Queen Elizabeth knew that Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers had been spying on her family and their friends, and authorised her staff to “draw a line” under the issue, according to an email released on Thursday in a lawsuit by her grandson Prince Harry.
Harry is suing Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers for hacking into mobile phones and other unlawful acts he says were committed against him on behalf of its tabloids, the Sun and the now-defunct News of the World, from the mid-1990s until 2016.
News Group, which has settled more than a thousand phone-hacking cases over the past decade, is trying this week to strike out Harry’s claim and a similar case brought by British actor Hugh Grant, arguing they should have taken action sooner.
Clive Goodman, the News of the World’s then royal reporter, was jailed in 2007 for illegally intercepting royal household phone messages.
Harry, estranged from his father King Charles, says he did not bring a lawsuit earlier because of a “secret agreement” between Buckingham Palace and Murdoch’s executives to protect the royal family from embarrassment. News Group denies any such agreement, while the palace has not commented.
A 2017 email from the palace, submitted to the court by Harry’s legal team and released on Thursday, appears to show that royal staff tried to put the phone hacking claims to rest, with the backing of the then-queen, who died last year.
The preliminary hearing is expected to conclude on Thursday, with a trial due in January if the judge lets it go ahead. Harry, who now lives in California with his family, was not in court, but is following the proceedings by video link. Grant attended court in person on Thursday.