In our three-part series, Harry’s First 30, we will look back at Prince Harry’s last three decades and reflect on the changes that have occurred during this time in light of his upcoming 30th birthday. In part one we shall look at the Prince’s birth, his upbringing and education.
Prince Henry Charles Albert David was born on 15th September 1984 and, at that moment in time, he became the third in line to the throne, after his father and his elder brother, William. After hundreds of journalists, news teams and well-wishers excitedly crowded outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in London for hours on end, Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, finally emerged from the hospital doors to show Prince Harry off to the world for the first time. This was a day of great excitement for the royal family and the nation alike. As the saying goes, the royal family now had their heir and a spare!
Harry was baptised by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, on 21st December 1984 at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Six people were given the responsibility of becoming the Prince’s godparents, including his uncle, the Duke of York, Lady Vestey and Gerald Ward.
Even before his first birthday Harry took part in his first royal overseas engagement when his mother and father took both Harry and William on their tour of Italy in April 1985. In 1991, Harry also travelled to Canada for another royal tour with his family.
From a very early age, Diana acknowledged that she wished to give both of her children as much of a ‘normal’ childhood as she possibly could. Both William and Harry were taken on a variety of trips during their childhood by their mother that any other child at the time may have experienced, including visits to MacDonald’s, and trips to Disney World and theme parks. For Harry, this ‘normality’ that Diana wished for is also one of the reasons why we have only ever referred him by his ‘nickname’ Harry, and not Henry.
Along with this, Diana decided to introduce her children to her charity work and the organisations she helped with from a young age. Therefore, William and Harry visited shelters and charities for the homeless and AIDS clinics during their childhood and became aware of the importance of the charity work that their mother pioneered.
Just as his elder brother had before him, Prince Harry began his education at Jane Mynors’ nursery school and then went on to pre-preparatory Wetherby School in London. Harry then moved to the independent preparatory boarding school, Ludgrove.
In many ways, Harry was aware from a young age of his position as a member of the royal family. This was especially so when his seven-year-old brother reportedly told his mother that he wanted to become a police officer when he grew up in order to protect her, with which the young Harry responded with: “Oh, no you can’t. You’ve got to be King!”
In contrast to this, Harry also displayed his more cheeky and fun-loving side throughout his childhood. During trips to theme parks he was seen laughing greatly as he, his mother and brother were being covered in water on rides, and he was known for joking and poking his tongue out at the press cameras who continuously wanted to take photos of the young royal when he was out and about.
However, Harry’s childhood changed completely 17 years ago, in August 1997, when his mother was killed in a car crash in Paris. By this time, Harry’s parents had been divorced for a year. After Prince Charles had been informed of Diana’s death, he was the one who broke the news to Harry and William, who were staying at Balmoral at the time. Clearly a devastating moment in the young prince’s life, and one which has stayed with him ever since.
Diana’s funeral took place on 6th September 1997. Harry, who was 12 at the time, joined William, Prince Charles, Prince Philip and his uncle, Earl Spencer, as they all walked behind the funeral procession, which travelled from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. Around two billion people worldwide witnessed the funeral on television. During the events of that day, news reporters recorded shots of William and Harry taking the time to read some of the great number of messages and tributes to their mother that thousands of people had left outside Kensington Palace, along with masses of bouquets of flowers.
Since then, Harry has continued to promote and emulate his mother’s charity work. Although he was young when she died, Harry has attempted to advance Diana’s legacy further. The next few years after the events of 1997 proved to be difficult for the young prince. You can read more about Harry’s teenage antics, his school years at Eton and his life changing gap year in tomorrow’s instalment.