Elton John defends Harry and Meghan’s use of private jets

Prince Harry and Sir Elton JohnImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Pop star Sir Elton John is friends with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Sir Elton John has defended the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s use of private jets – and said he paid to carbon offset their trip to his French home.

The singer said he provided Prince Harry, Meghan and their son Archie with his private plane to “maintain a high level of much-needed protection”.

The royal couple have faced criticism after newspapers claimed they took four private jet journeys in 11 days, including to Sir Elton’s home in Nice.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

Private jets usually carry fewer passenger than commercial planes, meaning they burn much more fuel per person per hour.

In a message posted on social media, Sir Elton said: “I am deeply distressed by today’s distorted and malicious account in the press surrounding the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s private stay at my home in Nice last week.

“Prince Harry’s mother, Diana Princess of Wales was one of my dearest friends. I feel a profound sense of obligation to protect Harry and his family from the unnecessary press intrusion that contributed to Diana’s untimely death.

“After a hectic year continuing their hard work and dedication to charity, David and I wanted the young family to have a private holiday inside the safety and tranquillity of our home.

“To maintain a high level of much-needed protection, we provided them with a private jet flight.”

Prince Harry has previously spoken about the importance of tackling climate change.

In September’s edition of Vogue – edited by Meghan – the prince spoke about environmental issues and his love for nature, saying: “We are the one species on this planet that seems to think that this place belongs to us, and only us.”

And in a post on the @SussexRoyal Instagram page last month, he wrote: “Environmental damage has been treated as a necessary by-product of economic growth.

“Only now are we starting to notice and understand the damage that we’ve been causing. With nearly 7.7 billion people inhabiting this Earth, every choice, every footprint, every action makes a difference.”

Sir Elton said he paid for the flight to be carbon offset “to support Prince Harry’s commitment to the environment”.

Carbon offsetting allows passengers to pay extra to help compensate for the carbon emissions produced from their flight.

The money is then invested in environmental projects – such as planting trees or installing solar panels – which reduce carbon dioxide in the air by the same amount.

Sir Elton urged the press to stop the “relentless and untrue assassinations on their character that are spuriously crafted on an almost daily basis”.

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres tweeted that the couple were “the most down-to-earth, compassionate people”.

“Imagine being attacked for everything you do, when all you’re trying to do is make the world better,” she said.

On Saturday, the Sun reported that the “eco-warrior” royals “flew into the new hypocrisy row” after taking a second European trip on a private plane in a month.

The paper quoted Labour MP Teresa Pearce calling for the couple to “lead by example” on environmental issues.

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted his support for Sir Elton, adding: “The hounding of Harry and Meghan is becoming a witch-hunt replete with nasty racial and xenophobic overtones”.

Figures from accounts published in June show the Royal Household’s carbon emissions due to business travel almost doubled last year.

The increase was put down to the use of chartered flights for more overseas visits, which are planned by the Foreign Office.

However, emissions savings from greener heating and lighting meant the household’s overall carbon footprint stayed around the same as the previous year.

‘A low point in relations’

A tacit understanding has long existed between the House of Windsor and Fleet Street, even as the power of the latter has waned. In return for access and regular stories, the newspapers would present an image of the monarchy to the public that maintained popular affection for them.

Like all relationships, this one has highs and lows. This is a low.

Senior executives across Britain’s newspapers and PR industry say the current negative coverage of the Windsors is rooted in events.

In recent weeks, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly attended a Google summit in Sicily, where climate change was discussed. Many of the attendees arrived by private jet. This annoyed some editors and observers, especially coming soon after he and his wife said one reason they may not have more than two children is concern about over-population.

It was reported in April that Prince Harry’s family would move to Frogmore Cottage, around 20 miles from the goldfish bowl of Kensington Palace and other royals.

On Monday, the Duke of York issued a strong statement deploring the allegations against Jeffrey Epstein, with whom he once associated.

All this adds up to ammunition for journalists who, even though they work for royalist publications, like to criticise Britain’s first family.

And yet a recent torrent of negative headlines is also rooted in deeper problems: William and Harry’s long-held disdain for parts of the press; the feeling that Meghan Markle doesn’t conform to what is expected of a British royal (more power to her, some would say); and a PR operation across the family that has experienced considerable upheaval in recent years.

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