UK Politics

What happened to Prince Harry? Five triggers for his royal exit


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.

Image: They made the announcement after a six week break in Canada

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.

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 09:  Prince Harry joins British troops and service personal remaining in Afghanistan and also International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel and civilians as they gather for a Remembrance Sunday service at Kandahar Airfield November 9, 2014 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. As the the UK combat mission in Afghanistan draws to an end in 2014 this year, which also marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, 70 years since the D-Day landings will be the last time British service personal will gather in any great numbers in the south of the country.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Image: Prince Harry joins British troops in Afghanistan in 2014

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."

More from Prince Harry

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.

Britain 's Prince Harry takes his gear off upon his arrival at RAF Brize Norton in Oxforshire March 1, 2008, after a 10-week tour of duty in Afghanistan fighting Taliban militants with the British Army.  Harry, a second lieutenant in the Blues and Royal regiment of the Household Cavalry, had been in Afghanistan since mid-December but his deployment had been kept under wraps in a deal struck between the government and British media. AFP PHOTO/SHAUN CURRY (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP via Getty Images)
Image: Prince Harry at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire in 2008, after a 10-week tour of duty 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.

LONDON - NOVEMBER 19:  HRH Prince William and Prince Harry leave HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh's 60th Diamond Wedding Anniversary celebration in Westminster Abbey on November 19, 2007 in London, England.   (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Image: In 2007 at their grandparents' wedding anniversary

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.

Prince William And Prince Harry At His Military Helicopter Training Course Based At Raf Shawbury, Shrewsbury. (Photo by Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images)
Image: Prince William and Prince Harry were closer as younger men

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."

Harry on his brother Will
'Good days and bad days' with William

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.

LONDON - JULY 01:  Their Royal Highnesses Prince William (R) and Prince Harry (C) and guest Chelsy Davy (L) watch the Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium on July 1, 2007 in London, England. The Concert falls on the date that would have been the late Princess's 46th birthday and marks 10 years since her death with an event headed by Princes William and Harry to celebrate her life.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
Image: Prince Harry dated Chelsy Davy on and off for seven years
EGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 30:  Prince Harry and his girlfriend Chelsy Davy attend the Cartier International Polo match at the  Guards Polo Club on 30 July, 2006 in Egham, England.  (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)
Image: Chelsy Davy ended the relationship over the media scrutiny

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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 07:  Cressida Bonas and Prince Harry attend We Day UK, a charity event to bring young people together at Wembley Arena on March 7, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Image: Cressida Bonas and Prince Harry dated for about two years

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.

The Princess of Wales greets her sons Prince William and Prince Harry on the deck of the yacht Britannia in Toronto, when they joined their parents on an official visit to Canada, 23rd October 1991. The Princess is wearing a Moschino suit.   (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Image: Harry speaks fondly of his mother

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