Why Prince Harry was so angry about tabloid photos of Meghan Markle and Archie

The prince threatened legal action after paparazzi cameras captured photos of his wife and son.
/ Source: TODAY

Prince Harry's swift legal reaction to seeing paparazzi photos of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and their baby son, Archie, has roots in his own childhood.

Royal analyst Victoria Arbiter said on TODAY Wednesday that there is a particular reason that tabloid shots of his wife and son from a park in Canada on Monday prompted him to immediately threaten legal action against news outlets a day later.

"The fact that Archie is in there,'' Arbiter said. "This will have immediately reminded Harry of his childhood because anyone that was around witnessing Diana saw the scrum of photographers that was constantly chasing her.

"Harry witnessed that as well, so the minute his wife and child are in the fray, he's gonna be like a papa bear with a sore head."

We apologize, this video has expired.

Lawyers acting on the couple’s behalf sent a letter to British media outlets on Tuesday warning them that “action will be taken” if they purchase and/or publish any photographs taken by photographers trailing Harry and Meghan under circumstances the letter describes as “harassment.”

Harry's mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash in 1997 while fleeing paparazzi. Her death when Harry was 12 has been "a wound that festers" and fueled his antagonism for the press.

"I think being part of this family, in this role, in this job, every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back,” he said in an ITV documentary in October. “So, in that respect, it’s the worst reminder of her life, as opposed to the best."

The legal letter said that the couple has "safety concerns" because paparazzi have been camped outside their home in Canada trying to photograph them with long-range lenses. Harry was in London when the photos were taken before returning to Canada late Monday night.

"I think this letter was sent because it's Harry's warning shot, just reminding everybody if you cross this line, I will come after you,'' Arbiter said. "Harry doesn't distinguish. There isn't legitimate media and legitimate photographers, paparazzi photographers — it's all the same thing, and all of it is toxic to him."

Harry and Meghan's decision to step back from their royal duties and move from Britain to Canada means they are no longer under the protection of Britain's stricter privacy laws that were established in the wake of Princess Diana's death.

"Harry and Meghan haven't had people camping outside their house (in London),'' Arbiter said. "They've had the odd run-in in central London, but there have been no people hiding in the bushes or stalking in the car."

Their ongoing battle with the British tabloids, which has included multiple lawsuits against the companies that own them, may have fueled their desire to break away from the royal family, but imagining the paparazzi were going to leave them alone was wishful thinking, Arbiter believes.

"I think they definitely expected it, but I think perhaps they were a little naive in thinking how voracious the appetite would be,'' she said.

The legal threat may only go so far in protecting them, especially when they're in a public place like the park on Vancouver Island where Meghan and Archie were photographed.

"That letter will deter perhaps the British newspapers because that's really the only jurisdiction Harry and Meghan have at this point,'' Arbiter said. "How do you begin to regulate potentially foreign photographers working in a foreign country sending pictures to a foreign press? You can't regulate the whole world."