Happy birthday, Harry
As Prince Harry turns 33, Juliet Rieden looks at what the future holds for the royal and his recent revelations about the passion and pain that drive him.
When you meet Prince Harry, the first thing that strikes you is his infectious energy. Harry is a doer, he make things happen and loves to take part. Next it’s his passion for people. Like both his parents, Harry takes time to chat. Even though there may be 100 in the room, the person he’s talking to feels like the only one. It’s a fantastic skill and one that will serve him well as his royal role shifts gear.
As he turns 33 on September 15, Prince Harry is set to take on more royal roles. Stepping into the void left by his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh’s retirement from official duties, Harry will support his 91-yearold grandmother, the Queen, and help his brother, Prince William. The young royals are stretching their wings and moving centre stage as the House of Windsor redistributes the heavy lifting with a view to the future.
Also in Harry’s future, the world is hanging out for a wedding. In August, he took his girlfriend Meghan Markle on a romantic holiday to Botswana to celebrate her 36th birthday. Many wondered if Harry might have popped the question on the break and ever since the British tabloids have suggested an engagement is imminent.
This isn’t just idle speculation. The couple has been together for close to a year and in a podcast interview in April, Harry happily revealed, “I would love to have kids”. In late September, the Prince heads to Toronto for the Invictus Games, where teams of injured servicemen and women from all around the world, including Australia, will compete in Olympicstyle sporting events cheered on by the Games founder – Prince Harry. And although there has been no official confirmation that Meghan will be by his side, it’s a fair bet, since this is where she lives and works filming TV drama Suits, in which she plays sexy lawyer Rachel Zane. Of course, Meghan is a celebrity in her own right, so together the couple will certainly be attracting attention.
Protecting Meghan from the sort of paparazzi hounding his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, received is paramount for the Prince. In one of a clutch of revealing interviews Harry and William undertook to shine a light on the 20th anniversary of their mother’s death in August, both royals
“I intuitively know what my mother would like me to do.”
stressed how damaging that harassment was to their mother – who was regularly in floods of tears – and to them as children. “One of the hardest things to come to terms with is the fact that the people that chased her into the tunnel were the same people that were taking photographs of her while she was still dying on the back seat of the car,” Harry told the BBC in a particularly poignant cry from the heart. William called the photographers, “a pack of dogs”.
Today, Harry is focused on trying to achieve an “ordinary life” within his extraordinary world. “My mother took a huge part in showing me an ordinary life,” he told Newsweek.
“I am determined to have a relatively normal life and if I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one, too.” Interviewer Angela Levin said Harry told her that he ached to be “something other than Prince Harry”, and with Meghan, an American divorcée who is also an outspoken feminist and supports many of the causes Prince Harry holds dear, he may be able to find some sense of that.
Losing his mother at just 12 is part of who Harry is, but 20 years on, she is with him every day. “I intuitively know what my mother would like me to do and want to progress with work she couldn’t complete,” he told Newsweek. He founded the charity Sentebale – which means “forget me not” – with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, who also lost his mother young, in 2006, to commemorate their mums and help vulnerable children living with HIV/AIDS.
His latest initiative with his brother and the Duchess of Cambridge is to blow open the stigma around mental health. And true to form, Harry has jumped in with both feet and gone on record, talking about his own battles to develop from an angry, lost teenager to the powerful, passionate man he is today. “Years after
[his mother’s death], I spent a long time [of] my life with my head buried in the sand, thinking, ‘I don’t want to be Prince Harry. I don’t want this responsibility. I don’t want this role. Look what’s happened to my mother. Why does this have to happen to me?’ ” he told the BBC. “But now all I want to do is try and fill the holes that my mother has left ... to make a difference and, in making a difference, making her proud.”
For those of us watching on, Harry has certainly achieved that. We wish him a very happy birthday.
FROM TOP: Harry, aged two, with Diana in 1987; at a charity event in London, in July; Meghan Markle watches Harry play polo in May. OPPOSITE: Harry and his mum in a recently released photograph from her private album.