The statement was startling, unmistakably reminiscent of the car chase that killed Princess Diana 26 years ago: Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, had been “engaged in a near-catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.” , according to an anonymous spokesperson for the couple.
That story, of a chaotic and dangerous chase through midtown Manhattan on Tuesday night, bounced around the world Wednesday morning, making headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. Unlisted News, which like SKY News and the world’s media provided minute-by-minute updates, reported that a member of the couple’s security team He said the episode “could have been fatal.”
But as more details emerged Wednesday from accounts by police and a taxi driver who was briefly involved, the picture became more complicated.
It illustrated a host of issues relating to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex: their incandescent fame and the media’s endless appetite for stories about them; his icy relationship with the Crown and his fight for a royal security detail; and his determination to avoid the paparazzi’s lenses, surely informed by the tragic death of Diana, Harry’s mother, as she was riding in a car away from them in Paris in 1997.
The episode began Tuesday night at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Midtown, where Harry, Meghan and their mother, Doria Ragland, were attending the Women of Vision Awardswhere Meghan was among the honorees.
At around 9:50 p.m., the family left the theater to return to the Upper East Side, where they were staying, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter.
Worried that paparazzi who had gathered outside the theater would follow them, they left in a private security vehicle with a police escort, the official said. They were driven for about an hour, traveling down FDR Drive at one point, but were unable to shake off the paparazzi.
Police then escorted them to the 19th Police Precinct on the Upper East Side, the official said.
At around 11pm, a little over an hour after they left the ballroom, one of the security staff hailed a taxi in front of the police station, according to the taxi driver, Sukhcharn Singh.
After traveling about a block, they became trapped behind a garbage truck, Singh said.
“All of a sudden, the paparazzi came out of nowhere and started taking pictures,” she said, adding that she heard one of the women in the back say “’Oh my God.’”
“They were nervous,” Singh said. “His wife of him seemed scared and Harry was nervous. And the other lady was very quiet.”
The truck pulled out of his way less than five minutes later, but as Singh was driving, he said, he saw paparazzi following them in at least two cars. When the couple’s security guard noticed they were being followed, he directed Mr. Singh to return to the police station.
At around 11:30 a.m., Mr Singh returned them to the police station and they got back into the same black van they had been traveling in earlier, he said.
They remained at the compound while police blocked traffic in the area, after which they left with a police escort and no paparazzi, the official said.
Mr Singh said he would not describe what happened as a “chase”, although he was not involved in the much longer journey that night. Although the family was clearly scared, Singh said, he was not. “I wasn’t afraid,” he said. “They didn’t grow up in New York.”
A spokesperson for the New York Police Department confirmed that officers assisted the couple’s security team Tuesday night, but also did not refer to the episode as a “chase.”
“There were numerous photographers who made their transportation a challenge,” spokesman Julian Phillips said in a statement. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, citations, injuries or arrests.”
A spokesman for the couple did not respond to questions about the initial statement.
Speaking at an unrelated news conference Wednesday morning, Mayor Eric Adams condemned what happened as “a bit reckless and irresponsible,” noting that he had not been fully informed about the incident.
“It’s clear that the press, the paparazzi, want to get the right shot,” Adams said. “But public safety must always be at the forefront.”
But he questioned the duration of the persecution described in the statement. “I would find it hard to believe that there was a two-hour high-speed chase,” he said, adding that even a 10-minute chase would be “extremely dangerous in New York City.”
Mr Adams also invoked the death of Harry’s mother, saying: “I don’t think there are many of us who don’t remember how their mother died.”
Buckingham Palace said it had no comment on the incident, as did Kensington Palace, which is the home of Harry’s brother, Prince William.
Prince Harry has long been bitterly at odds with the press, blaming the paparazzi for his mother’s death and saying the tabloids’ continued harassment of his wife reminded him of his mother’s experience.
He and Meghan have taken legal action against several British newspapers, saying the newspapers hacked into his cellphone and made other intrusions into his privacy.
Harry is also suing Britain’s Home Office over its security arrangements in his home country. He and Meghan lost police protection after they stepped down from their royal duties and left Britain in 2020. Harry said it poses an unacceptable risk to him and his family when they visit.
He has offered to pay for police protection himself, but the Metropolitan Police have refused. Lawyers for the Home Office argue that wealthy people should not be allowed to “buy” police protection.
Harry is estranged from his father, King Charles III, and his brother, meeting neither during his brief visit to London for his father’s coronation on May 6. Meghan did not attend the ceremony, which coincided with the couple’s son’s fourth birthday. , arch.
Charles and William, say royal watchers, are deeply distressed by the claims in Harry’s recent memoir and a documentary about the couple, where Harry portrays his father as emotionally distant and more concerned with his public image than the happiness of his family. son, and William as jealous and bullying.
But many of Harry’s complaints are directed at the press. He claims that tabloids have struck unsavory deals with members of the royal family, promising favorable coverage in exchange for disparaging details about other members of the family.
Following their departure from Britain and move to California, the couple have sought to polish their image with the help of the media in Harry’s adopted home, finding a receptive audience.
The couple cast Oprah Winfrey for their first major interview since moving to California, where Meghan grew up, in a prime-time special on CBS that drew more than 17 million viewers. They signed a roughly $100 million deal to produce programming for California-based Netflix, which aired the chart-topping documentary “Harry & Meghan.” And the memoir, “Spare,” published by Penguin Random House, became a bestseller.
But the couple’s eager courtship by the American media has also fueled a separate cottage industry of photographers here seeking to capture their every public appearance, fueled by demand from gossip sites like TMZ and Page Six. The popularity of the Netflix documentary and Harry’s memoir has only increased Americans’ appetite for these images and other insights into the lives of the royals living among them.
And the British royals have long proven a sure draw for American media companies looking for views, readers and clicks. To cite just one example, Harry and Meghan’s 2018 wedding at Windsor Castle was watched by 29 million Americans, according to Nielsen, an audience larger than the 18 million Brits who tuned in. More Americans watched Harry and Meghan’s wedding than William and Catherine’s nuptials in 2011.