Prince Harry and his now-fiancee Meghan Markle attend the wheelchair tennis competition during the Invictus Games in Toronto. Photo: APCOMMENT
Prince Harry’s engagement to American actress Meghan Markle epitomises his transformation from wild child to respectable royal.
During the past decade Harry has evolved from the party prince who courted controversy into a dedicated young soldier and charity worker.
The 33-year-old’s whirlwind romance with theSuitsstar began in July 2016, a year after he wrapped up a decade’s service with the British Army so he could focus on working with his charities in Britain and Africa, as well as step up his royal duties on behalf of the Queen.
He earned praise as an officer with the Household Cavalry, having been on two tours of duty in Afghanistan including a stint as an Apache helicopter pilot, while his work with charities for children and conservation causes in Africa evoked memories of his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for photos following their engagement announcement. Photo: Dominic Lipinski
It’s a far cry from the Harry of old, who as a teen dabbled in underage drinking and smoking marijuana and partied alongside his aristocratic mates at London nightclubs, where he hated being snapped by paparazzi and occasionally ended up in scuffles.
Back then, controversy was never far away from the young prince.
Prince Harry, pictured in 1995 with his mother Princess Diana, recently opened up about his mental health struggles following Diana’s death. Photo: AP
He issued public apologies after being photographed wearing a Nazi uniform to a party in 2005 and again four years later when a home video emerged of him referring to Pakistani soldier serving with his platoon as a “Paki”.
More scandal erupted in 2012 when photos of Harry playing “strip billiards” at a private party in Las Vegas hit the newspapers.
In a revealing podcast interview in April 2017, Harry confided how much of the chaos in his life was related to how he’d “shut down” all his emotions after his mother died in a Paris car crash when he was 12 in 1997.
“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle,” he told The UK Telegraph’sMad Worldpodcast.
It wasn’t until he was 28, when royal engagements sparked anxiety and feelings of being “on the verge of punching someone”, that he sought help from counsellors.
Prince Harry, pictured in 2005, earned a reputation as a party prince who often lashed out at photographers. Photo AP
“Because of the process I have been through over the past two and a half years, I’ve now been able to take my work seriously, been able to take my private life seriously as well, and been able to put blood, sweat and tears into the things that really make a difference and things that I think will make a difference to everybody else,” Harry said.
Helping others is how he wants to make a difference.
Among the causes closest to his heart is Sentebale, the children’s charity he co-founded in the southern African country of Lesotho with Prince Seeiso in 2006, along with the mental health charity Heads Together he co-founded with brother William and sister-in-law Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Britain’s Prince Harry started the Invictus Games for war veterans and is passionate about his charity work. Photo AP
Harry also founded the Invictus Games for wounded veterans, an event that’s become a global hit and will be hosted by Sydney in October 2018.
Harry and Ms Markle, 36, chose this year’s Invictus Games in Toronto, where she lived while starring inSuits, to make their first joint appearance, complete with hand holding and kissing – public displays of affection not usually associated with the royal family.
A passion for charity work is something Harry shares with his Californian fiancee, who is a United Nations women’s advocate, a clean water ambassador for World Vision Canada and volunteered at a refugee camp in Rwanda.
“I’ve never wanted to be a lady who lunches – I’ve always wanted to be a woman who works. And this type of work is what feeds my soul, and fuels my purpose,” she has said.
The prince has been fiercely protective of his fiancee, issuing an angry statement in November 2016 blasting the press for harassing her and for using “racial overtones” in stories about Ms Markle, whose father Thomas is white and mother Doria Ragland is African American.
Despite the constant media interest, Harry longs for “an “ordinary life”.
“Sometimes, when I come away from the meat counter in my local supermarket, I worry someone will snap me with their phone,” he toldNewsweekin June 201.
“But I am determined to have a relatively normal life, and if I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one too.”
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliam says Harry’s relationship with an American actress who is outspoken about humanitarian issues demonstrates just how much the royal family has modernised.
“There’s no question this represents a broadening of the royal family, to represent society as a whole,” he told AAP.
“And after all the years as a royal wild child and someone who did go over the top a bit, Harry’s level of popularity is enormous.”
Mr Fitzwilliam saidMs Markle’s interview withVanity Fairin October 2017 when she opened up about her “boyfriend” and being in love, was also highly unusual in terms of royal protocol.
“That was completely unprecedented, that he let her say they were happy and in love,” Mr Fitzwilliam said.
“There’s no doubt at all they’re doing it their way.”
The party prince’s previous girlfriendsChelsy Davy
Zimbabwe-bornChelsywas the first to truly capture Harry’s heart. They spent about six years together and coped with a long-distance relationship while the prince was training in the Army and overseas andChelsywas at university in South Africa.
Harry describedChelsyas “very special” and “amazing” but he was protective and determined to keep his private life under wraps. Harry, known for scuffling with the paparazzi, once politely approached photographers waiting for his girlfriend at Heathrow and asked them not to take pictures of her.
Harry and Chelsy split in early 2009 and both were reported to have had flings with other people after the break-up. They rekindled their relationship and in May 2010, she made a rare public appearance to watch him receive his wings after completing his Army Air Corps helicopter pilot course. But the reunion was not permanent. Chelsy was not thought to be keen on the idea of royal life.
Following his final break-up withChelsy, Harry had a brief affair with Florence Brudenell-Bruce, a descendant of the seventh Earl of Cardigan, in the (northern) summer of 2011. Lingerie model Florence, known to her friends as Flee, also dated Formula 1 racing driverJensonButton, but is now married to multimillionaire Henry St George.
Harry’s last serious relationship was with Cressida Bonas. They began dating in May 2012 after being introduced by his cousin and her close friend, Princess Eugenie.
Described in the press as a “blue-blooded butterfly”, Cressida is the daughter of renowned OldHarrovianbusinessman Jeffrey Bonas and 1960s ‘it’ girl Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon.
The pair were widely tipped to walk up the aisle. Rumours that free-spirited actress and dancer Cressida was “the one” for Harry gathered pace in March 2014 when she joined the Prince at one of his official engagements for the first time. They sat together and embraced in the stands at Wembley Arena at a WE Day UK charity event.
But they split up in April 2014, saying they remained “the best of friends”. Cressida is said to have wanted to focus on her career and disliked the attention she faced while dating a royal.
In March 2007, Harry was pictured appearing to grab at a photographer after leaving a club where he had partied with close friendTV presenter NataliePinkham, who was later forced to deny they were an item.
Socialite Astrid Harbord, who runs her own PR company, was once spotted going back to Clarence House with the prince at 3am after a night on the town.
Harry was reportedly seen kissing singer Ellie Goulding away from prying eyes during a polo match in Berkshire. She’s a friend of the younger members of the royal family, having sung at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s 2011 wedding reception. She also performed at the closing ceremony of Harry’s firstInvictusGames in 2014.
Doctor Whoactress Jenna Coleman and Harry were spotted enjoying each other’s company at another polo match.