The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were ‘forced out’ of their leased home at Great Tew after paparazzi photos were taken of their private accommodation.
The photos were taken from a helicopter working for a Los Angeles-based news agency called Splash which has now apologised to Prince Harry and paid ‘substantial damages’.
Yesterday (Thursday), Prince Harry settled privacy and data protection claims against the agency over the photographs at the High Court in London.
The Prince ‘welcomed’ the apology.
Splash said in a statement: “Splash has always recognised that this situation represents an error of judgement and we have taken steps to ensure it will not be repeated.
“We apologise to the Duke and Duchess for the distress we have caused.”
Prince Harry and his then-fiancee Meghan Markle leased the substantial Great Tew home last May for two years as their country getaway.
It is close to their friends David and Victoria Beckham and Soho Farmhouse, the exclusive celebrity country club where the rich and famous can dine, party and relax away from the gaze of the public.
Strict rules are in place there over intrusion and photographs making it a welcome oasis for those in the public eye.
Neighbours of the Sussexes at Great Tew were the Beckhams (whose home is 200 yards from Soho Farmhouse), Sir Patrick Stewart and singer Jack Savoretti while other members of the ‘Chipping Norton set’ including Amanda Holden and Jeremy Clarkson live within a stone’s throw.
Actor George Clooney - a fierce protector of Meghan as she comes under the spotlight of the British media - and his wife Amal and twins live not far away in south Oxfordshire.
In the High Court last Thursday, Splash News and Picture Agency admitted an “error of judgement” and apologised for the distress caused to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The pictures showed the living and dining areas and the bedroom of the couple’s Great Tew property and were published in The Times and elsewhere online, according to his laywer.
Barrister Gerrard Tyrrell told Mr Justice Warby the Duke and Duchess felt they were ‘no longer able to live at the property’ because of the intrusion.
Reading a statement in open court on the prince’s behalf, Mr Tyrrell said the couple had chosen the home because of ‘the high level of privacy it afforded’ but the photos had ‘very seriously undermined the safety and security of the Duke and the home’.
Splash ‘agreed to pay a substantial sum in damages and legal costs and has apologised to the Duke’, Mr Tyrrell said.
He added that the agency had given an undertaking to ‘cease and desist from selling, issuing, publishing or making available the photographs’ and that it ‘will not repeat its conduct by using any aerial means to take photographs or film footage of the Duke’s private home which would infringe privacy or data rights or otherwise be unlawful activity’.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said: “The Duke of Sussex acknowledges and welcomes the formal apology from Splash News and Picture Agency as referenced in the Statement in Open Court today, which is set out in the attached document.”
It was believed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were interested in buying a large property called Beaconsfield Farm - two fields away from Soho Farmhouse - which the Great Tew Estate has been criticised for, for establishing a new stone driveway without planning permission.
Great Tew was clearly unlikely to be sufficiently secure for the Royal couple who have decided to settle with their firstborn son, Archie, at Frogmore Cottage, Windsor.
Great Tew has become something of a magnet for celebrities and the wealthy. The Banbury Guardian reported this week that Soho Farmhouse is partly responsible for an increase in traffic at London Oxford Airport - https://www.banburyguardian.co.uk/news/people/soho-farmhouse-causes-spike-in-jet-traffic-at-oxford-airport-1-8926048