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Prince Harry and Meghan: ‘near catastrophic car chase’ in the spotlight

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s involvement in what they called a “near catastrophic car chase” with US paparazzi in Manhattan has been put under the microscope amid claim and counterclaim from those involved.

Harry and Meghan were attending the Ms. Foundation’s Women of Vision annual gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom, during which the Duchess of Sussex was honoured by Gloria Steinem for her “global advocacy to empower and advocate on behalf of women and girls”, reported Good Morning America.

But the night turned sour when, according to the couple’s spokesperson, they were “involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi”. 

The spokesperson added: “This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.”

New York police gave a rather different account, saying that while there were “numerous photographers that made their transport challenging”, the pair “arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests in regard”. Sukhcharn Singh, who drove the couple on part of their journey, said the description of the situation as “catastrophic” was “exaggerated”.

‘Impossible not to think of Princess Diana’

Speaking to Sky News, the couple’s press secretary Ashley Hansen said: “I have never experienced their vulnerability as much as I did last night. They were incredibly scared and shaken up.”

Journalist Omid Scobie, who has written biographies of the royal couple, told BBC Newsnight that it was “impossible not to think of Princess Diana when we hear about car accidents and this kind of aggressive paparazzi chase”.

The Sussexes’ account of “a relentless pursuit” is a “percussive succession of coincidences and details that will make the blood of every right thinking person boil”, agreed The Independent’s Samuel Fishwick.

“Let us not forget the terms on which the prince began his campaign of retribution against the press in that infamous Oprah Winfrey interview back in 2021,” added Fishwick.

“The clicking of cameras and the flashing of cameras makes my blood boil,” he told Winfrey. “It makes me angry and takes me back to what happened to my mum and my experience as a kid.”

‘Cynical timing’

A photographer familiar with the market for celebrity pictures in New York suggested to The Guardian that “the claims could be designed to play into the Diana, Princess of Wales narrative, given how popular she was in the US”.

They told the paper: “‘Americans are a bit more sympathetic to the couple than the Brits right now.’”

“There are jokes, too, that photographers are tipped off by the couple themselves,” said The Guardian’s Edward Helmore, recalling the “sniping” of former TV anchor Megyn Kelly when Meghan was photographed going hiking with friends in California on the day of her father-in-law’s coronation.

“A cynical observer might question the timing of their bombshell statement”, wrote The Telegraph’s associate editor Camilla Tominey. It came “just a day after Harry’s lawyers appeared in the High Court arguing that it was not only wrong of him to be stripped of his armed Metropolitan Police protection when he is back in the UK, but unfair for him to have been denied the right to reimburse the taxpayer for it”.

The events on the streets of Manhattan “don’t form part of the case against the tabloid press which Harry is fighting in London, but they neatly, some say conveniently, embolden his cause”, agreed Sky News’s US correspondent Mark Stone.

“As is often the case with the British royal family,” said Intelligencer, “there’s still plenty of confusion and controversy surrounding the incident.”

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