Prince Harry harshly criticized the media on Tuesday for subjecting his new girlfriend, U.S.-born actress Meghan Markle, to “a wave of abuse and harassment,” and some who live in her Toronto neighbourhood share his hope the media sideshow moves on.
In recent days, reports in Britain have linked Ms. Markle with the Prince, instantly transforming her from minor to major celebrity. The 35-year-old actress, who has her own clothing line at the Canadian chain Reitmans, lives on a quiet side street near Bathurst and Dupont streets and stars in the TV drama Suits, which is shot in Toronto and airs in Canada on the Bravo channel.
There were no paparazzi staking out her small, nondescript detached home on Tuesday afternoon. But Rachel Lissner, 28, who lives nearby, saw a trio of photographers shooting pictures of the house last week. She said one of them had a British accent and “looked a bit fashionable.” When she questioned them, they denied taking the pictures, making her feel even more uncomfortable. She says she hopes they will leave Ms. Markle alone.
“What I like about Toronto … is that it is very easy to be anonymous here, and that people really don’t get up in your face,” said Ms. Lissner, a native of Washington, D.C. “Nobody really cares if you are a celebrity or not.”
After word of Ms. Markle’s romance with Harry – who reportedly attended a Halloween party in the city – leaked out, a handful of photographers and reporters, including some from Britain, started poking around her street last week. They stood in front of the house for a couple of days, neighbours say, and knocked on doors looking for the actress.
In Britain, the tabloid press went into a frenzy, chasing down relatives and friends. Much of the overheated coverage fixated on the fact that Ms. Markle is of mixed race: Her mother is black, her father white.
On Tuesday, Prince Harry’s communications secretary released a statement saying the press had crossed a line. It was not lost on many that this is a man whose mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was literally hounded to her death by paparazzi when she perished in a Paris car crash in 1997.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” the statement reads, which also for the first time confirmed the relationship. “It is not right that just a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”
The statement says Ms. Markle has had to face “the racial undertones of comment pieces” in the British press and “the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls.” It also cites a “smear on the front page of a national newspaper,” presumably a reference to a recent story in Britain’s Sun tabloid claiming that footage of Ms. Markle appears on a well-known pornography website, although the footage in question is reportedly only TV love scenes from Suits.
But the statement also cites “attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed.”
Britain’s Guardian newspaper, citing a palace source, said people had been caught “trying to get into her house in Toronto.” In one incident, the paper reported, a photographer “is said to have chased an assistant through her garage door and barged through behind her” before “being removed physically from her house.”
Toronto Police were called to the home last Thursday, after photographers took pictures of Ms. Markle’s car pulling into her laneway garage. But veteran Toronto freelance news photographer Victor Biro, who took a round of pictures on the ground as the garage door was shut, said there were only three or four photographers present and no one barged into her garage or trespassed on her property.
“I am not going to invalidate the way she might have been threatened or unaccustomed to the attention, but the reality is, nobody went near her property,” Mr. Biro said. “Everybody was very standoffish. I’ve seen bigger scrums around most politicians. There was really nothing to see.”
No one was arrested or charged, or even officially cautioned, after the incident. Police spokesmen declined to comment. Ms. Markle has reportedly hired private security.Report Typo/Error