Prince Harry and Meghan Markle could be about to add a new secret weapon to their PR arsenal, as a law firm used by both to represent them in high-profile legal cases is branching out into reputational management.
Both Harry and Meghan have employed the services of the firm Schillings in lawsuits against the tabloid press, including Harry’s ongoing defamation claim against the publishers of the Daily Mail. On Wednesday, the firm announced it will form a new venture in the public relations and reputational management sphere for cases where clients’ requirements extend beyond the course of legal action.
In a press release, Schillings explained that “in the modern age of intensified scrutiny, digital and privacy threats, smear campaigns, complex reputation risks and overnight cancel culture—super-charged by the ultra-high pace of the digital age—today’s contested space requires a broader and deeper bench of experts.”
Though these factors could prove attractive to Harry and Meghan as potential clients, the new venture’s two key hires could prove cause for consideration.
Schillings described the new hires as two of Britain’s “leading communications specialists”—and both have tenuous links with Harry.
Perhaps the most polarizing in the eyes of the prince will be George Pascoe-Watson, who joins Schillings after 14 years at political consultancy and PR agency, Portland Communications. Prior to this, he was the well-known political editor of the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, The Sun.
Pascoe-Watson spent 22 years with the paper after which he moved into consulting.
Harry has previously stated his mission to overhaul the media industry in the United Kingdom, partially through suing newspapers he claims have had “blood on their hands,” including The Sun. He is suing the top three tabloid publishers in Britain over allegations of historic unlawful information gathering against him.
Among them is Murdoch-owned News U.K. (formerly News Group Newspapers) which publishes The Sun and the now-defunct News of The World.
In an interview broadcast in Britain in January ahead of the publication of his memoir, Spare, Harry explained why he was determined to see his goal of media reform come into action.
“One of the reasons I am moving the mission of changing the media landscape in the U.K. from being personal to my life’s work, a large part of that is down to the ongoing legal battles – specifically with phone-hacking—I put in my claims over three years ago and I am still waiting,” he said.
“So one might assume that a lot of this, from their [publishers] perspective, is retaliation and trying to intimidate me to settle rather than take it to court and potentially they have to shut down. That is a large part of it.”
No allegations of unlawful journalistic conduct have been made against Pascoe-Watson.
The prince has a difficult relationship with journalists in general, citing the treatment of his wife, Meghan, and mother, Princess Diana, as well as himself as evidence for caution.
The second prestigious hire for Schillings’ new PR venture is Victoria O’Byrne, who has a resumé decorated with high-powered roles—most notably the former communications director to Prince Harry’s brother and sister-in-law, the Prince and Princess of Wales.
O’Byrne was appointed to the household of William and Kate in March 2021 and stayed in the role for less than a year, reportedly leaving when a family member fell ill.
It was the same month that Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey aired, and thus, a significant PR moment for William and Kate.
During the interview, the royal couple made a number of revelations about their relationship with William and Kate, including Meghan’s claim that, contrary to reports at the time, it had been Kate who made her cry in the days before her 2018 wedding.
William and Kate did not respond directly to the allegations made in the interview, however, the prince answered a journalist’s question in the days after its airing to dispel the idea that the royal family was “racist.”
The new operation that Pascoe-Watson and O’Byrne will be heading has not yet been named, however, the CEO of Schillings, David Imison, spoke about the scale of its ambition in a press release on September 6.
“With the pace of technological change, intensified scrutiny, proliferation of falsehoods and the ramification of cultural and generational fault lines, the reputational terrain has never been so complex to navigate. This new terrain requires a new map,” he said.
“We are launching a strategic communications consultancy alongside our legal, intelligence, investigations, and security practices to offer clients world-class counsel – the first of its kind under one roof. Our integrated approach will mean that clients have the resilience they need to capitalise on high-stakes opportunities and successfully manage high-stakes threats.”
It is not yet known whether Harry and Meghan will make use of the firm’s new offering.
Regalrumination.com reached out to Schillings and representatives of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle via email for comment.
James Crawford-Smith is Regalrumination.com‘s royal reporter, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Regalrumination.com‘s The Royals Facebook page.
Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email Support@regalrumination.com. We’d love to hear from you.