The News of the World built up a thick dossier over a year on Prince Harry’s involvement with drink and drugs. Every story – and there were many – which surfaced about the 17-year-old younger son of Prince Charles was given to the paper’s top investigator, Mazher Mahmood, to check and recheck until the paper was 100 per cent sure of its facts.
Editor Rebekah Wade wanted on a number occasions to publish some of the stories but knew St James’s Palace could have objected to the Press Complaints Commission under clauses of the Editors’ Code.
A Palace spokesman confirmed to Press Gazette: "There have been stories of a similar nature going around Fleet Street for quite some time. The NoW has been trying to write a story either about drinking or about cannabis for probably about nine months and we have had innumerable, almost violent arguments with them about it from which, I think, they came to the view that if they were going to write anything, it had to be accurate.
"They finally came to us last week with information that we could not avoid answering and which was not inaccurate.
"The issue for us was not an issue of privacy but of accuracy. We kept this story out of the public domain for quite a long time because nobody’s been able to prove anything.
"But the NoW finally came up with the proof."
The spokesman said the Palace had to engage with the paper to "make sure those facts were wholly accurate in every respect".
The Palace did not consult the PCC because there was no intrusion of privacy and the compact with the media that protects the Princes while they are in full-time education goes beyond the Editors’ Code.
"There was no way whatsoever we could use that agreement to censor a story like this, which was accurate in its fundamental points and which related to a matter which was in the public interest," said the Palace spokesman.
Stephen Lamport, Prince Charles’s private secretary, did ring Guy Black, the PCC director, but only to tell him what was going on and how the Palace was handling it.
The Prince’s spokesman added: "The Prince of Wales himself takes a very close personal interest in how these things are handled. Few things matter more to him than his children’s privacy and how his children are portrayed in the media, and I have always been impressed by how sophisticated his understanding of all this is.
"It’s based, I suspect, principally on 30 years of observation and getting it wrong himself.
"He was presented with options last week and the option we went with was the one that he chose."
By Jean Morgan