The triggers: What happened to Prince Harry?

Prince Harry’s announcement that he and his wife want to step back from their roles as senior royals has shocked the UK and the world.

How did this once-cheeky chappy lose his smile and end up in a position of wanting to give up his role in the firm?
Is Meghan, the actress-turned-Duchess of Sussex, to blame for his decision, or are there more factors at play in the prince’s choice? Sky News looks at the evidence.

Before Meghan

While some blame his new wife, there is significant evidence that Prince Harry’s unhappiness in his role started long before he even met Meghan, let alone married her.

The Times’ royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah told Sky News: “Tensions have been brewing for quite a long time – a lot of people have been quick to point the finger at his wife, (but) it predates her arrival.

“He wanted to find a different way of doing things. She found it hard to adjust and they found it hard to adjust into the new role.

“They want to do things differently, the Royal Family has been keen to try to accommodate that but obviously not fast enough to do it.”

Some of the evidence he wanted to do things differently can be traced back to 2013, when he spent four months on tour in Afghanistan.

While on tour, he was known as Captain Wales, and preferred this to his formal title of Prince Harry.

Being in another country was closer to normal life for Harry, but he confessed sometimes even that brought too many eyes on him.

“For me it’s not that normal because I go into the cookhouse and everyone has a good old gawp, and that’s one thing that I dislike about being here,” he said.

“Because there’s plenty of guys in there that have never met me, therefore look at me as Prince Harry and not as Captain Wales, which is frustrating. Which is probably another reason why I’d love to be out in the PBs [patrol bases], away from it all. It’s as normal as it’s going to get. I’m one of the guys. I don’t get treated any differently.”

More recently, a friend of his from his days in Afghanistan, Dean Stott, told This Morning he thought the military was “probably the only environment that he could be himself”.

It has also influenced a huge amount of his work since he left the military in 2015, after 10 years of service. Indeed, the first time he and Meghan made a public appearance was at the Invictus Games, the sports event he helps to put together for disabled ex-servicemen.

Russell Myers, the Mirror‘s royal editor, said: “Harry had issues coming out of the army – what was his plan? William was prepared for kingship and he has found it very difficult.”

Harry has admitted in the past that he didn’t always want to stay in the royal family.

“There was a time I felt I wanted out,” he told the Mail on Sunday.

“But then I decided to stay in [The Firm] and work out a role for myself.”

Harry said it was his loyalty to the Queen and charity work which persuaded him to stay.

“We are incredibly passionate with our charities and they have been chosen because they are on the path shown to me by our mother. I love charity stuff and meeting people,” he said in 2017.

“Different paths”

Another major element in the story of Harry is his relationship with his brother, William.

While Diana raised them as equals, there was always going to come a time when it seemed more like William was the heir – and Harry was the spare.

Ms Nikkhah said: “They are on different paths, i think they have felt it’s difficult on those paths to be aligned in their thinking.

“I think Harry found it difficult to defer to his brother, that pecking order is very difficult.
William and Harry were close growing up, and their mother’s death when they were aged 15 and 12 respectively will have given them a deeper bond and understanding.

However, they seem to have grown apart.
In a documentary filmed when Harry was on tour in Africa, he said: “We are certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him, and as I know he will always be there for me.

“We don’t see each other as much as we used to as we are so busy. But I love him dearly and you know the majority of the stuff is probably – well, the majority of the stuff is created out of nothing.

“But as brothers, you have good days and you have bad days.”
The Sunday Times reported that William had declared they were “separate entities” and he could no longer “put his arm around him”.

In a rare show of unity, the Dukes put out a statement calling a story which suggested William was a bully “false”.

They said: “For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”

Harry’s romantic past

Harry’s relationship with the media now that he is married may stem back to how his previous relationships ended.

He dated Chelsy Davy from 2004-2011, off and on, and then Cressida Bonas from 2012-2014, both seen as serious relationships which could lead to marriage.

The end of the relationship with Ms Davy was blamed on the strain of the media attention. Speaking in 2016, the first interview she had ever done, Ms Davy said the situation was “scary”.

She said: “It was so full-on: crazy and scary and uncomfortable. I found it very difficult when it was bad. I couldn’t cope. I was young, I was trying to be a normal kid and it was horrible.”

Harry has also spoken of the “very hard times” she had to face.

While Ms Bonas has never spoken about why their relationship ended, it is widely believed she was also concerned about the level of media attention.

In 2016, while he was dating Meghan, Harry denounced what he said were racist undertones in commentary on her and their blossoming relationship.

When their son Archie was born in 2019, media calls around the event were much smaller than for any of William’s children.

Instead of pictures on the steps, there was a brief statement from a happy new father, and then a short photocall.

The christening was private, a move that outraged many commentators – especially because it came shortly after it was revealed that the renovation of their new family home on the Windsor estate, Frogmore Cottage, cost £2.4m, paid for by the taxpayer.

A significant birthday

Harry this year will turn 36, the same age his mother was when she was killed in a car crash.
Others who have parents who died when they were young speak of the “curse” that they feel needs to be broken by surpassing the age at which their parent died or that they become “frozen in time”.

In 2017, Harry told The Daily Telegraph: “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 he had been close to “complete breakdown on numerous occasions”.
He has recently told ITV how camera clicks and flashes remind him of his mother’s death.

“I think being part of this family, in this role, in this job, every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash it takes me straight back so in that respect it’s the worst reminder of her life as opposed to the best,” he said.

Harry has always been critical of the role the press played in his mother’s death. Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while she was being chased by paparazzi.

Meghan’s impact

What evidence is there of Meghan’s influence on Harry? There are reports that she has changed many aspects of his personal life, like diet and exercise, giving up alcohol for a time and taking up yoga.

It was a far cry from the party days of old.

But there are some who raise concerns about the impact of Meghan on the prince.

One person who noticed a change is Arthur Edwards, who is a photographer for The Sun.

He said: “It’s the way Harry is at the moment, he’s just got this bee in his bonnet that all the media are to be ignored.

“Harry used to be the best of all of them. We’d get together in a pub and we’d talk about everything, get it off our plate. It would be frank and open, and you never reported it.

“Now, it’s not even ‘Good morning.’ Nothing. He treats us just like telegraph poles now.”

The 2017 Mail on Sunday interview, which came while he was dating Meghan, also hinted at the changes he wanted to make, though their romance may have been too young for her to be a significant player.

He said: “We want to make sure the monarchy lasts and are passionate about what it stands for.

“We feel that the British public and the whole world needs institutions like this – but it can’t go on as it has done under the Queen.”

Harry said Meghan had not advised him on his mental health issues, but kept other elements of their relationship private.

Having once credited his grandmother as the reason he stayed in the Royal Family, when he once “wanted out”, his decision to release the statement when the Queen had asked him not to has caused surprise.

Ms Nikkhah said: “That’s not the way Harry used to be, he has an enormous amount of love and respect for the Queen and this feels very out of character.”

Meghan’s comments in the ITV documentary while they were in Africa may also have been a factor in his desire to protect her. She said she was not OK and talked of a hope her work in the Royal Family would be treated fairly even if it was not easy.

Whatever the final push was, there’s more than meets the eye to Prince Harry’s decision to leave his role as a senior member of the Royal Family and seek to scale back his work.

How he and his wife shape their future could be the blueprint for the next generation.

But clues to Harry’s big decision were, perhaps, present all along.


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