They stepped away from their royal duties and left Britain.
But Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, contend in an invasion of privacy lawsuit filed on Thursday in California that they haven’t been able to escape the paparazzi, who the couple accuse of using drones and telephoto lenses to take unauthorized photos of their son, Archie.
The photos show the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with their 14-month-old son in the backyard of a secluded estate in the Los Angeles area where the family has been staying since earlier this year, the lawsuit said.
The defendants were not named in the lawsuit because the couple do not know who took the photos, according to the complaint, which listed the defendants as John Does. The couple’s lawyer is seeking to subpoena people who may have knowledge about the intrusions.
Prince Harry and Meghan are suing under a so-called paparazzi law in California, under which a person can be held liable civilly for airspace intrusions to take photographs of a person on private property. The lawsuit is the latest clash between the British royal family and the media over privacy issues.
“The plaintiffs have done everything in their power to stay out of the limelight — except in connection with their work, which they freely admit is newsworthy,” the lawsuit said. “But the photos at issue are not news. They are not in the public interest. They are harassment.”
The couple have retained the lawyer Michael J. Kump, whose other clients have included Kim Kardashian West.
“Every individual and family member in California is guaranteed by law the right to privacy in their home,” Mr. Kump said in a statement on Thursday. “No drones, helicopters or telephoto lenses can take away that right.”
Prince Harry and Meghan discovered that someone was shopping photos of their son and had claimed they had been taken on a recent public outing in Malibu, according to the lawsuit, which said that Archie had not been out in public since the family arrived in Southern California.
“It is one thing for parents to share photos of their children, on occasion, with supporters — particularly when doing so has the salutary effect of reducing the bounty on their children’s heads,” the lawsuit said. “It is something else entirely to cede all control to photographers driven by commercial incentive alone. Simply put, it is the plaintiffs’ choice when and how to share photos of their son.”
In the lawsuit, the couple complained that a British tabloid, The Daily Mail, publicized the location of the Los Angeles-area estate where they were staying, as well as the location of the Vancouver, British Columbia, suburb where they rented a home in Canada. Dozens of paparazzi staked out both properties, the lawsuit said.
A spokesman for The Daily Mail did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday night.
In Southern California, the couple installed a large mesh fence to prevent the paparazzi from photographing them at the estate from a ridgeline, the lawsuit said. But the couple’s efforts to shield their son from the glare haven’t been successful because of the ingenuity and “insatiable” appetite of the tabloids, according to the lawsuit.
“Some paparazzi and media outlets have flown drones a mere 20 feet above the house, as often as three times a day, to obtain photographs of the couple and their young son in their private residence (some of which have been sold and published),” the lawsuit said. “Others have flown helicopters above the backyard of the residence, as early as 5:30 a.m. and as late as 7:00 p.m., waking neighbors and — their son, day after day. And still others have even cut holes in the security fence itself to peer through it.”
Earlier this year, lawyers representing the couple sent a letter to some British news outlets threatening legal action over the purchase and publication of photos of Meghan walking with Archie in a public park near the house they were renting outside Vancouver. Other photographers had tried to take pictures of the couple through windows when they were inside the house, the letter said.
Last year, Prince Harry chastised the press for its unrelenting coverage of his wife and said he was fearful that history would repeat itself, a reference to his mother, Princess Diana, who was constantly trailed by paparazzi. She died in Paris in 1997 after her car crashed while trying to avoid photographers. Her death prompted lawmakers in California to adopt the anti-paparazzi legislation.