Prince Harry trial: five other cases of royals in court

Prince Harry has taken the stand for the second day in his phone hacking case against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), becoming the first senior British royal to give evidence in court since the 1890s.

His lengthy fight against the Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and The Sunday People “came to a head in a tense courtroom showdown”, reported CNN

The Duke of Sussex alleges 140 articles “contained information gathered using unlawful methods” and told the court that every article played “a destructive role” in his growing up. He also claimed the tabloids “caused him significant distress and wrecked some of his closest relationships”. 

He added “some editors and journalists do have blood on their hands”, for the “distress” caused, and “perhaps, inadvertently death”, referencing his late mother Princess Diana.

Seeing a senior royal “subjected to a tiring, meticulous interrogation was exceedingly rare”, CNN added. Indeed, Prince Harry has become the first British royal to give evidence since 1891.

Before he became king, Edward VII was a witness in a slander trial over a card game, said The National. He is one of a handful of British royals who have appeared in court over the centuries.

Edward VII

Edward VII, the last royal to give evidence in court, appeared twice as a witness – in 1891 to give evidence in the slander trial – but for the first time in 1870. 

The then Prince of Wales was a voluntary witness in a divorce case on the first occasion, when Lady Harriet Mordaunt “falsely accused the heir to the throne of being one of her lovers”, said Yahoo Life. She had “confessed to a string of affairs” to her husband, Sir Charles Mordaunt, and Sir Charles filed for divorce.

Edward VII was “known as ‘Dirty Bertie’ for his philandering ways”, said Harry Mount in i News, with Yahoo adding he “had many mistresses”. He denied there had been any “improper familiarity or criminal act” between himself and Lady Mordaunt, though, and she was “declared insane by the jury”, with the divorce case dismissed.

Princess Anne

Although “it is rare for a senior member of the Royal Family to appear in court”, Princess Anne has “led the way, particularly when it comes to motoring offences”, said the Daily Mail.

After being given a written warning in 1972, aged 21, after “being caught driving at up to 90mph on the M1”, she was five years later fined £40 “for doing 96mph in a 70mph limit on the M1” at Alfreton Magistrates Court, Derbyshire. Then, in 1990, she was fined £150 and “banned from driving” for a month by magistrates in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, after admitting two speeding offences, claiming “she had been late for an engagement”. 

Her first in-person court appearance came in 2002 after she pleaded guilty to offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Her bull terrier, Dotty, “had got dangerously out of control” and attacked two boys. ​​

Charles I

Following the end of the English Civil War, Charles I was “charged with tyranny and treason” and brought to trial in Westminster Hall on 20 January 1649, said The Guardian

The king’s trial “was proclaimed to the sound of trumpets and drums”, according to Parliament, as the Serjeant at Arms “rode into the Hall carrying the mace and accompanied by six trumpeters on horseback”.

Appearing before judges four times, the exchanges “generally focused on the king challenging the court’s authority and its right to try him”, The Guardian added. 

Although “the King’s persistence disconcerted the judges”, there was “little doubt about the outcome” Parliament said, and he was sentenced to death on 27 January.

Mary, Queen of Scots

The Babington Plot was a plan to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I in 1586 and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne. 

Mary “faced trial for treason” before 36 noblemen, The Guardian said, but “denied all charges”. She urged those trying her to “look to your consciences and remember that the theatre of the whole world is wider than the kingdom of England”. 

Despite arguing “she had been denied the opportunity to review the evidence” and that she was “denied access to legal counsel”, she was convicted and sentenced to death. 

The Duke of Gloucester

In 2004, the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, was banned from driving for six months by magistrates in Ely, Cambridgeshire.

After he admitted to driving at 70mph on a stretch of the A47, where the limit is 60mph, magistrates added three points to his licence, in addition to the nine he’d accrued for speeding offences in November 2001, December 2002 and January 2003.

He was also the president of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, and “offered to quit” in the wake of the outcome, given that membership “depends on passing an advanced driving test”, reported The Guardian at the time.

He was invited to “give reasons why a ban would cause “exceptional hardship””, as was his legal right. But the Duke told the court: “I don’t recall the event, so I don’t really recall what the circumstances are”. 

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