Prince Harry and Meghan's New York City car chase: what actually happened?

The couple called the chase 'near catastrophic', but others have played events down

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry leave the New York City gala on Tuesday night. GC Images
Powered by automated translation

Prince Harry has often spoken of his fear of history repeating itself, and this week, after a “near catastrophic” car chase through New York City, it reportedly came close to doing so.

After leaving the Ms Foundation For Women's 50th anniversary gala event on Tuesday night, where Meghan, Duchess of Sussex was honoured with a Woman of Vision Award, the couple say they were pursued by paparazzi for two hours. It was their first public appearance since the coronation of King Charles III.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the couple criticised the “highly aggressive” photographers involved.

“This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers,” the statement said.

However, statements later released by other involved parties offer a slightly different take on the night’s events.

So, what really happened?

According to the couple’s press secretary, around 15 red light signals were “ignored” by paparazzi on bikes and in cars, but the agency involved, Backgrid, rejected those claims, and its photographers said it was actually the couple’s security who was driving dangerously.

In a statement, Backgrid USA said: “According to the photographers present, there were no near-collisions or near-crashes. The photographers have reported feeling that the couple was not in immediate danger at any point.

“One of the four SUVs from Prince Harry’s security escort was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless,” the company continued. “The vehicle was seen blocking off streets, and in one video, it is shown being pulled over by the police.”

The police department, meanwhile, said one NYPD vehicle escorted the couple’s car across 57th Street and other streets in Manhattan for 75 minutes in a bid to lose pursuers and return to the private residence they were staying at in the Upper East Side.

At one point, the Sussexes, along with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, took refuge in the NYPD's 19th precinct building, where they stayed for around 15 minutes, before getting into a different car and eventually making it home without being followed.

Police reported no injuries, collisions or arrests, or plans for any further investigation.

New York City cab driver Sukhcharn Singh drove the couple for part of the journey. AP

Taxi driver, Sukhcharn Singh, who carried the couple for part of the journey has also given an account of events.

“I don't think I would call it a chase. I never felt like I was in danger,” he told The Washington Post.

“It wasn't like a car chase in a movie.” Harry and Meghan “were quiet and seemed scared but it's New York – it's safe”.

“Photographers kept following us and were coming next to the car,” he continued. “They took pictures as we stopped and were filming us.”

What has happened since?

On Thursday, celebrity picture agency Backgrid said it received a letter from the Sussexes’ legal team, demanding it hand over pictures and footage from the incident.

“We hereby demand that Backgrid immediately provide us with copies of all photos, videos, and/or films taken last night by the freelance photographers after the couple left their event and over the next several hours,” the letter reportedly said.

However, Backgrid refused, instead issuing its own statement.

“In America, as I'm sure you know, property belongs to the owner of it: Third parties cannot just demand it be given to them, as perhaps Kings can do,” Backgrid said.

“Perhaps you should sit down with your client and advise them that his English rules of royal prerogative to demand that the citizenry hand over their property to the Crown were rejected by this country long ago.

“We stand by our founding fathers.”

British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, was also asked about the incident during an interview with the BBC at the G7 summit in Japan, however, he appeared to dismiss the incident.

“Cars in New York are not really my priority or my responsibility,” he said.

“What is my priority and responsibility is people's safety at home.”

History repeating itself

Prince Harry has spoken openly of his disdain for the media, and is currently involved in several legal battles challenging what he perceives as unlawful intrusion into his personal life by tabloids in the UK.

This incident is likely to further fuel his fury at the media and add to the feelings he has previously expressed of “history repeating itself”.

Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash in Paris while being pursued by the paparazzi when he was 12 years old.

Speaking in The Me You Can’t See, a 2021 mental health documentary, Prince Harry said: “My mother was chased to her death, and now look what’s happened. You want to talk about history repeating itself?” He added, in reference to his wife, “They’re not going to stop until she dies.”

Updated: May 21, 2023, 8:01 AM