A fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into how the once way­ward fourth-in-line to the throne has ma­tured into a much loved royal and favourite of the Queen PRINCE HARRY AT 30

Sunday Express - - Jennifer Selway - Chris Hutchins

SNO SOONER had flight BA292 taken off from Wash­ing­ton DC’s Dulles In­ter­na­tional air­port bound for Heathrow at a lit­tle af­ter 11pm than Prince Harry fell asleep in his busi­ness-class seat. It had been a long day: he had been in Amer­ica for less than nine hours of a 24-hour spe­cial leave but they were prob­a­bly the most honourable nine hours of his life so far.

As he boarded the Lon­don-bound 747 a stew­ardess had of­fered him a din­ner menu but he po­litely de­clined, say­ing he had al­ready eaten. That was the un­der­state­ment of the year: he had just dined at Wash­ing­ton’s Ritz-Carl­ton ho­tel along­side his mil­i­tary hero, Gen­eral Colin Pow­ell – ar­guably the great­est sol­dier of his gen­er­a­tion – who was about to present him with the At­lantic Coun­cil Award for Dis­tin­guished Humanitarian Lead­er­ship in front of an in­ter­na­tional assem­bly of dis­tin­guished guests.

Even for the grand­son of a reign­ing monarch it was a crown­ing mo­ment. Such was the adu­la­tion with which he was greeted on his visit to the Amer­i­can cap­i­tal that news­pa­pers there car­ried head­lines anoint­ing him “The Peo­ple’s Prince”. That was 2012 and Harry went on to con­firm his fit­ness for the ti­tle in the weeks and months ahead. While Palace of­fi­cials ques­tioned whether he was ready to take on royal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, the Queen in­sisted on send­ing him as her Ju­bilee Year rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Caribbean and South Amer­ica where he was feted just as his mother had been. It quickly be­came ap­par­ent that he was des­tined to fol­low in Diana’s foot­steps as the most pop­u­lar royal of all.

The Queen was de­lighted es­pe­cially when word reached her that Ja­maican Prime Min­is­ter Por­tia Simp­son-Miller had em­braced him just hours af­ter say­ing she wanted Her Majesty re­placed as her coun­try’s head of state.

In­deed his re­la­tion­ship with his grand­mother has turned out to be amaz­ingly strong. I’m told it was Harry who per­suaded her to go ahead with the James Bond spoof, which gave the Olympics’ open­ing cer­e­mony its most in­cred­i­ble mo­ment, and win­ning hearts and minds and a stand­ing ova­tion with his speech at the clos­ing cer­e­mony. PEECHES are vi­tally im­por­tant to Harry and for that rea­son he writes his own (just as Diana did) rather than act as an­other’s mouth­piece. He was still putting the fin­ish­ing touches to the one he was to de­liver at the Wash­ing­ton event on the out­ward flight, ac­cord­ing to some­one who sat next to him. Colin Pow­ell was to say later that he was greatly touched when Harry said: “For a cap­tain in the Bri­tish Army to be in­tro­duced by such a world-renowned sol­dier and states­man is truly hum­bling – and a lit­tle ter­ri­fy­ing. Gen­uinely I don’t be­lieve that I have done nearly enough to de­serve this award.”

What a turn­around for a young man who was once the Royal Fam­ily’s black sheep. The tragic death of his mother sparked off a tur­bu­lent ado­les­cence dur­ing which Harry turned to drink and drugs. Af­ter join­ing Wil­liam at Eton, he founded “Club H” in the cel­lars of High­grove for use between terms. It be­came the venue for wild par­ties fu­elled by a well-stocked bar.

How­ever when Prince Charles was in res­i­dence loud mu­sic was banned and a new venue had to be found. It was then that Harry dis­cov­ered the Rat­tle­bone Inn, a 16th-cen­tury pub in the Wilt­shire vil­lage of Sher­ston.

The cen­tre of en­ter­tain­ment at the Rat­tle­bone was a pool ta­ble and it was of­ten the scene of many al­ter­ca­tions. Harry was in­volved in at least one scuf­fle with two men dur­ing a par­tic­u­larly rau­cous game. Younger than most of the Rat­tle­bone’s cus­tomers he was es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble but royal pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers seemed loth to shop him to his fa­ther, prob­a­bly for fear of los­ing his all-im­por­tant trust in them.

Charles even­tu­ally had a heart-to­heart with his ado­les­cent son ex­plain­ing that a fond­ness for al­co­hol had long been some­thing of a prob­lem in both families. The Queen Mother was known to en­joy her daily tip­ples, Princess Mar­garet drank a bot­tle of whisky a night to­wards the end of her life, and four sons of King Ge­orge V all had al­co­hol prob­lems: the Duke of Wind­sor, his brother King Ge­orge VI and the Dukes of Kent (who was also ad­dicted to co­caine) and Glouces­ter.

Fur­ther­more both of Diana’s par­ents were fond of the bot­tle. The late Earl Spencer’s fond­ness for more than the odd dram was cited when he was ac­cused of cru­elty dur­ing his di­vorce from Diana’s mother who her­self was banned for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence. Diana’s sis­ter Sarah was ex­pelled from school for drink­ing vodka.

Then Charles sent his youngest son to re­hab – Feather­stone Lodge in Peck­ham – in or­der to get him to con­front his demons. He was there for just one day but it worked. He learned the Ja­panese def­i­ni­tion of al­co­holism: “The man takes a drink, the drink takes a drink and the drink takes the man.” Then came the real turn­ing point in his life when Charles told him that in­stead of an en­joy­able gap year he was go­ing to what in ef­fect amounted to two years in boot camp. In the sear­ing heat of Aus­tralia he rounded up cat­tle and fixed fences and in Africa he dug trenches. It was the mak­ing of him.

WHEN fi­nally he was al­lowed to join the Army, his rapid progress si­lenced even his strong­est crit­ics – a num­ber of them be­hind Palace walls. He knuck­led down to a com­plete lack of the priv­i­lege he had been brought up with – in some in­stances he was sub­ject to even greater dis­ci­pline than many of his fel­low ju­nior of­fi­cers – af­ter step­ping through the doors of the Royal Mil­i­tary Academy at Sand­hurst in May 2005.

It was the start of an ex­em­plary Army ca­reer. When it was an­nounced that he would not be sent to Iraq be­cause it was con­sid­ered too dan­ger­ous, noises were made that he would quit the Army if he was not al­lowed to be the sol­dier he had trained to be.

So he was drafted to the front­line in Hel­mand, the most dan­ger­ous prov­ince in Afghanistan. A US of­fi­cer whom he served along­side and be­friended, Lt Colonel Bill Con­nor, told me he ex­hib­ited out­stand­ing brav­ery: “He went up there on the hill in full view of Tal­iban snipers with­out show­ing any sign of fear. I take my hat off to him.”

His con­ver­sion from teenage delin­quent to sol­dier hero has not been the only change in Harry’s life. Once pil­lo­ried as a play­boy prince who downed £200 cock­tails in night­clubs then brawled with wait­ing pho­tog­ra­phers, he has largely curbed such ex­cesses, thanks to his ro­mance (at present on hold) with Cres­sida Bonas. When one host of­fered him a gin and tonic af­ter he ar­rived for lunch, Cres­sida said: “At lunch time? No way,” and Harry set­tled for a soft drink. She did much to help him live the nor­mal life he has long craved, even go­ing to the ex­treme of pay­ing half when they dined out “like nor­mal cou­ples do”.

At the same time she en­cour­aged him to stick to his mantra: “I am what I am” – for Harry is not a man to be gov­erned by palace dic­tates.

So where does he go from here? He has made it clear that he has no intention of be­com­ing his brother’s deputy, plant­ing trees in holes dug by oth­ers and cut­ting rib­bons. Aus­tralia’s Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott has mooted a pro­posal that he be sent there as the next gover­nor-gen­eral. The only draw­back to that idea is that such of­fice hold­ers are usu­ally mar­ried.

What­ever he does Harry will always be in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar and he owes that to the charm and man­ners in­stilled in him by his mother. Diana’s favourite palace chef, Dar­ren McGrady, told me how she would of­ten bring her boys down to the kitchen to thank him af­ter he had cooked a meal for them – even if it was only beans on toast. She taught Harry not to re­peat the bad man­ners he wit­nessed some other mem­bers of the Royal Fam­ily dis­play­ing.

As he ap­proaches his 30th birth­day on Septem­ber 15, Prince Harry can be justly proud of his achieve­ments – against the odds – in his first three decades.

Diana would be so very proud.

To or­der Harry The Peo­ple’s Prince, by Chris Hutchins (Neville Ness House, £14.99, incl. p&p) call the Ex­press Book­shop on 01872 562 310. Or send a cheque to Harry Of­fer, PO Box 200, Fal­mouth TR11 4WJ or visit ex­press­book­shop.com.

Fol­low the au­thor on Twit­ter @ChrisHutchin­sFn.

PRINCE CHARM­ING: Cres­sida helped tame Harry’s more lad­dish behaviour

ZERO TO HERO: The night­club rev­eller has been re­placed by a su­perb sol­dier

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