Who Is Prince Harry?
Born in London, England, on September 15, 1984, Prince Henry of Wales, also known as Prince Harry, is the second son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Princess Diana. After enduring the death of his mother in 1997, he occasionally acted out and found himself in the tabloids for embarrassing events. Prince Harry embarked on a decade-long stint in the military in 2005, seeing active service time in Afghanistan, and is involved in numerous charitable causes. In November 2017, it was announced he was engaged to marry American actress Meghan Markle.
As the second son of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, Prince Harry is currently fifth in line to the English throne, behind his father, older brother William and William's two children. He has grown up under intense media scrutiny, having his personal tragedies as well as his antics and gaffes as the subject of numerous news reports.
His mother once described Prince Harry as "very artistic and sporty." At an early age, he developed an interest in riding and hunting. While the family lived in Kensington Palace during the week, they often spent the weekends at Highgrove House, their family's estate in Gloucestershire. Their mother strove to give both her sons "as normal a life as possible" despite their privileged position in British society. To this end, Prince Harry attended Mrs. Mynors' nursery school in London's Notting Hill neighborhood. Princess Diana also took Prince Harry and his brother to amusement parks, fast-food restaurants and other places frequented by other children their age.
Growing Up Under the Spotlight
Photographers were on hand as his parents dropped Prince Harry off for his first day of school in September of 1987. According to Ingrid Seward's William & Harry, the young prince had a difficult time adjusting to school initially. Despite his parents' increasingly strained marriage, he became known for his happy-go-lucky disposition as a child. Prince Harry also developed an interest in all things military as he matured.
In 1989, Prince Harry enrolled at the Wetherby School, where his older brother William was already a student. He then followed his brother to the Ludgrove School, a boarding school in Berkshire, in 1992. Around this time, he was reportedly informed of his parents' impending separation, which was officially announced that December. The couple divorced in 1996.
After the separation, Prince Harry and Prince William spent their school holidays dividing their time between their parents. They spent time at Highgrove with their father, enjoying outdoor pursuits, as well as going on official trips and vacations abroad. With their mother, they engaged in a variety of activities from going on tropical holidays to visiting AIDS clinics and homeless shelters.
Mother's Tragic Death
Following Princess Diana's shocking death from a car accident on August 31, 1997, Prince Harry remained at Balmoral for several days, mourning in seclusion with his family. He then traveled to London with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and his brother, to prepare for Princess Diana's funeral. On September 6, 1997, Prince Harry walked past thousands of people who had gathered to say goodbye to the woman many had dubbed "the people's princess." He trailed behind his mother's coffin in the funeral procession along with his brother, father, and grandfather, Prince Phillip.
After the service, Prince Harry and other family members traveled to Althrop, his mother's family estate in Northampton owned by his uncle Charles, the 9th Earl of Spencer. His mother's body was laid to rest on an island in the middle of a lake on the grounds there.
Struggling with this tremendous loss, Prince Harry suffered from nightmares about his mother's death for a time, according to Christopher Andersen's Diana's Boys. He returned to Ludgrove a short time after the funeral. During his next school break, Prince Harry traveled with his father to Botswana and South Africa. The trip lifted his spirit and gave him a chance to mingle with the members of the Spice Girls pop group during a concert there.
Back at school, Prince Harry faced some academic challenges. It was decided that he would spend an extra year at Ludgrove before applying Eton College. All of his extra efforts paid off, as he passed the entrance exam with flying colors. He began his studies there in 1998.
That same year, Prince Harry and Prince William demonstrated their cheeky sense of humor with a surprise 50th birthday party for their father, which featured some comedy sketches poking fun at Prince Charles. Actors Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson were all part of the act. Around this time, the princes also met their future stepmother Camilla Parker Bowles—the woman that their father had been involved with on and off for years.
Like some other teenagers, Prince Harry liked to party. He reportedly engaged in underage drinking—sometimes at a pub and at Highgrove—and tried smoking marijuana during the summer of 2001. In January of 2002, reports of the prince's illegal activities made tabloid headlines. Prince Harry admitted his misdeeds to his father, who made the young royal visit a South London rehabilitation center to see firsthand the dangers associated with drug use.
In 2003, Prince Harry graduated from Eton. He spent some time traveling through Australia, Argentina and Africa after finishing school. An avid polo player, Prince Harry participated in the Young England versus Young Australia Polo Match Test in Australia. He became involved in charity work while visiting Lesotho in southern Africa, working at a home for orphans of AIDS victims. To promote awareness of the problems there, he created a documentary called The Forgotten Kingdom: Prince Harry in Lesotho. The film helped raise approximately $2 million for the British Red Cross Lesotho Fund.
Around this time, Prince Harry became romantically linked with Chelsy Davy, according to news reports. The two dated on and off for years. Prince Harry again found himself immersed in controversy in January of 2005 after photographs of him wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party were published in several newspapers. It was shocking to many that the prince could casually appear the uniform with a swastika armband — a symbol of hate and the atrocities of the Holocaust. In response to the criticism, Prince Harry issued a statement, saying, "I am very sorry if I caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologize."
A few months later, Prince Harry and his brother attended their father's wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles. "She's always been very close to me and William. ... She's not the wicked stepmother. She's a wonderful woman and she's made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing," Prince Harry told the press at the time.
In May of 2005, Prince Harry enrolled at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. After undergoing 44 weeks of training, in April of 2006 he joined the Household Cavalry as a second lieutenant. Later that year, Prince Harry and Prince William announced their plans for a special concert to be held in 2007 to mark the 10th anniversary of their mother's passing.
On what would have been Princess Diana's 46th birthday, more than 60,000 people gathered at Wembley Stadium for the Concert for Diana. The event raised money for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and other charities such as Sentebale, which Prince Harry established to help children and others affected by the AIDS crisis in Lesotho.
That same year, Prince Harry began training for possible war zone deployment. His status as a royal posed certain security challenges to the army, and there was much debate regarding whether he should be allowed to serve in a combat situation. In February of 2008, Prince Harry began his tour of duty in Afghanistan. He served for two months.
In early 2009, Prince Harry once again faced criticism for his insensitivity. Videos of him from 2006 surfaced, depicting him using a derogatory term for a fellow Pakistani soldier as well as another offensive remark. Prince Harry apologized for his comments, and the army ordered him to undergo sensitivity training.
From 2009 into 2012, Prince Harry trained to become an Apache helicopter pilot in the Army Air Corps. He then put these newfound skills to work in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, which began in September 2012. After participating in several combat missions, the prince in 2015 ended his official military duties, though he continued volunteering to assist wounded servicemen.
In August 2012, Prince Harry was back in the tabloids after nude photos of the royal had been leaked to the public. The images of the prince were taken during a private party in a hotel room in Las Vegas, where he and his friends reportedly were playing a game of strip billiards.
The photos of the partying prince ran in Rupert Murdoch's The Sun, but most other papers in England declined to run them. While the story dominated the headlines for a short time, the scandal seemed to have no lasting impact on his public image. One of his first public appearances after the scandal was at the WellChild Awards in London, where he received a warm welcome. Prince Harry serves a patron to WellChild, a charity dedicated to supporting sick children and their families. He even joked in his speech that he was "never shy in coming forward," according to BBC News.
Opening Up About His Mother's Death
In April 2017, Prince Harry spoke candidly with British journalist Bryony Gordon in a podcast released by the Daily Telegraph about his struggles to come to terms with his mother's death in his late 20s. “I can safely say that 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,” he said in the interview.
“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?” he said, explaining his thoughts at the time. “‘It’s only going to make you sad, it’s not going to bring her back.’ So from an emotional side, I was like, ‘Right, don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything.’”
He added that he felt like he had been "very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions," and finally sought professional counseling at the urging of Prince William, who told him: “‘Look, you really need to deal with this. It is not normal to think that nothing has affected you.’”
Prince Harry also turned to boxing to help him deal with his grief. “That really saved me because I was on the verge of punching someone, so being able to punch someone who had pads was certainly easier,” he said.
He shared his personal story in hopes that it would encourage others to "break the stigma surrounding mental health issues," according to the Daily Telegraph article. Prince Harry, Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, also launched Heads Together, a campaign to end stigma around mental health.
Engagement to Meghan Markle
Prince Harry met actress and model Cressida Bonas during the summer of 2012. While initially staying out of the spotlight, the pair attended their first official public event together in March 2014, with tabloids circulating stories regarding a possible engagement between the two. However, they ended their relationship shortly afterward, in April.
Prince Harry began dating actress Meghan Markle, star of the television show Suits, in 2016. They met while Harry was attending the Invictus Games in Toronto, where Suits is filmed. In November of that year, Kensington Palace issued a statement confirming their relationship. The statement also requested privacy and respect for the couple after Markle had been subjected to racist and sexist attacks on social media, as well as harassment by paparazzi.
On November 27, 2017, it was revealed that Prince Harry and Markle had secretly gotten engaged earlier in the month. An official announcement said the two would marry the following spring and move to Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace in London. Later, it was revealed that the couple would marry on May 19, 2018, in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.
News of the engagement was greeted with enthusiasm by other members of the royal family. Prince Charles and the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh all declared they were "delighted" at the announcement, while Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, said they were "very excited for Harry and Meghan," adding, "It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together."
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