Prince Harry: adored by the world but unlucky in love
There was a time when the world despaired of Prince Harry and his antics, but recent years have seen him reach new heights of popularity. Yet while he now rides a wave of adoration, it’s the love of a wife and family he longs for. William Langley reports.
HAVING MANFULLY slogged his way through a long stretch of notoriety, Prince Harry is struggling to cope with the opposite problem. The whole world suddenly loves Harry. Michelle Obama, wife of the US President, calls him “Our own Prince Charming,” Lady Gaga thinks he is “awesome”, his rugged, orange beard has its own social media following, and his redoubtable grandmother, the Queen, appears to be wrapped around his little finger.
While all this has come as a big relief to a royal establishment that once despaired of its fifth-in-line (although first-in-line for parties and nightclub openings), the consequences of popularity have hit Harry, 31, in unexpected ways. The demands for his time and patronage have become overwhelming, the interest in his life is obsessive. His fan-base is growing around the world, and chastened royal chroniclers who once mocked him as a national embarrassment now use words like “inspirational” and “saintly” to describe his activities.
Harry should be flattered. Instead, he is worried.
Most of his friends – and, of course, his older brother, William – are now married, settled down and raising families. Harry hasn’t even had a serious girlfriend for two years. The media describe him as the “World’s Most Eligible Bachelor”, but the eligibility isn’t quite what it seems.
The reality for Harry is that for all his fine pedigree and personal qualities, few young women fancy – or are suitable for – the role of a royal wife.
Down the years he has smooched with starlets, dallied with debutantes and canoodled with covergirls, but the search for a lasting relationship has been difficult, frequently painful, and is unlikely to get easier as the years go
“IT WAS INEVITABLE I would have to be a full-time Prince Harry, DESPITE THE FACT I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE CAPT WALES.”
by. Royal author Penny Junor believes the insecurities stemming from
Harry’s childhood make it difficult for him to build relationships in the public eye. “The truth is,” she says, “that Harry is going to find it difficult to land any fish unless he is given some privacy.”
Harry touched on his predicament during the build-up to May’s Invictus Games in Florida – the sporting tournament for injured servicemen, which he had personally masterminded. “If or when I do find a girlfriend,” he said, “I will do my utmost to ensure that we can get to the point where we’re comfortable before the massive invasion that is inevitably going to happen into her privacy. When people finish work in the city, or wherever, if you want to have a bit of downtime, you might go to the pub with your mates. I do that less and less, because it’s not downtime for me.”
The problems were put into even sharper perspective by Harry’s ex, Chelsy Davy, whom he dated intermittently for seven years until their final parting in 2010. In an interview in June, Chelsy, now running her own jewellery business, admitted that she “couldn’t cope” with the attention Harry attracts, and found the constant presence of the paparazzi “scary, crazy and uncomfortable.”
Eventually, Chelsy returned to her native Zimbabwe, and while she and Harry have remained good friends, she appears to have few regrets about their break-up. “It was nuts,” she says. “That was why I wanted to go back to Africa. Now it’s calm. It’s fine.”
With the succession secure in the shape of William and his children, Harry has relatively little pressure to marry. The trouble, say those around him, is that he wants to. He loves children, and is a big, enthusiastic presence in the lives of his nephew, George, just three, and one-year-old niece, Charlotte. As his stepmother, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, has said: “He’d really like to settle down with a couple of kids and a dog.”
For now, Harry is throwing himself into work. He is patron of more than a dozen charitable organisations, and is closely involved in projects supporting conservation and HIVinfected children in Africa. The clout he can wield on behalf of these causes is impressive. Last month he recruited Coldplay to headline a concert in the grounds of Kensington Palace to raise money for Sentebale, a charitable organisation he has set up to provide help for AIDS victims and deprived young people in Lesotho. The Invictus Games, though, are by far his biggest achievement yet – the Florida event drawing more than 500 competitors, including 18 from New Zealand.
Harry likes soldiers, and makes no secret of his regret at leaving the British army after 10 years to assume a wider royal role. As a serving officer he fought on two fronts – one in Afghanistan, and the other against a royal establishment that preferred to keep him out of harm’s way. In the end, Harry settled the matter in typically forthright fashion: “There’s no way I’m going to put myself through all that training,” he said, “and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are serving their country.”
Today, Harry tries not to brood on his lost career. “I suppose,” he said recently, “it was inevitable I would have to be a full-time Prince Harry, despite the fact I always wanted to be Capt Wales, treated the same and wearing the same uniform as everyone else.” He says he still suffers traumatic flashbacks from his time on the front line. “It’s always in there,” he says, “and if you have dark moments in your life those slides will pop up.”
Admirable as the new ‘good’ Harry is, there are still some who miss the
old ‘bad’ Harry, and a debate rages around the question of what really accounts for the change. When Harry went to America a few months ago to build support for the Games, The Washington Post – having predicted mayhem – ran a pained headline asking: “What Have They Done to Harry?” A US columnist took the issue further, arguing: “There’s no question Good Harry is making the world a better place. But Bad Harry allowed us to live vicariously through his misdeeds, which, I’d say, was also making the world a better place.”
He was one of the stars of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, taking on a role that was both playful and serious, while speaking from the heart of his enormous admiration for his grandmother and his doubts that today’s generation of royals can fulfil the “huge expectation” of duty she has created.
The transformation has no simple explanation. Partly, Harry has simply grown up, but it is clear his mother’s example is much on his mind. His own memories of her are, he says, relatively few, but he has a strong sense of Diana watching over him. “I hope she’s looking down, you know, with tears in her eyes,” he told a TV interviewer, “being incredibly proud of what we’ve established. I think losing your mother at such a young age does end up shaping your life massively. Of course it does, and now I find myself trying to be there, and give advice to other people who are in similar positions.”
Although it wasn’t obvious at the time, the most difficult period of Harry’s life – his 20s – was the making of him. He had shuffled into adulthood scarred by his parents’ disastrous marriage, and traumatised by Diana’s death. Hating all the attention he received – something that hasn’t much changed – he came across as surly, awkward and occasionally hostile, and then the troubles started. There were furious flare-ups with photographers, questions about the company he was keeping, and dark allegations of drug use.
While William seemed to have coped with things better, there was a sense that the younger boy’s grief and loss would translate into future problems. He struggled at school, gaining just two, low-grade exam passes, and even when he joined the army it was said the only fighting he would do would be for a table in a fashionable bar.
It was tempting to liken him to his Shakespearean forebear Prince Hal, whose early life of ‘riot and dishonour’ swings back from debauchery to duty in time for the Battle of Agincourt. Things began to turn around for
Harry with William’s 2011 wedding to Kate Middleton. Taking his bestman duties seriously, Harry organised the pre-nuptial festivities, delivered William to Westminster Abbey on time, didn’t lose the ring, charmed the crowds lining the processional route, and at the reception, made a speech full of warmth and mischief that brought the house down. For the first time in his royal life, he awoke to favourable notices.
His popularity has been on a steep upward curve ever since. Polls regularly show him to be Britain’s favourite royal, and even if he will never be entirely comfortable in the spotlight, he has learned to handle attention with grace and selfassurance. Courtiers speak glowingly of his work-ethic and maturity, and while no one accuses Harry of being a deep thinker, he appears to have a perfect understanding of himself:
“What you see is what you get with me,” he says. “It’s genuine. I will always try to bring an element of fun and happiness to everything I do. That probably is subconsciously very much a part of my mother – trying to fill that void. Trying to fill an unbelievable pair of boots, whether it’s her or, especially, the Queen. It’s a hard thing to do.”
All he needs now is a companion. There hasn’t been a serious one since 2014, when he split from actress/ model Cressida Bonas, who, like
Chelsy, opted to put her career first. According to Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, both of these bright ambitious young women took fright at the prospect of “gilded cage syndrome” – a life of privilege, but limited freedom.
He is said to look enviously upon his happily married brother, who had the good fortune to fall in love with Kate while sequestered in a remote Scottish university. It hasn’t been like that for Harry.
British bookmakers are currently offering 8-1 on the prince marrying this year. Last year the odds were shorter. For next year they are longer. The wait for the next royal wedding could be a lengthy one.
“I WILL ALWAYS TRY TO bring an element of fun and happiness to EVERYTHING I DO.”
Michelle Obama greets her “Prince Charming” at the opening of the Invictus Games in May.
Prince Harry, shown here with his cousin, Zara Tindall, and her daughter Mia, loves children.
Harry and the Queen went viral earlier this year in a humorous video sent to the Obamas.