Will Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's royal exit impact their legal battle against U.K. tabloids?
The couple announced on Wednesday that they "intend to step back as 'senior' members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty the Queen." They also said they "plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America." Meghan and Harry's latest move, unprecedented in royal family history, comes amid months of rumors that claimed the two planned on moving out of the U.K., where the duchess has often been the target of negative press.
Last fall, while the couple toured southern Africa with their baby son Archie Harrison, the Duke of Sussex called out the British tabloids over their "ruthless" campaign against his wife. They then sued several of them—The Mail on Sunday, for publishing parts of a private letter Meghan had written to her estranged father Thomas Markle, and the owners of The Sun and The Mirror, over the alleged hacking of Harry's phone.
"The announcement [about stepped back from the royal family] will most certainly affect their case even if it's not strictly speaking in a legal manner," U.K. solicitor, or legal practitioner Joshua Schuermann from London firm Briffa told E! News on Thursday. "The first effect they will most certainly feel will be funding. That will affect the way they conduct the litigation."
"It's worth noting that they had already been using a different law firm than the one the family usually uses in defamation matters," he continued. "They had already relied on their own initiative, rather than doing things the way the royal family would normally prescribe them. So maybe they were already planning this or maybe it's a happy coincidence so it's not like they have to start from scratch now."
He added, "Even outside of the legal fees, there would have been a level of support and advice and PR which would have been made available to them. I think it's safe to say the level of support they would have received as senior members of the royal family would have been available to them in full."
However, Stephen Welfare, as partner at Royds Withy King Solicitors in the U.K., offered a different perspective.
"The short answer is no, it will not affect Meghan's legal case," he told E! News. "Her claim is, in general terms, that her privacy has been invaded. She enjoys such human rights regardless of her status as a member of the British royal family, and if anything more so because the lower a person's profile the less public interest there is in his/her private life. However being married to HRH Prince Harry is going to make her of public interest regardless."
Schuermann said Markle and Harry are likely hoping that their move will strengthen their legal case.
"There is always a balancing act to be struck between the public interest and the right to an individual's private and family life," he said. "They will likely be making the argument that by taking a step back from their duties to the royal family, that they will no longer be as much in the public interest and the details of their private life will no longer be as much in the public interest."
"I think there is, however, an argument to say that certainly, as it stands now, they still likely fall in the scope of public interest. This might change in five or ten years time if they successful extricate themselves from public life. But as it stands I don't think this will necessarily affect their legal position too much."