After leaving the Ms. Foundation 50th anniversary gala earlier this week, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and her mother, Doria Ragland, were involved in a "near catastrophic" incident as paparazzi followed their car.
Here's everything we know so far:
It was a "near catastrophic car chase."
"Last night, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms. Ragland were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi,” a spokesperson for the couple told Town & Country on May 17.
Their spokesperson added that the pursuit lasted for more than two hours:
"While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone’s safety. Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all in involved."
Chris Sanchez, a member of their security team, told CNN that, "I have never seen, experienced anything like this. What we were dealing with was very chaotic. There were about a dozen vehicles: cars, scooters and bicycles."
TMZ reports that the "pursuit was at its most intense on the FDR Drive," a highway on Manhattan's east side, and that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's SUV "got up to about 80 mph as they tried to shake the paparazzi." TMZ also added that one paparazzi car drove the wrong way down a one-way street.
Sanchez added, "The public were in jeopardy at several points. It could have been fatal. [The photographers] were jumping curbs and red lights. At one point they blocked the limousine (carrying the couple) and started taking pictures until we were able to get out." After arriving at their destination, Sanchez said, Harry and Meghan were "scared, exhausted, but relieved to be back."
Tom Buda, the president of Buda Security Inc—which was responsible for their transportation—told NBC News that the evening was "frightening" for the royals and that Doria was particularly shaken up. Buda said the paparazzi pursuing them were "driving aggressively and badly" and that they were "following us to find out where we were staying." He clarified it "was not a high speed pursuit" but "it was reckless by them."
Ashley Hansen, their press secretary, told Sky News that "I have never experienced their vulnerability as much as I did last night. They were incredibly scared and shaken up." She added, "There were instances where the police confronted the paparazzi and had asked them to stop or give them space, to do this safely. Unfortunately, that wish was not respected."
Harry and Meghan took a taxi cab at one point.
After around an hour of trying to shake the paparazzi, the Sussexes arrived at the 19th precinct on East 67th street, waiting for the situation to de-escalate. From there, at around 11 p.m., the couple, along with Meghan's mom and a security guard, hopped in a yellow taxi cab to try and avoid the paparazzi.
"They kept following us and were coming next to the car," driver Sukhcharn Singh told the Washington Post of the paparazzi following them. "They took pictures as we stopped and were filming us." He added, "I don’t think I would call it a chase. I never felt like I was in danger. It wasn’t like a car chase in a movie. They were quiet and seemed scared but it’s New York—it’s safe." Singh also noted to the Associated Press they left him a generous tip, giving him $50 for a $17 fare.
Backgrid, a photo agency, says it is investigating and that its freelance photographers "have a professional responsibility to cover newsworthy events and personalities."
They had three photographers in cars and one on a bicycle pursuing Harry and Meghan. Their full statement is as follows, via People:
"At BACKGRID USA Inc., we value transparency and ethics in journalism, which include providing fair and factual responses to claims. We are aware of Prince Harry's statement regarding an alleged 'near catastrophic car chase' involving himself, Meghan Markle, and her mother, in New York City on Tuesday night.
"We want to clarify that we have received photos and videos of last night’s events from four freelance photographers, three of whom were in cars and one of whom was riding a bicycle. It is important to note that these photographers have a professional responsibility to cover newsworthy events and personalities, including public figures such as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
"According to the accounts given by these freelance contributors, they were covering the couple's stay in New York City, including the possibility of a dinner after an award ceremony. They had no intention of causing any distress or harm, as their only tool was their cameras. A few of the photos even show Meghan Markle smiling inside a cab. The photographers report that one of the four SUVs from Prince Harry's security escort was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless.
"The vehicle was seen blocking off streets, and in one video, it is shown being pulled over by the police. We understand that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's security detail had a job to do, and we respect their work.
"We do, however, want to point out that according to the photographers present, there were no near-collisions or near-crashes during this incident. The photographers have reported feeling that the couple was not in immediate danger at any point.
"At BACKGRID USA Inc., we do not condone any form of harassment or illegal activity. We are taking Prince Harry's allegations seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation into the matter."
Later, Backgrid also shared it rejected a legal demand to hand over the photos to the royal couple, replying in a letter that read in part, "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. 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." (There is no "royal prerogative" in the UK, however.)
A photographer on the scene told People that the pursuit was not "near catastrophic." They said, "Nobody got a ticket or arrested...I don't see how it was near catastrophic other than crazy hyperbole." Another source said, "At any point, they could have gone to a police station or pulled into a garage."
Ms. Foundation says "the media must do better."
Ms. Foundation told Town & Country they were "horrified" at the actions, which occurred following their event: "Last night, the Women of Vision Awards celebrated the incredible achievements of our honorees, marking the organization's 50th anniversary of philanthropy in feminist movements," the organization said in a statement. "The Ms. Foundation is absolutely horrified at the harmful actions post-event that endangered Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex and her family. Everyone, especially the media, must do better."
In addition, their friend, photographer Misan Harriman, tweeted, "They need to be protected, this is unacceptable and terrifying, they have babies at home….. sigh."
Buckingham Palace has no comment.
Buckingham Palace, when reached for comment by various outlets, had no comment on the situation. Nor did Kensington Palace, which represents Prince William and Kate Middleton.
No arrests have been made.
The NYPD corroborated that an incident occurred last night. "On Tuesday evening, May 16, the NYPD assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. There were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests in regard," Julian Phillips, the New York City Police Department's Deputy Commissioner for Public Information told Town & Country over e-mail.
Mayor Eric Adams commented on the events, too, saying two NYPD officers "could have been injured" during the evening.
This is a developing story.
Emily Burack (she/her) is the news writer for Town & Country, where she covers entertainment, culture, the royals, and a range of other subjects. Before joining T&C, she was the deputy managing editor at Hey Alma, a Jewish culture site. Follow her @emburack on Twitter and Instagram.