HARRY & MEGHAN: the making of the People’s Prince
After his fairytale wedding, Prince Harry has found true happiness and this month the charismatic royal couple arrives on our shores. Juliet Rieden explores the maturing of the one-time party Prince, how the Invictus Games have shaped him and why his wife, Meghan, will inspire Australia.
It’s hard to believe that it was only a year ago at the Toronto Invictus Games that Prince Harry introduced his new girlfriend to the world. That moment was highly orchestrated, a piece of delicious theatre by the royal’s Kensington Palace aides, but it was still 100 per cent Prince Harry – laid back and passionate.
After intense media scrutiny and many blissful months dating in secret, Prince Harry chose the Toronto Invictus Games to let the world in. It didn’t take much. The couple simply strode hand-in-hand into the competition’s stadium and quietly sat down, joining the crowds courtside to watch a wheelchair tennis match between competitors from Australia and New Zealand.
Harry and Meghan laughed, couldn’t stop smiling and applauded, and their body language said it all. She was in ripped jeans and an on-trend white shirt tucked in on one side; His Royal Highness was snake-hipped in navy chinos and an Invictus polo shirt. Both wore shades but they couldn’t hide what was going on inside. This was a couple in love.
Dominic Reid, Chief Executive of the Invictus Games Foundation was with Meghan on that day. “I didn’t know until perhaps ve minutes beforehand that this was going to happen,” he tells The Weekly. “We knew that it would probably happen sometime during the week, but the detail of it was very, very tightly guarded.”
Everyone had hoped that Harry would bring Meghan to Invictus and royal photographers were on tenterhooks, not wanting to miss the shot that in seconds would ignite the internet. The Suits TV star was discreetly placed in the audience for the opening ceremony but this would be the couple’s rst public outing together. “You’ve got to remember she was living and working in Toronto, so not to have done it would have been slightly strange,” laughs Dominic, conceding, “it was a very nice public moment.”
The fact that Harry chose the Invictus, the initiative that he has personally developed since 2014, to let the public into his private life is also signi cant. “Absolutely, it was his option to show her something that I’m sure he’s proud of,” says Dominic.
Twelve months later and Prince Harry is again choosing the Invictus Games to herald another personal debut. Later this month, the Duke
and Duchess of Sussex will embark on their rst royal tour as a couple, a program built around the Games that also sees the newlyweds tour Sydney, Dubbo, Melbourne and Fraser Island in Queensland. Halfway through, the royal duo will island hop to the kingdoms of Fiji and Tonga and then on the way home take in New
Zealand as well. At 16 days on the ground – another couple in the air – this is an extensive tour and quite a baptism for the newest addition to the top tier of the House of Windsor.
For the youngest son of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, it will also be a truly pivotal moment. Finally, after years of being the singleton hanging out with his brother and sister-in-law, the raf sh uncle yet to settle down, the lone royal on visits to corners of the realm, Prince Harry will be tackling a major four-nation Commonwealth extravaganza, and all with his wife by his side.
In 2015 I joined Prince Harry on his tour of New Zealand where he gave a rare interview to Sky News’ Rhiannon Mills. The media pack was relatively small and cosy and the Prince was friendly and comfortable as he toured. In the interview Harry said that he really would love to have a wife and family and that while “hopefully I’m doing all right by myself, it would be great to have someone else next to me to share the pressure.”
Now that wish has come true and together Harry and Meghan are eager to embrace their new life as ambassadors for the most signi cant royal family in the world.
“Harry takes the role very seriously,” explains Alan Jones, royal reporter for UK’s Press Association. “The Prince will be on a Commonwealth tour with not only the world watching him, but more importantly, the Queen. He will see the tour as work, rst and foremost, on behalf of his grandmother, but he will be himself and enjoy the experience with his wife. This attitude shows that the monarchy has not changed, it still believes in the principle of working in the service of others and the country.”
This sense of duty and giving back is at the heart of Harry’s Invictus. The Games started as a kernel of an idea Harry personally nurtured. And as the Games grew in popularity, the Prince also found con dence and self-esteem.
Sir Keith Mills, who worked on the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games and is the Chairman of Invictus, recalls the day he met with Prince Harry for the rst time to discuss the royal’s crazy notion for a sporting competition for injured servicemen and women.
“He told me about being in the army and the experiences he had with some of the guys who were badly wounded; indeed some of them were killed. He told me about a trip he’d made to the States and how he’d taken a small contingent of wounded British troops to compete in the Warrior Games and how he saw rst-hand the impact sports competition had on these guys – the morale boost, mental and physical. And he came back with an idea … I thought it was a terri c idea. But in that rst meeting I had no idea whether we could pull it off.”
Prince Harry has since explained what was in his head when Invictus
was born. “[It was] when I left Afghanistan after my rst deployment there in 2008. As I was waiting to board the plane, the cof n of a Danish soldier was loaded on by his friends. Once on the ight, I was confronted with three British soldiers, all in induced comas, with missing limbs, and wrapped in plastic. The way I viewed service and sacri ce changed forever. And the direction of my life changed with it,” he said. “I knew that it was my responsibility to use the great platform that I have to help the world understand and be inspired by the spirit of those who wear the uniform.
“In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic, I wanted to nd a way for veterans to be a beacon of light, and show us all that we have a role to play; that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbours and communities ... That’s why we created Invictus.
Not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds, but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism, and service.”
When Harry talks of Invictus you can feel his fervour, but there’s also something more, something elemental about serving, something I suspect that was instilled in him from a young age.
“He’s got an extraordinary emotional intelligence and he’s very much his mother’s son,” explains Dominic Reid, who says working on the Games with the Prince has been a life-changing experience. “He really is an extraordinary human being and I think his passion is to make that happen and to make it visible to as wide a public as possible because I think he sees it as a very good way of in uencing society for the good.
“He’s a magical combination of his grandfather and his mother, and not to forget that there is this extraordinary bond that he has with his father as well. There was a lovely radio interview here in the UK at Christmas between Harry and the Prince of Wales where Prince Charles called Harry ‘My darling boy.’ There’s a lot of love there and he is a great combination of some of those traits, and he’s an extremely likeable person. And like the Duke of Edinburgh [his grandfather] Harry’s got a twinkle in his eye and a good jokey quality to him. People warm to that.”
Together with his brother, Prince William, and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, Harry and Meghan are part of what has been dubbed “the fab four” who, through their Royal Foundation, are working on projects they hand-pick or devise in a bid to change the world around them.
“They really want their lives to mean something, they want to use their position to have a meaning, and I think the Invictus Games gave Prince Harry a fabulous example of what he could do, what his potential was, if he put his mind to it, put his time and effort behind something,” says Sir Keith Mills, who also works as Chairman of the Foundation.
“The royal brothers are two individuals who have their own styles. Prince Harry is impatient, he wants things to happen tomorrow,” Sir Keith adds, laughing. “Prince William is much more thoughtful.
“The Invictus Games has given Prince Harry an enormous sense of accomplishment and he really enjoys getting involved in it, even though sometimes it’s heartbreaking, with some of the stories that we hear.”
Meghan: a natural royal
I ask Sir Keith how Meghan is nding her new role. “Obviously it’s early days. She’s establishing herself in the royal family. It’s a very different life for her, but she’s very enthusiastic and ambitious to use her position, both on her own with issues she’s passionate about, and working with her husband to make an impact. That’s going to be her job in the future ... helping others,” he says.
Last month saw the Duchess’s rst solo project, supporting a charity cookbook showcasing recipes from women whose community was affected by the devastating Grenfell re which took place in Meghan’s new backyard of Kensington. The proceeds of the book will support the Hubb Community Kitchen which the Duchess rst visited in January. “I immediately felt connected to this community kitchen,” Meghan wrote in the book’s foreword, “it is a place for women to laugh, grieve, cry and cook together.”
“Prince Harry is a magical combination of his grandfather and his mother.”
Royal reporter Alan Jones has been following Meghan for more than a year and likes what he sees. “Meghan appears to be a natural member of the royal family. She’s open, engaging and able to relate to others at events, composed in front of the media, probably due to her experiences as an actress, and when with Harry has even taken the lead at events, showing her con dence is growing.”
With the rumour mill churning, the couple has yet to announce where they will live. “There are reports that the couple is making plans for a country retreat in the Cotswolds. But they may also want a permanent London home as their base, something larger than the cottage [in Kensington Palace] that’s been Harry’s home for a number of years,” Alan says.
For the meantime the couple will be concentrating on their tour. When Harry’s father brought Diana here in 1983 there were tens of thousands on the streets. Prince William also faced huge crowds when he and Kate arrived in 2014. William was very protective of his wife and I suspect Harry will also be on his guard.
“Harry generally appears protective of Meghan during royal events,” comments Alan. “He usually puts a comforting arm around her and continually chats to his wife as they share the experience. During one event he admonished a photographer who was shouting while Meghan was nearby. This Commonwealth tour will put them under increased scrutiny but I think he won’t be afraid to speak out if he thinks things have gone too far.”
But so far the newly minted Duchess of Sussex is taking her new life in her stride, says Sir Keith Mills. “She seems to be adjusting to it brilliantly and I’m sure she is looking forward to this rst overseas visit. She’s anxious to learn and wants to make sure she does the right thing, but like Prince Harry and other royals, she is incredibly empathetic with the people they see. They know they can have a big impact on the people they meet and they will be taking it very seriously.”
We can’t wait. Welcome to
Australia, Meghan and Harry!