In an unprecedented move following a front-page tabloid story linking his girlfriend to a porn website, Prince Harry has released a statement, blasting the press's coverage of his relationship with the Toronto-based actress.
The statement, issued on Monday via the Kensington Palace Twitter account, confirmed Prince Harry is in a relationship with 35-year-old Meghan Markle, who plays Rachel Zane on the legal drama Suits, and said that a "line has been crossed" this week, making her the "subject to a wave of abuse and harassment."
The statement took issue with Markle being the target of "a smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."
Last week, the Sun published a front-page piece about Markle, titled "Harry's girl on Pornhub," although the clips on the website are of Markle's appearances on Suits and wouldn't even fit into your religious grandmother's idea of pornography.
One (really gross) opinion piece in last weekend's Mail on Sunday, by Rachel Johnson, said: "Genetically, she is blessed. If there is issue from her alleged union with Prince Harry, the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA."
The statement also said privately, there have been "nightly" legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers, that papers had offered Markle's ex-boyfriend "substantial" bribes, that reporters and photographers had tried to illegally enter her Toronto home, prompting calls to police, and that her family members and loved ones had been bombarded by journalists.
"Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her," the statement said, before encouraging members of the media to "pause and reflect before any further damage is done."
"[Prince Harry] knows that it is unusual to issue a statement like this, but hopes that fair-minded people will understand why he has felt it necessary to speak publicly."
Markle's heritage—her mother is African American and her father is white—has been a focus point for the British press, which has been reporting heavily on the relationship.
"Harry's girl is (almost) straight outta Compton," said one headline in the Daily Mail, which also said Markle's mother lives in a "run-down area" in the Los Angeles suburb of Crenshaw.
Prior to releasing the statement, Prince Harry had been criticized for staying silent on the racist and sexist attacks on Markle.
In a scathing op-ed published by the Huffington Post on Friday, activist Rachel Décoste put the prince himself on the hot seat, reminding readers of a 2005 incident in which Harry wore a swastika-laden Nazi uniform to a costume party. Harry once also referred to a Pakistani army officer as "our little Paki friend" on camera and told another officer who was wearing a camouflage veil that he looked like a "raghead."
Décoste called Harry's silence on the press's treatment of Markle "unforgivable," arguing that she should "dump him and find a man who stands up to those who insult his lady friend and speaks out against racism."
"At Harry's disposal: an army of advisers and press people—the same ones who wrote his apologies for swastikas and racist slang. Harry hasn't issued a statement to defend his girlfriend and her family as they are dragged out by the press. He hasn't said a word."
Markle, who studied theatre and international relations and was working at the American embassy in Buenos Aires when she was discovered, has not yet publicly spoken about the relationship or the prince's desire to protect her.
Follow Tamara Khandaker on Twitter.