Prince Harry: Troubled playboy matures into royal asset
Prince Harry, who married American former actress Meghan Markle on Saturday, has been transformed in recent years from an angry young man into one of the British royal family’s greatest assets.
The younger son of heir to the throne Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, the 33-year-old has always struggled with his role, and for much of his youth seemed to want nothing more than to escape.
He spent 10 years in the British Army, serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan, but hit the headlines for his partying and his outspoken criticism of the media.
But he has rebuilt his reputation in recent years through his charity work with veterans and by taking on more duties from his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.
He appears to have inherited his mother’s ability to connect with people as well as her sense of mischief and, with his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Kate, has helped put a fresh face on the monarchy.
People like Harry’s “buffoonery and his lack of sophistication,” Majesty Magazine editor Ingrid Seward said.
Harry has championed many of his mother’s advocacies, and took an HIV test to raise awareness of the disease.
But Diana’s death in a Paris car crash in 1997 had him “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions,” as Harry himself admitted.
Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales was born on Sept. 15, 1984, the “spare” to his brother William, who will one day inherit the throne.
Both educated at the elite Eton school, their childhood was dominated by the messy breakdown of their parents’ marriage and Diana’s tragic death.
“Losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” Harry said.
At one point, he seemed the archetypal “playboy prince,” regularly photographed with attractive girls.
He caused outrage in 2005 when photographs of him in a Nazi Afrika Korps fancy dress outfit made front-page news.
In 2008, he had to be pulled out of Afghanistan after a news blackout about his deployment was breached, leading to fears he would be targeted by the Taliban.
But he returned in 2012, piloting Apache helicopters during a 20-week tour of duty only to make headlines again when he said his job was to take insurgents “out of the game.”
Harry’s contempt for the media was well-known, as he blamed papparazzi hounding his mother for her death.
In fact, the first confirmation of his relationship with Markle came in an angry statement he issued in November 2016 decrying media’s “abuse and harassment” against her.
But Harry has learned to use his public profile to promote causes close to his heart, notably mental health. He has also set up a sports championship for wounded military personnel, the Invictus Games, which has secured the support of high-profile figures including former US President Barack Obama.
Harry might still get himself in scrapes, but with Markle at his side, he finally seems ready to face the future.
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