September 15, 1984- Henry Charles Albert David Wales:
“All I want to do is make my mother proud.”
In 2008, James Wharton, the first openly gay man to serve in the British Army, was being bullied by other soldiers in his battalion while training in Canada. He finally told his Troop Commander, who told Wharton: “Right, I’m going to sort this shit out once and for all”. When he returned, he told Wharton: “We cleared everything up. I told those other lads to back the fuck off”.
His commander was His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales.
“I didn’t even think of it as a special circumstance. He was my superior, he was Sir, he was Mr. Wales.”
The two soldiers were close while on duty in Canada. They even swapped stories on how they lost their virginities. They continue to stay in touch.
Princess Diana’s gay butler, Paul Burrell, says that she taught Prince Harry and his brother about LGBTQ people when the princes were kids. They had asked about Sir Elton John’s and David Furnish’s relationship when Harry noticed they were wearing wedding rings. Diana told the boys that John and Furnish lived together and that they shared a deep love. Burrell:
“It was incredible to witness the education of William and Harry in this way. Elton himself had helped Diana understand the world of HIV and AIDS and how the Princess could help bring greater compassion and understanding to those who were suffering. Elton had given Diana an education at a time when it was frowned upon to even shake the hand of someone who had either HIV/AIDS. Diana did this because she cared. She surrounded herself with people who were like-minded and who she was comfortable with. Elton John, David Furnish and George Michael were her confidantes. It wasn’t because they were gay, it was because they were good, kind human beings like her and wanted to make a difference in the world.”
In his youth, Harry seemed to have taken his mother’s spot in the tabloids, shocking the public with his roguery, naked romps and cultural insensitivity (he once dressed as a Nazi for a costume party). Harry liked to party. He liked drinking and smoking marijuana. Shocking for a teenager! But, after joining the army in 2008, and serving in Afghanistan, plus being promoted to Captain in 2011, he is now more famous as a gentleman and for his charitable causes than for his antics.
As the alleged second son of Charles, Prince Of Wales, Harry is currently fifth in line to the English throne, behind his father, older brother William and William’s two children.
His mother described the young Harry as “very artistic”. I had hoped that was code for gay and that I might marry him one day.
Harry grew-up at Kensington Palace and Highgrove House, the family estate in Gloucestershire. Yet, Harry’s mother tried to give both her sons as normal a life as possible despite their privileged position. Diana took Harry and his brother to concerts, amusement parks and fast-food places. Still, photographers were always there, even when his parents dropped Harry off for his first day of school in September 1987.
Despite his parents’ increasingly strained marriage, he became known for being a happy kid with a keen interest in all things military. At boarding school in 1992, he was told of his parents’ impending separation. They divorced in 1996.
Harry and William spent their holidays dividing their time between their two parents. They spent time at Highgrove with their father enjoying the outdoors. But, with their mother, they visited AIDS clinics and homeless shelters.
Harry retreated to Balmoral, the family’s Scottish castle after his mother’s tragic death in 1997, mourning in seclusion with his family. He then traveled to London with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and his brother, to prepare for Princess Diana’s funeral. On September 6, 1997, 12-year-old Harry walked past a million people who had gathered to say good-bye to his mother, as he trailed her coffin in a funeral procession along with his brother, father, and grandfather, Prince Phillip.
After the famous funeral service, Harry and his brother went to Althrop, the Spencer family estate owned by his uncle Charles, Earl of Spencer. His mother is buried there on an island in the middle of a lake.
Suffering with his tremendous loss, Harry still returned to school soon after the funeral. On his first school break, he traveled to South Africa with his father. He got to hang out with The Spice Girls after their concert there.
Not much of a student, Harry still was admitted to Eton after boarding school in 1998. He must have known someone who knew someone.
Also in 1998, Harry and William threw a surprise 50th birthday party for their father, with friends Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, and Emma Thompson performing sketches that lampooned Prince Charles. It was there that they met their future stepmother Camilla Parker Bowles, the woman that their father had been dreaming of being her tampon while married to their mother.
In 2003, Harry graduated from Eton. He traveled and became involved in his mother’s charities. He worked at a home for orphans of victims of HIV/AIDS in Lesotho, a landlocked country in Africa. To promote awareness of the problems there, he formed his charity, Sentebale, and helped make a documentary called The Forgotten Kingdom: Prince Harry in Lesotho, raising $2 million.
In 2005, Harry and his brother attended their father’s wedding to Parker Bowles. Harry:
“She’s always been very close to me and William… She’s not the wicked stepmother. She’s a wonderful woman and she’s made our father very, very happy which is the most important thing.”
July 1, 2007, on what would have been Princess Diana’s 46th birthday, 65,000 people gathered at Wembley Stadium for the Concert For Diana. Harry and William produced the event and served as hosts. Performers included Elton John, of course, plus Duran Duran, Pharrell, Fergie, Tom Jones, Bryan Ferry, Andrea Bocelli, Rod Stewart, Kanye West, and dozens more. The event raised money for Harry’s orphanage in Lesotho.
In February 2008, Harry began his tour of duty in Afghanistan. In early 2009, he once again faced criticism for his insensitivity. Videos of him surfaced and depicted him using the term “raghead” for a Pakistani soldier and other offensive remarks. Harry apologized, and the army ordered him to undergo sensitivity training, which did not include hanging out with me listening to Original Cast Broadway Cast recordings, but should have.
Harry made the news again in August 2012 when nude footage of him taken during a private party in a hotel room in Las Vegas were leaked. Thankfully, I had just stepped away for a minute to clean up when the cameras were rolling. Photos of the partying prince were published in the tabloids. One of his first public appearances after the scandal was at the WellChild Awards in London. WellChild is a charity dedicated to supporting sick children and their families. He joked in his speech: “I am never shy in coming forward.”
Years after his mother’s passing, he said that he was still very close to a complete breakdown and he finally sought professional help at his brother’s urging. Harry also took up boxing to help him deal with his grief. Prince Harry, Prince William and his wife Kate, or should I say Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, launched Heads Together, their campaign to end stigma around mental health.
The Invictus Games is an international sports event, created by Prince Harry in 2014, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services members and veterans take part in sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, and indoor rowing. At last summer’s games in Toronto, Harry met Meghan Markle, an actor on the television series Suits which is filmed in Toronto. In November, Kensington Palace issued a statement confirming their relationship and requested privacy and respect for the couple after Markle had been the victim of social media trolls (not me) and harassment by paparazzi. A few weeks ago, Harry took her to meet grandma. Seems serious.
On December 1, World Aids Day, Prince Harry and Princess Rihanna helped encourage HIV testing by taking the test themselves on camera.
HBO is streaming the documentary, Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy, which focuses on her presence as a mother and was created with the help and blessing of her sons. While filming, Harry was reunited with 16-year-old boy, Mutsu, who he had met on that first visit to Africa 12-years earlier. Harry had exchanged letters with the youngster, but their reunion was emotional and heartfelt.
NBC aired a documentary, Diana, 7 Days on September 1st. In it, Harry says:
“When she died there was such an outpour of emotion and love which was quite shocking. It was beautiful at the same time, and it was amazing now looking back at it. It was amazing that our mother had such a huge effect on so many people. When you’re that young and something like that happens to you, I think it’s lodged in here, there, wherever, in your heart, in your head, and it stays there for a very, very long time. I think it’s never going to be easy for the two of us to talk about our mother, but 20 years on seems like a good time to remind people of the difference that she made, not just to the Royal Family but also to the world.”