Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle were involved in a "near catastrophic car chase" with paparazzi in New York, a spokesperson for the couple said Wednesday.
But police and even the mayor of New York City, as well as a taxi driver who briefly transported the couple, played down the danger and duration of the reported pursuit, AFP said.
The pair were uninjured in the incident Tuesday night that came almost 26 years after the Paris car crash that killed Harry's mother, Princess Diana, which Harry blames on paparazzi.
The episode occurred after Harry, 38, and Meghan, 41, attended an awards ceremony in America's financial capital with Meghan's mother Doria Ragland.
"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," the spokesperson said in a statement emailed to AFP.
"This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers," the spokesperson added.
A source close to the couple said Meghan and Harry were pursued by half a dozen blacked out vehicles with "unidentified people driving recklessly and endangering the convoy and everyone around them."
"The chase could have been fatal," the source added, claiming a number of possible traffic violations -- including driving on the sidewalk, running red lights and reversing down a one-way street -- were committed.
A spokesperson for the New York Police Department said "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," NYPD spokesman Julian Phillips told AFP.
Harry has long had a difficult relationship with the media.
He blames press intrusion for causing the death of his mother in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997 while she was being pursued by paparazzi.
In a US television interview earlier this year he recalled seeing the final photos of her and realizing that the last thing she saw before she died was photographers taking her picture.
Harry and Meghan, an American former TV actress, sensationally quit royal family duties in early 2020 and moved from Britain to the United States, in part because of intense media scrutiny.
The younger son of King Charles III has been involved in several legal cases against British newspaper publishers since moving to California.
Last week the publisher of The Mirror apologized "unreservedly" to Harry, who has accused the tabloid of unlawful information gathering.
Harry is also pursuing claims against the publisher of The Sun and the publisher of the Daily Mail. Those cases will be decided later this year.
'Hard to believe'
Harry and Meghan departed the Ms. Foundation for Women ceremony at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in midtown Manhattan, where Meghan received an award, and were heading towards a private residence when they were pursued.
US media reported that the couple got in a taxi outside a police station for part of their journey as they apparently tried to shake off the photographers.
Taxi driver Sukhcharn Singh told the Washington Post that two vehicles followed them.
"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," he said.
Mayor Eric Adams said he found it "hard to believe that there was a two-hour high-speed chase" through the Big Apple, but added that even "a 10-minute chase is extremely dangerous in New York City."
The couple's spokesperson said that "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 involved," said the spokesperson.
Harry carried out several TV interviews this year to promote his best-selling memoir "Spare," which has broken publishing records.
In the book and subsequent interviews, Harry aired a barrage of criticism at other royals, including elder brother Prince William.
He claimed William physically attacked him during an argument about Meghan and also detailed his strained relationship with his father, King Charles.
Harry attended his father's coronation earlier this month without Meghan, who remained in California with the couple's two children. He was not given a formal role in the ceremony.
Harry and Meghan have their own private security team in the US but lost their UK taxpayer-paid protection after they left Britain. They are challenging the move in British courts.