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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 06:57 GMT 07:57 UK
Harry steers course into adulthood
By Peter Hunt
BBC royal correspondent

Prince Harry in Lesotho
Harry wants to change the perception of him
As Prince Harry turns 21 all eyes are on the third in line to the throne.

"Just call me Harry".

These four words capture one of the many challenges facing the young prince, who at 21, is now fully embracing adult life.

For now there is no "Your Royal Highness", no "Sir". But even though he does not have a destiny to fulfil, he is third-in-line to the throne.

Like his brother, William, he wants to be normal, though in his heart of hearts, he must know it is an, at times, unattainable dream.

"Normal" 21-year-olds are not interviewed by three reporters to mark the occasion.

The interviews give a flavour of how Harry, the Party Prince, the Caring Prince - he says he happily embraces both titles - is trying to navigate his way in the world as a modern royal.

Over the years such interviews, which are given to all the broadcasters and newspapers, have been a mechanism by which royal officials attempt to project a particular image of whichever family member is in the spotlight.

Harry's clearly keen to present a more rounded picture of himself - to move away from the two-dimensional character of a prince out on the town

Though controlled affairs, they do also provide some insight.

When Harry's father was first interviewed in 1969, before his investiture as Prince of Wales, the Today programme presenter travelled to Buckingham Palace.

It can be assumed the Queen's eldest son may well have worn a tie and a double-breasted suit for the occasion. He certainly did when he was interviewed for television around the same time.

When Harry met the BBC, there was not a tie in sight. His crumpled shirt showed no evidence of the famed skill Sandhurst cadets are said to have for ironing.

Rounded picture

When gently teased about his attire, he was embarrassed and said he'd been told to go casual. A modern prince for a modern age. The encounters were not unduly lengthy, but they gave Harry time to set out his stall.

Harry's clearly keen to present a more rounded picture of himself - to move away from the two-dimensional character of a prince out on the town.

Recent events have helped to fuel this stereotype. He was involved in a scuffle with a paparazzi photographer and he wore that now notorious fancy dress costume - a Nazi uniform and a swastika armband.

Those around Harry are protective of him - he can sometimes appear vulnerable.
He has used these interviews to apologise again, this time in public - something some politicians had demanded at the time the offending picture was published.

"It was," says Harry, "a stupid thing to do. I would prefer to put it in the past if I can."

Looking to the future, Harry's life, as currently mapped out, will be devoted to army service and a continuation of his charitable work in southern Africa.

He is determined to achieve both those goals. Working with the children of Lesotho who've been blighted by Aids fulfils his pledge to sustain his mother's legacy.

Heartfelt comments

There is another aspect of his life which is more problematic - his relationship with his girlfriend Chelsy Davy.

She will presumably be touched by the warm, heartfelt comments he's made about her. She's apparently "amazing" and "very special".

Such words though, are no protection from the prying camera lens. At Sandhurst, like when he was at school at Eton, media intrusion is severely limited. Out-and-about with your girlfriend is another matter.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Happy birthday Harry, you deserve a really lovely day!
Luci, Richmond, London

As well as setting the record straight on Camilla - "she's not a wicked stepmother" - Harry also talks fondly about William.

They are two brothers who have different future roles, but the same unique experience of life.

They have grown close during the turbulent times they have shared. Harry says they hug when they meet and William's the one person on this earth who he can talk to about anything.

'Comedy value'

This mutual fraternal devotion may well be tested if William succeeds in following Harry into Sandhurst.

If he does, Harry's determined to hang around so his eldest brother would have to salute him. Harry would do it he said, "for the comedy value".

Those around Harry are protective of him. He can sometimes appear vulnerable. He admits he can be over-sensitive and he has a "child streak" in him.

His desire to lead a life away from the rareified corridors of palaces appears heartfelt. He believes he's misunderstood - the prince with a cigarette in one hand and a beer can in the other captures just one aspect of his life, not his whole character he argues.

He clearly believes that in the 21st Century a young senior royal can enjoy himself, have a good time, and lead a worthwhile life.

In Harry's words: "I am who I am and I'm not going to change".


SEE ALSO:
Profile: Prince Harry
16 Jun 05 |  UK


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