Britain's Prince Harry has issued a rare statement criticising the media for intruding into the private life of his American girlfriend, actress Meghan Markle, saying the press had subjected her to "a wave of abuse and harassment".
British newspapers have been running daily stories about Ms Markle since it emerged at the end of October that the 35-year-old actress had been "secretly" dating the prince, 32, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth, for several months.
Harry and his elder brother Prince William, the second in line to the throne, have had a strained relationship with the press ever since their mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi on motorbikes.
However, the statement on Monday from his communications secretary, which officially confirmed Harry and Ms Markle's relationship for the first time, contained an unusually strong condemnation of the press.
"He has rarely taken formal action on the very regular publication of fictional stories that are written about him and he has worked hard to develop a professional relationship with the media," the statement said.
Tabloid media organisations have for weeks been speculating that Markle and Prince Harry were together (AAP)
"But the past week has seen a line crossed. His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment.
"Some of this has been very public - the 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."
Divorcee Ms Markle is a native of Los Angeles who stars in the legal drama Suits. Her father is white and her mother African-American.
The statement said royal aides had fought nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories from appearing in papers. It also included a litany of alleged offences by reporters.
Ms Markle's mother had been forced to struggle past media camped outside her front door, it said, and reporters and photographers had tried to gain illegal entry to the mother's home.
In addition, Ms Markle's ex-boyfriend had been offered substantial bribes, it said, while "nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life" had been bombarded by the press.
The prince understood he enjoyed a privileged life but was worried about Ms Markle's safety and was "deeply disappointed" he could not protect her, the statement said.