex/Prince Harry and Hugh Grant against the three publishers for alleged unlawful information gathering returned to the court today.
The court heard that Prince Harry’s action to seek an apology from the Sun over alleged phone hacking was undertaken with the approval of his late-grandmother Queen Elizabeth II.
The Duke’s legal team claim the royal family struck a secret agreement with “senior executives” at Murdoch’s company before 2012.
According to filings submitted to court: “The reason for this was to avoid the situation where a member of the royal family would have to sit in the witness box and recount the specific details of the private and highly sensitive voicemails that had been intercepted by [the News of the World royal reporter] Clive Goodman.
“The institution was incredibly nervous about this and wanted to avoid at all costs the sort of reputational damage that it had suffered in 1993 when the Sun and another tabloid had unlawfully obtained and published details of an intimate telephone conversation that took place between my father and stepmother in 1989, while he was still married to my mother.”
The “reputational damage” referred to was the “Tampongate” scandal which saw details of a secretly recorded intimate 1989 phone call between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles published. In the call, the now King told the now Queen Consort that he wanted to be her tampon.
NGN is asking the court to throw out Prince Harry and Hugh Grant’s claims, arguing they have been brought too late. Countering that claim, the Duke of Sussex’s legal team allege his brother Prince William recently settled a claim against NGN for a “very large” sum of money.
The documents state: “HRH William, Prince of Wales, similarly brought a claim against NGN which it settled for a very large sum of money in 2020”.
The Telegraph reports there are no further details about the allegations from Prince William or whether it concerned the News of the World – which closed in 2011 over phone hacking – or the Sun.
The Guardian reports that it has “long been known” Prince William and Harry “had been the victims of phone hacking”. If his case this week is successful, the Duke of Sussex will seek damages from NGN in excess of £200,000 with a trial expected in January 2024.
Prince Harry’s claims against three publishers – Murdoch’s NGN, the publishers of the Daily Mail and the Mirror and Sunday Mirror – allege illegal activities were used to target him in the name of journalism.
Prince Harry is expected to break royal protocol and give evidence from the witness box in his case against the Mirror Group, due to begin in two weeks time.