HARRY & MEGHAN: the mak­ing of the Peo­ple’s Prince

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Contents -

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.

Aus­tralian glory

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!

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