Welcome to this week’s edition of to get all the latest royal news and gossip with Tom Sykes and Tim Teeman.
Meghan and Harry, and the car chase that wasn’t
And so to the extraordinary tale of the great car chase that wasn’t that unfolded this week.
The story erupted after the Sussexes issued a press release, saying that they had been involved in a, “near catastrophic” car chase through the streets of Manhattan on Tuesday night after Meghan, Harry and Meghan’s mom Doria had all attended the Ms Foundation’s Women of Vision Award, where Meghan was being honored.
Early Wednesday morning, it had looked like the event was going to be chalked up as a PR hit, and a handy little mini-relaunch of the Meghan brand after several months out of the public eye. The duchess appeared resplendent in a stunning gold dress and made some syrupy remarks about service and grace and fairness that went down well with her base.
That would’ve been that were it not for the extraordinary statement that the couple then issued a few hours later, saying they had been the object of a “relentless” pursuit, by a “ring” of paparazzi photographers, and memorably described the episode as “near catastrophic”—summoning up images of his own mother’s demise in Paris, and his own words about being traumatized by pap flashbulbs.
However, almost immediately, the narrative put forward by the Sussex camp began to be questioned. The NYPD didn’t help the Sussex cause, describing it as merely a “challenging” transport moment. And the taxi driver who had conveyed the group for a short while, said that they were always safe, and added that, you know, “It’s New York.” However, he also said that Harry and Meghan seemed nervous and scared in the vehicle.
CNN reported that Chris Sanchez, who was part of the royal security detail, said Harry and Meghan were followed from the event by a dozen vehicles. Sanchez said he’d “never seen [or] experienced anything like this,” and that “the public were in jeopardy at several points.” The couple switched cars “more than once” during the incident, he added.
CNN also reported that Thomas Buda, who runs a private security business contracted to help the couple, corroborated Sanchez’s account. Buda told CNN that the couple’s convoy took a circuitous route from 23rd Street to 96th Street “before security brought the couple to the 19th police precinct on East 67th street. From there, the couple were moved to a yellow cab but it ended up circling the block and returning them to the police station.”
The couple eventually made it back to their New York digs later in the evening.
Harry and Meghan have demanded photos from the pap agency Backgrid, which so far the agency has refused to hand over.
“We hereby demand that Backgrid [photo agency] immediately provide us with copies of all photos, videos, and/or films taken last night by the freelance photographers after the couple left their event and over the next several hours,” a letter from their lawyers read.
“In America, as I’m sure you know, property belongs to the owner of it: Third parties cannot just demand it be given to them, as perhaps Kings can do.”
— Backgrid legal letter
In response, Backgrid told them: fuggedaboutit! “In America, as I’m sure you know, property belongs to the owner of it: Third parties cannot just demand it be given to them, as perhaps Kings can do,” Backgrid’s legal team wrote back.
Some have even speculated this was a PR stunt by Meghan and Harry given Harry’s ongoing legal battle over paying for his own security, and why they, as the New York Times put it, did not “pull into a garage at one of the many hotels celebrities frequently use to ward off pursuing photographers.”
Their representative denied it was a stunt orchestrated by the couple to the New York Times: “Respectfully, considering the duke’s family history, one would have to think nothing of the couple or anybody associated with them to believe this was any sort of P.R. stunt. Quite frankly, I think that’s abhorrent.”
The royals did not seem sympathetic. There were no statements from the palace. A friend of William’s told The Daily Beast, “I thought they were leaving the royal family for a quieter life. If flashbulbs give Harry flashbacks, I don’t understand why he is going to award ceremonies…. Everyone understands his anger at the photographers, but making hysterical statements doesn’t help matters, especially when, as the queen might have said, recollections may vary.”
Journalist Omid Scobie, known to be close to the Sussex camp, criticized the king and William for their “disappointing” lack of response on BBC’s Newsnight, and claimed that their car was forced to drive at 80mph, only for Buda to say that it “was not a high-speed pursuit.”
A London-based PR executive who has worked for the royals, who gave this succinct summary to The Daily Beast, thinks they have the answer: “If I had to guess, I would say this is Harry going, ‘This is unacceptable, I’m going to say something,’ and no-one having the balls to say, ‘Well, maybe not, sir, that would be really fucking stupid and it is going to totally overshadow everything your wife has been doing tonight.’ This is what happens when people do their own PR.”
This week in royal history
Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819 in the dining room at Kensington Palace. “It seems a strange choice, but here hot water could be brought up more easily from the kitchens,” the Historic Royal Palaces website explains.
Will more emerge in the story of Harry and Meghan’s NYC car chase? Will the paps hand over the images (not likely), and will Harry ultimately be successful in obtaining the security he says he and Meghan need?
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