Royals

The evolution of Prince Harry from loveable rogue to family man with mana

The maturing of the one-time party Prince, how the Invictus Games have shaped Harry and why his wife, Meghan, will inspire The Commonwealth.

It's hard to believe it was only a year ago at the Toronto Invictus Games that Prince Harry introduced his new girlfriend to the world. That moment was highly orchestrated, a piece of delicious theatre by the royal's Kensington Palace aides, but it was still 100 per cent Prince Harry – laid back yet passionate.
After intense media scrutiny and many blissful months dating in secret, Prince Harry chose the Toronto Invictus Games to let the world in. It didn't take much. The couple simply strode hand-in-hand into the stadium and quietly sat down, joining the crowds courtside to watch a wheelchair tennis match between competitors from Australia and New Zealand.
Harry and Meghan laughed, couldn't stop smiling and applauded, and their body language said it all. She was in ripped jeans and an on-trend white shirt tucked in on one side; His Royal Highness was snake-hipped in navy chinos and an Invictus polo shirt. Both wore shades but they couldn't hide what was going on inside. This was a couple in love.
Harry chose a place close to his heart, the Invictus Games, to step out with Meghan for the first time.
Dominic Reid, Chief Executive of the Invictus Games Foundation, was with Meghan on that day.
"I didn't know until perhaps five minutes beforehand that this was going to happen," he tells The Australian Women's Weekly. "We knew that it would probably happen sometime during the week, but the detail of it was very, very tightly guarded."
Everyone had hoped Harry would bring Meghan to Invictus and royal photographers were on tenterhooks, not wanting to miss the shot that in seconds would ignite the internet. The Suits TV star was discreetly placed in the audience for the opening ceremony but this would be the couple's first public outing together.
"You've got to remember she was living and working in Toronto, so not to have done it would have been slightly strange," laughs Dominic, conceding, "it was a very nice public moment."
The fact Harry chose the Invictus, the initiative that he has personally developed since 2014, to let the public into his private life is also significant.
"Absolutely, it was his option to show her something that I'm sure he's proud of," says Dominic.
Twelve months later and Prince Harry again chose the Invictus Games to herald another personal debut.
In October, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex embarked on their first royal tour as a couple, a programme built around the Games that also saw the newlyweds tour Sydney, Melbourne, and Fraser Island in Queensland; island hopping to Fiji and Tonga; and lastly a four-day tour of New Zealand.
At 16 days on the ground – another couple in the air – this was an extensive tour and quite a baptism for the newest addition to the House of Windsor's top tier.
For the youngest son of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, it was also a truly pivotal time. After years of being the singleton hanging out with his brother and sister-in-law, the raffish uncle yet to settle down, the lone royal on visits to corners of the realm, Prince Harry tackled a major four-nation Commonwealth extravaganza with his wife by his side - a shift made even more monumental by the fact Harry and Meghan also announced on the eve of their tour that they were expecting their first child.
When it comes to kids, Prince Harry (seen here with cousin Mia Tindell) has never hidden the fact he's a complete and utter softie.
In 2015 I joined Prince Harry on his tour of New Zealand, where he gave a rare interview to Sky News. The media pack was relatively small and cosy and the Prince was friendly and comfortable as he toured. In the interview, Harry said he really would love to have a wife and family and that while "hopefully I'm doing all right by myself, it would be great to have someone else next to me to share the pressure".
Now that wish has come true and together Harry and Meghan are eager to embrace their new life as ambassadors for the most significant royal family in the world.
"Harry takes the role very seriously," explains Alan Jones, royal reporter for the UK's Press Association.
During Harry and Meghan's Commonwealth tour he not only had the world watching him, he also had, more importantly, the Queen.
"This attitude shows that the monarchy has not changed, it still believes in the principle of working in the service of others and the country."

Harry is motivated by a strong sense of duty

This sense of duty and giving back is at the heart of Harry's Invictus. The Games started as a kernel of an idea Harry personally nurtured. And as the Games grew in popularity, the Prince also found confidence and self-esteem.
Sir Keith Mills, who worked on the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games and is the Chairman of Invictus, recalls the day he met with Prince Harry for the first time to discuss the royal's crazy notion for a sporting competition for injured servicemen and women.
"He told me about being in the army and the experiences he had with some of the guys who were badly wounded; indeed some of them were killed. He told me about a trip he'd made to the States and how he'd taken a small contingent of wounded British troops to compete in the Warrior Games and how he saw first-hand the impact sports competition had on these guys – the morale boost, mental and physical. And he came back with an idea… I thought it was a terrific idea. But in that first meeting I had no idea whether we could pull it off."
Harry with Royal Marines.
Prince Harry has since explained what was in his head when Invictus was born.
"[It was] when I left Afghanistan after my first deployment there in 2008. As I was waiting to board the plane, the coffin of a Danish soldier was loaded on by his friends. Once on the flight, I was confronted with three British soldiers, all in induced comas, with missing limbs, and wrapped in plastic. The way I viewed service and sacrifice changed for ever. And the direction of my life changed with it," he said.
"I knew that it was my responsibility to use the great platform that I have to help the world understand and be inspired by the spirit of those who wear the uniform.
"In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic, I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light, and show us all that we have a role to play; that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbours and communities...
"That's why we created Invictus. Not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds, but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism, and service."
The royal congratulates New Zealander Amy Baynes as she is awarded the silver medal in road cycling at the 2016 Invictus games
When Harry talks of Invictus you can feel his fervour, but there's also something more, something elemental about serving, something I suspect was instilled in him from a young age.
"He's got an extraordinary emotional intelligence and he's very much his mother's son," explains Dominic Reid, who says working on the Games with the Prince has been a life-changing experience.
"He really is an extraordinary human being and I think his passion is to make that happen and to make it visible to as wide a public as possible because I think he sees it as a very good way of influencing society for the good.
"He's a magical combination of his grandfather and his mother, and not to forget that there is this extraordinary bond that he has with his father as well.
"There was a lovely radio interview in the UK at Christmas between Harry and the Prince of Wales where Prince Charles called Harry 'My darling boy'. There's a lot of love there and he is a great combination of some of those traits, and he's an extremely likeable person. And like the Duke of Edinburgh [his grandfather] Harry's got a twinkle in his eye and a good jokey quality to him. People warm to that."
Together with his brother, Prince William, and sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, Harry and Meghan are part of what has been dubbed "the fab four" who, through their Royal Foundation, are working on projects they hand-pick or devise in a bid to change the world around them.
"They really want their lives to mean something, they want to use their position to have a meaning, and I think the Invictus Games gave Prince Harry a fabulous example of what he could do, what his potential was, if he put his mind to it, put his time and effort behind something," says Sir Keith Mills, who also works as Chairman of the Foundation.
"The royal brothers have their own styles. Prince Harry is impatient, he wants things to happen tomorrow," Sir Keith adds, laughing. "Prince William is much more thoughtful.
"The Invictus Games has given Prince Harry an enormous sense of accomplishment and he really enjoys getting involved in it, even though sometimes it's heartbreaking, with some of the stories that we hear."
The fab four.

Meghan is a natural royal

I ask Sir Keith how Meghan is finding her new role.
"Obviously it's early days. It's a very different life for her, but she's very enthusiastic and ambitious to use her position, both on her own with issues she's passionate about, and working with her husband to make an impact. That's going to be her job in the future... helping others," he says.
In September we saw the Duchess's first solo project, supporting a charity cookbook showcasing recipes from women whose community was affected by the devastating Grenfell fire in Meghan's new backyard of Kensington.
The proceeds of the book will support the Hubb Community Kitchen, which the Duchess first visited in January.
"I immediately felt connected to this community kitchen," Meghan wrote in the book's foreword, "it is a place for women to laugh, grieve, cry and cook together."
Royal reporter Alan Jones has been following Meghan for more than a year and likes what he sees.
"Meghan appears to be a natural member of the royal family. She's open, engaging and able to relate to others at events, composed in front of the media, probably due to her experiences as an actress, and when with Harry has even taken the lead at events, showing her confidence is growing."
Meghan in the kitchen with survivors of the Grenfell fire.
The couple has recently announced they'll be moving to Frogmore Cottage in the New Year. Located on Windsor Estate and a stone's throw from where they were married in May, it was also the backdrop for their dreamy engagement photo shoot and the location for their private wedding reception.
It's a "very special place" for the couple, Kensington Palace said in a statement.
They'll also be no doubt preparing for the birth of their first child, with Meghan's mother Doria Ragland set to move to London to support the new parents.
For the meantime Harry is continuing his work, most recently visiting Africa without Meghan, who stayed behind to rest. Concerns over the Zika virus is believed to be the reason for Meghan opting out of the visit, as reported by The Sun.
Harry is fiercely protective of his wife, and as we witnessed during their Commonwealth tour, stays close by her side.
Alan says, "He usually puts a comforting arm around her and continually chats to his wife as they share the experience."
But so far the Duchess of Sussex is taking her new life in her stride, says Sir Keith Mills.
"She seems to be adjusting to it brilliantly... She's anxious to learn and wants to make sure she does the right thing, but like Prince Harry and other royals, she is incredibly empathetic with the people they see. They know they can have a big impact on the people they meet and they will be taking it very seriously."

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