Prince Harry: Royal misfit yearning for escape

Harry reacts during a rugby event at Buckingham Palace in London, Jan 16, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Scarred by the death of his mother, Prince Harry struggled in the royal limelight for much of his life, and his fears for wife Meghan proved to be the final straw.

The younger son of the heir to the throne Prince Charles and the late Diana, princess of Wales, Harry, now 35, earned a reputation as a playboy in his youth, seemingly desperate to escape the royal straightjacket.

Having left his wild child ways behind him, the prince appeared to have found peace with Meghan and son Archie, but it proved to be a temporary respite from the forces that he still blames for Diana's death.

Despairing after repeated battles with the intrusive British media, Harry and Meghan said in early January they would give up front-line royal duties.

The Buckingham Palace announced on Saturday (Jan 18) that, following intense private talks, the couple will also stop using royal titles and receiving public funds.

Harry, who spent 10 years in the British army, serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan, has constantly feuded with the media, which gleefully lapped up his rowdy behaviour as a youngster.

But he rebuilt his reputation through his charity work with wounded veterans and advocacy on mental health, an issue close to his heart.

Harry has said that Diana is always in his thoughts, and he has championed many of her charitable causes, including taking an HIV test to raise awareness.

But he has revealed that for a long time he struggled to cope with his mother's death in a Paris car crash in 1997, and sought professional help a few years ago.

In a remarkably candid interview, the prince once admitted he came "very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions".

A happier chapter in his life began in July 2016, when he met Meghan Markle, a US television actress, on a blind date set up by a mutual friend. Their transatlantic romance quickly blossomed.


Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales was born on Sept 15, 1984, the "spare" to his brother William, who is one day set to 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.

The young princes walking behind her coffin - Harry only 12, his brother 15 - was one of the most enduring images of Diana's funeral.

"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 also my work as well," Harry said.

He caused outrage in 2005 when photographs of him in a Nazi Afrika Korps fancy dress outfit made front-page news.

That was the year he entered the army, a conventional path for royals and one that he later admitted "was the best escape I've ever had" from the constant public attention.


He left the armed forces in 2015 rather than take an army desk job, and began to focus on royal duties.

The meeting with Meghan came out of the blue, but both were quickly lovestruck. They bonded over their mutual interest in good causes.

He has set up the Invictus Games, a sports championship for wounded military personnel, which has been held in London, Orlando, Toronto and Sydney.

Harry and Meghan married at Saint George's Chapel in Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018.

They moved last year from living on the grounds of Kensington Palace in the capital into Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor estate as they started their new life as parents.

But they were increasingly on the receiving end of negative headlines alleging demanding behaviour from Meghan and a rift with William.

Harry said in October that he and his brother were on "different paths".

Harry and Meghan recently stepped up their war with the media by launching legal action against British tabloid The Mail on Sunday for alleged invasion of privacy over a letter from the duchess to her father.

It came with a stinging statement from Harry about general tabloid coverage.

Asked if Meghan was facing the same media pressures as Diana, Harry replied: "I have a family to protect. I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum."


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