PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markle may well be right to take legal action against newspapers and journalists who are alleged to have hacked their phones in searches for titillating information to publish.

Phone-hacking is, and is well known to be, illegal, and there is no reason why those who use it should not face severe criticism, at the very least.

But it seems from the Prince’s statement issued just a few days ago that he had far more than the illegal acts in mind.

He spoke of a “ruthless campaign” against his wife, waged by way of “false and malicious” stories and “continual misrepresentations”

There are certainly those in some sections of the media who have criticised the royal couple from combining a jet-setting lifestyles with professions of environmental awareness.

But should the couple be immune to criticism, simply due to their royal circumstances? Harry’s statement certainly seems to suggest that.

Their fame and their elevated social status has made them public figures, and that inevitably means that comment, whether by newspapers or the general public, goes with the territory. It would be entirely improper, in the context of the 21st century, for Prince Harry to try to dictate what the ordinary people are allowed to read about.

Such an attitude would be a throwback to absolutist monarchy, some thing that we in Britain thought we had seen the back of long ago.

Worse, for the Royal family itself, and possibly for the British constitution as a whole, such attitudes might quite well fuel an upsurge in republicanism, as people think “Who the hell do they think there are, aristocrats trying to tell us what we can and can’t read?”

This might well cause serious problems when Queen Elizabeth II dies.

The general opinion is that she has made a great job of her role over the years, but there are certainly worries that the younger generation of royals, some of whom have acquired a reputation for preferring a good time over official duties.

The days of deference are dead for a great many people, and it would be a huge mistake for younger members of the royal family to assume that their word is law. On that path lies danger.