Prince Harry and the rest of the United Kingdom’s royal family have captured the attention of worldwide audiences for generations — the decadent lifestyles, the storied history, and the jewels are attractive enough. But aside from the lavish goods that the royals are granted, people can’t help but be interested in the people behind the titles. Who are the royals? What do they really think and feel?
Getting answers to such highly personal questions never seemed to be a possibility, until Harry really came onto the scene. The youngest child of Princess Charles and the late Princess Diana, Harry has defied a lot of royal expectations. Just a child when his mother died, Harry was thrust into the spotlight at the earliest of ages, and it seems like the public and the press have been keeping tabs on him ever since.
Harry transformed from a young kid whose mother had tragically passed away to a bit of a bad boy with a player’s reputation, to a husband and a father. His growth, in both the public and private spheres of his life, have been drastic, and the public has been following him every step of the way. So how has Harry’s life evolved? You’re about to find out, because this is the stunning transformation of Prince Harry.
Having Princess Diana as a mom
On Sept. 15, 1984, Prince Harry was born to parents Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales. The birth of another boy after big brother William was celebrated throughout the United Kingdom. From that moment forward, all had their eyes on Harry. As his first years went by, it was clear Prince Harry had the looks of his mother. According to Vogue, Princess Diana called Harry "my little Spencer." This wasn’t just because he had the red locks attributed to Diana’s side of the family, but also the personality. She said, "Harry’s the naughty one, just like me."
But with the naughty also comes the nice. Even as a small child, Prince Harry and his brother, William, went with their mother to various charity and volunteering events. According to The Telegraph, she hoped it would help her sons understand people’s emotions, hopes, and dreams. And this kindness was not just for the people. As a child, Prince Harry used to be the one to tend to the sheep at the family’s country estate. Like mother, like son.
He had a taste of regular childhood
Prince Harry was just like any other kid growing up. So what did the little prince eat for dinner? According to the royal chef at the time, Darren McGrady, pizza, burgers, and spaghetti and meatballs could be found on the menu from time to time. As McGrady told Hello! magazine, "They were royal children but they still had children’s palates." And it wasn’t just the type of food that made Princes William and Harry feel like normal children. Princess Diana also made it a family meal. McGrady said, "The food was actually put on the sideboard and they just go and help themselves, as opposed to in the palace where they’re served each course."
He experienced heartbreak as a kid
Family drama seemed to take over Prince Harry’s life as a kid. In August of 1996, when the prince was 11 years old, his parents divorced. Then just a year later, the 12-year-old lost his mother, who died in a car accident in Paris. Not only did he and his brother have to deal with the tragedy themselves, but they were surrounded by the incident via the media. For many years, the prince never addressed the difficult time in his family’s lives. Then in 2016, Prince Harry reflected on the loss of his mother, telling the BBC (via CNN), "I really regret not ever talking about it…For the first 28 years of my life, I never talked about it."
He wanted to be a bad boy
As time went on, Prince Harry continued his life doing what was expected of him. And this included Eton. In September of 1998, the 13-year-old joined his older brother at the Berkshire school, where he would live during his studies — with a bodyguard living in the room next door full-time, of course. And it wasn’t just the studies that were now different for the prince but even his day-to-day wardrobe. From the black tailcoat to the waistcoat and stiff collar, the Eton uniform dated back to the 19th century. But not all would have been thrilled about the decision to send Harry to Eton. According to BBC News, Princess Diana had been "concerned that he was perhaps not as academically inclined as Prince William." And apparently the princess was not the only one who felt that way. Much later, in 2015, Prince Harry confessed that he didn’t enjoy school. The Telegraph reported that, while speaking to a group of children at a Cape Town youth center, he said, "I would like to have come to a place like this. When I was at school I wanted to be the bad boy."
He created some royal controversy
The last few years at Eton were not the easiest for Prince Harry. In 2001, the 16-year-old admitted to drinking underage and smoking marijuana. According to The Guardian, the prince was running with the wrong crowd when these activities started to happen. After hearing this, his father asked Prince William to encourage his brother to visit the Featherstone Lodge Rehabilitation Centre in south London. The prince went for a day in order to see what addiction would lead to.
After this incident, Prince Harry was still known for his partying, but he focused on school and graduated from Eton in 2003. Then, in 2005, the 20-year-old was back in the media for a controversial decision. He was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party, and the media response and disgust was immediate. The prince apologized in a statement, saying he was "very sorry if I caused any offense or embarrassment to anyone…It was a poor choice of costume and I apologize." After years of drinking and partying, Prince Harry was ready to take the next step and move on.
The media hurt his relationships
Prince Harry may have been the center of media attention for his various scandals, but his dating life also took center stage for paparazzi and millions of jealous girls around the world. Prince Harry was the bad boy in the royal family who seemed fun to be with. After his schooling was complete, Prince Harry’s relationships began to take shape.
His longest relationship and first serious girlfriend was Chelsy Davy. They met in Africa during Prince Harry’s gap year between graduating from Eton College and joining the army. Whenever the media caught the two together, it felt like a real relationship and never a photo opportunity. They dressed casually, and the couple’s chemistry was obvious. However, the intense media focus took a toll. As Davy later told The Times (via People), "I found it tough." She admitted, "It’s not something you get used to." The relationship lasted on and off for about seven years, but the intense spotlight ended up being too much and the couple broke up in 2010. But the 24-year-old prince had learned his lesson about drama in the past, and the split with 23-year-old Davy was amicable.
A royal source confirmed to People, "They are remaining friends…There have been all sorts of reasons given [for the split] but suffice it to say they felt that it had run its course." The same result happened with the prince’s next long-term relationship with Cressida Bonas, heiress and aspiring actress. The couple dated from 2012 to 2014, and things ended as Bonas felt overwhelmed by the media’s criticism.
A man of the military
After those years of dating drama, Prince Harry became a man of the military. In May of 2005, the 20-year-old prince joined the British Army. After working his way up for years, the prince eventually became an Apache Aircraft Commander. Throughout this time, Prince Harry served two tours in Afghanistan, and in 2014, he took a staff officer role in London. It was during this time the partying prince changed his ways. He began to work more closely with charities.
Once in his staff officer role, the prince was able to focus on organizing the Invictus Games, an international sports event in which wounded and sick armed service personnel can compete. According to Today, when the prince made the decision to retire from the military in June 2015, he wanted "to spend more time helping wounded service members, battling AIDS and working with other charities." He was now in the news not for the scandals, but for giving back to others.
A prince with a passion for charity
Since leaving the military in 2015, Prince Harry has constantly been seen out and about at various charity events. Still with a clear focus on the Invictus Games, the prince continued to give back to a variety of organizations. In October of 2016, the 32-year-old attended an event for the WellChild charity, which recognized the bravery of children with intense illnesses and those who help take care of them. Many of events and organizations the prince takes part in support children in need. This is when we see the fun Prince Harry come out, not out late partying, but volunteering and helping families in need. In November 2016, the prince could be found in Antigua joining in during a youth sports festival. At these events, the Harry is a kid himself — dancing with everyone and playing soccer and volleyball.
He found romance with an American actress
Prince Harry has come a long way over the years as a royal who’s had to deal with the spotlight since birth. He’s had tough times, but we’ve always had a soft spot for the lovable royal. He continues to give back to children in need, people with AIDS, those in the military, and so forth. And he always does it with that Prince Harry grin we’ve grown to love. And what about the prince’s love life?
When he was 32, he began dating then-35-year-old American actress Meghan Markle. The couple met in July 2016, and the whirlwind romance then began.
Prince Harry and Markle later described to BBC News the story of how they met. And just like many couples, it was through a mutual friend. The romance took off quickly. As Prince Harry described during the interview, "We met once and then twice — back to back — two dates in London, last July…. And then it was I think about three, maybe four weeks later that I managed to persuade her to come and join me in Botswana. And we camped out with each other under the stars. She came and joined me for five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic."
Okay, we take it back — that may not exactly be a story that many couples can relate to.
He stood up to the press about their treatment of Meghan Markle
It became very clear that this relationship was serious for Prince Harry when in November of 2016 a statement was released from "the Communications Secretary to Prince Harry."
In this statement, Prince Harry addressed the harassment that Markle had been facing. Part of the statement read, "Some of this has been very public — the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments. Some of it has been hidden from the public — the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home."
Even though this was a formal statement, the prince’s emotions were evident. The statement also said, "Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm."
He (finally) got engaged to the love of his life
And then, just a year after that initial statement to the press, the royal engagement was officially announced. The news came from the Clarence House Twitter account. As the tweet read, "The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle." As the statement described, the couple was engaged earlier in November 2017 in London. The wedding was planned for spring 2018.
If you weren’t sure just how classy Prince Harry is, the statement continued, "Prince Harry also sought and received the blessing of Ms. Markle’s parents."
The happy couple opened up about their relationship and the future
As the happy couple spoke of their engagement and relationship to BBC News, it seemed like they could be any couple talking of their exciting news. Prince Harry went into detail about the moment he popped the question, sharing, "She didn’t even let me finish, she said ‘can I say yes, can I say yes?’ and then there were hugs. I had the ring on my finger and I was like can I give you the ring? She goes, ‘oh yes the ring!’"
He then opened up and gushed about his love for his future bride. He said, "I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly — it was a confirmation to me that all the stars were aligned. This beautiful woman literally tripped and fell into my life. I fell into her life and the fact that she will be unbelievably good at the job part of it as well is obviously a huge relief to me because she’ll be able to deal with everything else that comes with it."
While many details of the couple’s wedding and future may still be mysterious to the public, they did give a hint during the interview of what’s to come in the future. When asked about children, Prince Harry said, "Not currently, no. Of course, one step at a time, and hopefully we’ll start a family in the near future."
Prince Harry got married to Meghan Markle in an elaborate ceremony
Royal weddings feel like the event of the decade, and that was certainly the case for Prince Harry. His wedding to Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018 was a ceremony for the ages, with horses and carriages and tiaras all around. As noted by CNN, the wedding was a mix of "British pageantry" with a bit of a modern flare, perhaps a subtle nod to the progressive nature of Harry and Meghan’s marriage (Meghan is American, a woman of color, and had previously been married — barrier breaking in the royal family).
The wedding took place at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, and featured the stunning aspects that you’d expect a royal wedding to have. Meghan looked radiant in her gown, Harry looked very dapper in his formal military attire, and the ceremony itself was attended by royals and public figures. After the ceremony, Harry and Meghan rode in a horse-drawn carriage throughout the streets of Windsor, greeting the crowds as they did so.
The wedding was followed by two receptions, one hosted by Queen Elizabeth and the other hosted by Prince Charles. Talk about a modern fairytale.
Prince Harry and Prince William reportedly started to feud
Bad blood between brothers is never good, and a public feud reportedly pitted Prince Harry and Prince William against each other. The two brothers had transformed from young children into senior royals, but it was Meghan Markle’s presence in Harry’s life that sparked tensions between them. Robert Lacey, the historian who wrote the book Battle of Brothers (all about William and Harry’s feud), told Elle that things got so bad between the two that they couldn’t even be in the same room together.
Friends of William’s suggested to Lacey that he was "so furious with Harry that he couldn’t trust himself to sit at [the] same table [as him]." It was a new type of "depth" to anger that neither brother had experienced before. So what was the problem? According to Lacey, William may have thought that Harry was moving too fast with Meghan, that she was too much of an outsider to ever fit in the royal family, and that a self-made woman would not conform to the royal lifestyle. Harry, on the other hand, was ready to do anything for love.
"His parents were locked into an arranged, loveless marriage, and he’s not going to make that mistake," Lacey said. "He’s going to go for love, and that’s what he’s done with Meghan, unapologetically."
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle welcomed their first child, Archie
For those of you who aren’t aware, royal babies are a big deal. There’s press attention and official announcements and a whole slew of celebrations to welcome the newest member of the royals, and it seemed like everyone was holding their breath when Prince Harry became a dad. After all, he had been known as the fun uncle for years, and it was a surprise to just about everyone that he was finally settling down as a family man.
As noted by USA Today, Harry and Meghan Markle welcomed their son, Archie, on May 6, 2019, after Meghan had surpassed her due date. But despite their sweet baby refusing to come out on time, the birth was safe and successful, and Archie arrived into the world at 5:26 in the morning. Unlike Prince William and Kate Middleton’s children, who were born in the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s hospital (where Kate Middleton has posed after giving birth), Harry and Meghan opted for London’s Portland Hospital, which just so happens to be American-owned (a nod to Meghan’s home country, perhaps). Harry and Meghan later introduced their baby boy to the public on May 8.
Prince Harry revealed that he would be stepping down from royal duties
This was the point of transformation that serves as the marker between the old and new Prince Harry. In a statement that shocked just about everyone, Harry announced that he would be stepping back from his duties as a senior royal, along with Meghan Markle. The statement from the couple, released in January 2020, was a huge blow to the royal family and, as noted by BBC News, neither Queen Elizabeth or Prince William were notified before the announcement was made.
The statement revealed that Harry and Meghan had been discussing stepping away from their roles as senior royals for a long time and had come to their decision "after many months of reflection and internal discussions."
"We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent," their statement read, "while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen." William was reportedly "disappointed" that he had not been alerted to the statement before it was released, and other senior royals were described as "hurt" by the decision.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle moved to Southern California
In another transformative act, Prince Harry redefined his relationship with the royal family when he moved from the United Kingdom to California — quite the monumental decision for a country’s royal. As noted by Vogue, Harry and Meghan Markle had moved from Britain to Canada and then ventured from Canada to Los Angeles. The pair didn’t have any intention on staying in LA, though, and, after a few months, moved to the quiet town of Montecito, about 100 miles north of the bustling city. The two purchased a $14.65 million home with all the bells and whistles: a pool, guest home, tennis court, rose gardens, you name it.
"Harry loves California, but they were both drawn to the smaller town of Santa Barbara, where they can integrate into the community while having some distance and privacy that is hard to come by in the Los Angeles area," a source with knowledge of Harry and Meghan told Vogue. "For that reason, they had never intended to stay in Los Angeles." And a spokesperson for the pair confirmed the move, saying that their hope was to live a quiet, private life.
Prince Harry announced that he and Meghan Markle are expecting their second child
The year 2020 was a rough one for all of us given the coronavirus pandemic and stresses about daily life. And Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sadly had to overcome another hurdle during the year, the loss of their baby. In an opinion column for The New York Times released in November 2020, Meghan revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage, a devastating blow to any family. But the couple were blessed by their rainbow baby, and in February 2021, they announced that they would be welcoming their second child to the world.
As noted by BBC News, Harry and Meghan were "overjoyed" to share their news, and despite any tension, the palace released a statement showing their support. According to the statement, the senior royals were "delighted" about the news and sent their best wishes. Regardless of Harry and Meghan’s departure from royal life, their second baby will be an heir to the British throne, just like their first child, Archie, is. As noted by BBC News, Harry’s second baby will be eighth in line. Quite the transformation for Harry — from bachelor and fun uncle to dad of two.
Both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will likely lose their official royal roles
In the final piece of his transformation, it looks like Prince Harry will lose his royal patronages. As noted by People, Queen Elizabeth is expected to make an announcement in 2021 as to the status of Harry’s charity involvement. It is also thought that Harry will lose all of his military appointments, which were honorary, as well.
When Harry and Meghan initially left the royal family, they were put on a kind of probation by the queen, as sort of a buffer period to see what would happen. Given their move to California and the distance between them and the royals, it appears as though Harry and Meghan’s royal roles will officially come to a close.
While a source told People that Harry "will always be a great ambassador" for the United Kingdom, the queen may not share such sentiments. She reportedly does not think that a royal can be "half in, half out." A source close to her told People that "it was clear to her from the start that a hybrid role is not an option." Time will tell just how this latest transformation in Harry’s life will go.