Prince William settled a phone hacking claim against Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper business for a “very large sum of money”, the High Court has been told.
William received the secret payment, which the Queen was aware of, after bringing a case against News Group Newspapers (NGN), the owners of The Sun and now defunct News of the World.
News of the settlement was revealed today in documents submitted to court by William’s brother, Prince Harry, who is suing NGN over alleged unlawful information gathering at its titles.
At the three day-hearing, that started on Tuesday, David Sherborne, representing Harry, said the late Queen was involved in “discussions and authorisation” of the deal, which the Duke of Sussex found out about in 2012.
A part of it was that members of the royal family would not pursue claims against NGN until after the conclusion of the litigation over phone hacking.
In a witness statement prepared for Tuesday’s hearing, Harry said that the reason for the deal was that the Royal Family was “incredibly nervous” after The Sun obtained a call between Prince Charles and Camilla while they were having an affair in 1989.
In relation to the secret agreement, the filing states: “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.
“This agreement, including the promises from NGN for delayed resolution was, obviously, a major factor as to why no claim was brought by me at that time.”
Mr Sherborne told the High Court that Harry sought an apology from NGN in 2017 but it was “filibustered” until 2019, and by this time the Duke of Sussex decided to launch legal proceedings.
Anthony Hudson KC, for NGN, said the publisher’s position is that “there was no such secret agreement”. NGN is asking Mr Justice Fancourt to throw out both claims, arguing they have been brought too late.
The hearing is expected to last three days and the judge will determine whether their claims will progress to a trial, which is due to be heard in January next year.
The hacking scandal led to the closure of News of the World (NoTW) in 2011 and has caused NGN to settle dozens of claims with celebrities.
News UK has previously admitted that there was hacking at NoTW, but has always maintained that there was none at The Sun.
It comes just days after Fox News, another Murdoch media brand, settled with Dominion Voting Systems over defamation charges, when the news channel claimed the company rigged its voting machines against former President Donald Trump in 2020.
The claim is one of a number of legal actions currently being brought by the duke, who is an outspoken critic of the British press and has hit at previous tabloid coverage in television interviews, and his memoir Spare.
Harry, appeared in person at the High Court last month for a preliminary hearing against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), publisher of The Mail and Mail On Sunday.
The Duke of Sussex is also one of a number of high-profile figures bringing damages claims against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) over alleged unlawful information gathering at its titles.
His case is that 148 articles published between 1996 and 2010 included information that was allegedly obtained through unlawful means, including phone hacking.
MGN is contesting the claims, arguing that some have been brought too late.
Kensington Palace declined to comment on behalf of the Prince of Wales.