LONDON: Britain’s Prince Harry confirmed he is dating US actress Meghan Markle as he blasted racist “abuse and harassment” directed towards her since their relationship began.
In a highly unusual statement, the 32-year-old prince urged media to refrain from “further damage” as he hit out at the “racial undertones” of newspaper coverage.
Harry also took issue with the “outright racism and sexism” on social media directed against Markle, 35, best known for her role as Rachel Zane in the US television drama Suits.
The Toronto-based Californian’s mother is black and her father is white.
“The past week has seen a line crossed,” said the statement from Harry’s communications secretary Jason Knauf.
“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.
“It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm.
“He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game —it is her life and his.”
Intrusion unease post-Diana
Both Harry and his older brother William, 34, are acutely sensitive about media intrusion.
Their mother Diana, princess of Wales, had a stormy relationship with the media and died aged 36 in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by photographers.
Dickie Arbiter, Queen Elizabeth’s former press secretary, told BBC television, “Obviously he’s concerned that what he’s seeing now is sort of shades of what happened to his mother.”
Normally the palace does not comment on the royals’ private lives and THE statement was the first confirmation that Harry has been in a relationship for several months.
“He has asked for this statement to be issued in the hopes that those in the press who have been driving this story can pause and reflect before any further damage is done,” said Knauf.
The lengthy statement fuelled speculation that Markle will eventually marry the prince.
Harry split with socialite Cressida Bonas in 2014 and previously had a seven-year, on-off relationship with Chelsy Davy, the daughter of a Zimbabwe safari operator, between 2004 and 2011.