Rebel, soldier and activist: Prince Harry is the epitome of a modern royal

CNN  — 

He’s no fan of the limelight. But Henry Charles Albert David Mountbatten-Windsor – fifth in line to the British throne and better known as Prince Harry – will have few places to hide after the announcement that he is engaged to his American girlfriend Meghan Markle.

Born on September 15, 1984, Harry was the second and last child born into the ill-fated marriage of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales.

The pair divorced in 1996, and Diana died a year later. Not yet a teenager, Harry walked behind his mother’s coffin in images broadcast to a global audience.

Harry took up a place at the school his mother chose for him, the prestigious Eton College – following in the footsteps of his older brother, Prince William.

After leaving Eton, he traveled the world before enrolling at Sandhurst military academy in Berkshire, England. His nickname there was “Harry Potter,” according to Lieutenant Kayon Mills, who trained with the prince. After completing the course he joined the Blues and Royals regiment of the British Army.


In February 2007, the British Ministry of Defense announced that Harry would be deployed to Iraq. But his deployment was canceled just three months later after a number of threats were made against him.

In December that year he was sent in secret to Afghanistan, where he served for four months until his presence there became publicly known. Along with the other members of his regiment, he received the Operational Service Medal for his service in Afghanistan.

After qualifying as an Apache helicopter pilot – and being promoted to the rank of captain – he returned to Afghanistan in 2012 on a 20-week deployment. He flew on scores of missions and later admitted killing Taliban insurgents. It was sometimes justified to “take a life to save a life,” he said. “That’s what we revolve around, I suppose.”

That was his last mission as an active soldier – in June 2015, Kensington Palace announced that Harry had ended his army career.

Prince Harry served two tours in Afghanistan with the British Army.


Harry hasn’t always been known for his military discipline. In fact, he’s often described as the rebellious royal.

In 2002, he faced accusations of under-age drinking and cannabis use. The prince was a 16-year-old schoolboy at the time of the alleged incident.

Three years later, he caused outrage by wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party. He later apologized, admitting “it was a poor choice of costume.”

In 2012, photos emerged of Harry partying nude in a Las Vegas hotel. A palace official explained that he was “on a private holiday.”

The prince has been the subject of far fewer sensational headlines in recent years.

Prince Harry amuses Emily Henson, daughter of Hayley Henson, at the Sitting Volleyball Finals during the Invictus Games in September this year.

Harry appears to be prepared to speak more critically of the royal institution than the rest of his family. In an interview with Newsweek in June this year, Harry questioned whether the position of king or queen was even a desirable one.

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen?” he asked. “I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

And in an unusual public statement last November, he openly criticized the British media for subjecting Meghan Markle to “a wave of abuse and harrassment” including “outright sexism and racism.” He asked the press to “pause and reflect before any more damage is done.”


As is customary for members of the British royal family, Harry is an active campaigner for a number of charitable causes.

In 2006 he co-founded a charity to help AIDS orphans in the southern African state of Lesotho. His more recent work has focused on the needs of army veterans and people with mental health problems.

He has trekked to the North Pole and the South Pole with veterans charity Walking With The Wounded and founded the Invictus Games in 2014, an international sporting competition for injured servicemen and women.

In the last year, Harry has joined Prince William and wife Catherine in efforts to tackle the stigma of mental illness. As part of that effort, the brothers talked openly for the first time about the death of their mother.

Prince Harry races against his older brother and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in February 2017 at an event for mental health initiative Heads Together.

In an interview with British newspaper The Telegraph in April, Prince Harry spoke candidly about the “total chaos” he experienced after losing his mother, and the problems caused by bottling up his emotions rather than talking about them.

He revealed that he sought counseling at age 28, at the urging of his brother. He also admitted that the pressure of being in the public eye caused him to be “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.”

The counseling helped, he explained, and he said he feels “in a good place.”