Prince Harry: From wild child to respectable royal

Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle will marry in Windsor Castle at the weekend. Photo: getty
Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle will marry in Windsor Castle at the weekend. Photo: getty
On the eve of Prince Harry's marriage to Meghan Markle, AAP looks at how he has gone from wild child to respectable royal.

Death of Diana

Hearts melted when 12-year-old Prince Harry walked alongside his older brother William, their father Prince Charles, grandfather Prince Philip and uncle Earl Spencer behind Princess Diana's coffin through the streets of London in 1997. Atop her casket lay a small wreath of white roses with an envelope simply inscribed with "mummy". In interviews marking the 20th anniversary of Diana's death, Harry described the anguish he felt at the time of his mother's public funeral but also how, in retrospect, he was "very glad" he took part.

Naughty schoolboy

Harry admits to being scarred by his mother's death, which marked the beginning of years of turmoil for the young royal. He confessed to a group of teenagers at a Cape Town youth centre in 2015 how he "didn't enjoy school at all" and "wanted to be the bad boy". As a 16-year-old, Harry threw parties at his father's Highgrove estate while home alone on holiday from the exclusive boarding school Eton. However Prince Charles soon put a stop to them - and his son's underage drinking sessions with mates at a nearby pub - after Harry admitted smoking cannabis. His academic record was also called into question in 2004 after one of his former teachers at Eton claimed she helped Harry complete art assignments.

Prince Harry meets Daphne Dunne on a walkabout on Circular Quay in Sydney, during a day of events...
Prince Harry meets Daphne Dunne on a walkabout on Circular Quay in Sydney, during a day of events to mark the official launch of the Invictus Games. Photo Getty Images
Party prince

In his early 20s Harry was regularly snapped by paparazzi at London nightclubs. Frequently on his arm was his Zimbabwean-born on-off girlfriend Chelsy Davy. The pair began dating in 2004 but their romance crumbled in 2011, with Davy later revealing the constant media attention was "crazy and scary". Not long after their romance began, Harry sparked controversy in 2005 photographs emerged of him wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party. He issued an apology, saying he didn't mean to offend. Another apology followed four years later when a home video filmed in 2006 showed Harry referring to Pakistani soldier serving with his platoon as a "Paki". The prince's derogatory remarks saw him branded foolish, ignorant and a yob. More controversy erupted in 2012 when photos of the prince playing "strip billiards" at a private party in Las Vegas hit the newspapers. Only a few months earlier he'd begun dating aristocratic English actress Cressida Bonas. Their relationship lasted two years before she became fed up with the media attention.

Army life

Months after the Nazi uniform controversy in 2005, Harry enrolled at Sandhurst Military Academy. The Daily Mail's royal correspondent Katie Nicholl described this as a the turning point when Harry "went from hooray Henry to genuine hero". It took many years though to rehabilitate Harry's public image. His 10 years as an officer with the Household Cavalry played a big part. He earned sympathy when an Australian women's magazine and a US website ignored a global media blackout and published details in early 2008 about his secret mission fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Harry returned to Afghanistan in 2012 as an Apache attack helicopter pilot. Three years later, he wrapped up his decade of service by spending time with Australian Defence Force troops in Darwin, Perth and Sydney. He described his decision to leave as "really tough" and talked about being at a crossroads in his life.

New path

The new path Harry chose was largely focused on charity work, helping veterans as well as humanitarian and conservation causes in Africa. His time in the army inspired him to set up the Invictus Games for wounded veterans. Harry was also a big presence during the Queen's Jubilee in 2012, when he completed his first royal solo tour overseas to Belize, the Bahamas, Brazil and Jamaica.

Mental health

In an attempt to shine a light on mental health issues, Harry joined brother William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, in founding Heads Together, a charity for veterans, the homeless and young people. He won plaudits from experts in April 2017 when he told a British podcast about how he had sought help after "shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years" in response to his mother's death.

Royal duties 

While on royal duties, Harry's proved a favourite with crowds on walkabouts. On a quick trip to Sydney in June 2017 to promote the Invictus Games, Harry charmed fans waiting in the pouring rain on the shores of Sydney Harbour. Among the crowd was 97-year-old Daphne Dunn, who shared a hug with Harry after he recognised her from a previous visit. "He's marvellous, I've met him before and he's an absolute gem," she said.

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