While some actors make it big in Hollywood as children, there’s a different level of fame afforded to those born into royalty. When then-Prince Charles of Wales dated, proposed to, and got married to the young and dazzling Diana Spencer, the press and members of the paparazzi followed the princess like she was a prized possession.
The hounding behavior and flash of cameras didn’t stop when she was pregnant with Prince William or Prince Harry. Diana’s two young sons were her pride and joy, as evidenced by the heartwarming photos and videos of the three of them riding roller coasters, walking to school, and embracing after days apart. And while Diana made her dedication to her sons clear, her time with them was tragically cut short when she died in 1997.
Harry was just 12 years old when his mother succumbed to injuries sustained in a car accident — having been chased by paparazzi to her death — and the images of her young son walking behind her coffin haunt royal watchers to this day.
As he grew up, Harry engaged in a number of both beneficial and questionable behaviors, ranging from dedicated military service to wild partying days in Las Vegas. Fans were delighted when Harry and actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement, seemingly bringing Harry’s fairytale royal life to a beautiful peak. While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex found love, they also found heartbreak at the hands of “the Firm,” profoundly changing Harry forever.
The prince became financially independent from the royal family
The world halted in its tracks when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they’d be stepping back from their roles as senior royals — and that was just the beginning of the drama. After marrying Meghan, Harry became increasingly worried about his wife’s mental health — which he would later reveal to Oprah Winfrey — given the horrific coverage she was receiving in the press and the lack of support the couple received from the royal family.
Making their controversial decision to step away from the firm, Harry and Meghan revealed they would be taking the steps to become financially independent from the royal coin purse, something that hasn’t been seen very often among royal children.
As noted by BBC News at the time, a spokesperson confirmed on behalf of now-King Charles III that the monarch had given Harry and Meghan “a substantial sum” of money to help support them during their exodus from royal life. “That funding ceased in the summer of last year. The couple is now financially independent,” the spokesperson continued.
So from where have the Duke and Duchess of Sussex sourced their income? The BBC further noted that Harry was entitled to a considerable amount of money left to him by Diana Spencer, and Meghan came to their union as a successful actress herself. An insider further told Us Weekly that the deal Harry and Meghan have since struck with Netflix is worth $100 million.
Harry moved with his family to California
Perhaps one of the biggest ways Prince Harry has changed since being married to Meghan Markle has been the shift made in his living arrangements. Having spent his entire life living in the United Kingdom, Harry’s big relocation to Montecito, California was a dynamic change that few expected.
But as it became more and more clear that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were struggling to find support within the royal family amid ever-increasing scrutiny from the press and public, Harry and Meghan ultimately decided to move their then-family of three to the golden coast. Of their home — a stunning mansion in the Santa Barbara County foothills — Meghan told The Cut that their search came to a halt when they stepped foot on the grounds. They simply knew it was home.
“One of the first things my husband saw when we walked around the house was those two palm trees. See how they’re connected at the bottom?” Meghan pointed out to The Cut. “He goes, ‘My love, it’s us.’ And now every day when Archie goes by us, he says, ‘Hi, Momma. Hi, Papa.'”
The $14.65 million property has everything a former royal couple would need — the main home, a pool house, stunning property, and chickens to boot. “We did everything we could to get this house,” Meghan continued. “Because you walk in and [take a deep breath] … and exhale. And calm. It’s healing. You feel free.”
He emerged from Prince William’s shadow
While Prince Harry has always had royal fans and has been the subject of many celebrity crushes, he spent a good chunk of his time both as a kid and young adult in his older brother’s shadow. The old adage goes that Diana Spencer needed to give birth to “an heir and a spare,” and while Prince William, Prince of Wales, will most certainly be king one day, his younger brother is much farther away from the throne. As such, he has been afforded more freedoms than William, but was paid far less attention.
In her book, “Harry: Life, Loss and Love,” Katie Nicholl asserted that Harry has been “acutely aware of his position” as it relates to his brother, testifying that the young redhead was seldom given the same recognition and treatment as William. However, when Harry married Meghan Markle and took his life into his own hands, things began to drastically change.
Of his positioning in the royal family after he married Meghan, Harry explained that he and his brother seldom see eye to eye. “Part of this role and part of this job, this family, being under the pressure that it’s under, inevitably stuff happens,” he said as part of the ITV documentary, “Harry & Meghan: An African Journey” (via CNN). “We’re certainly on different paths at the moment, but I’ll always be there for him and as I know he’ll always be there for me.”
Prince Harry divulged his true thoughts about Diana
Members of the Firm seldom talk about their feelings, struggles, or past experiences. But when Prince Harry tied the knot with Meghan Markle, he was suddenly ready to share his truth — the good, the bad, all of it. Since Meghan entered his life, Harry has become willing to talk about his late mother, Diana Spencer, surely a sensitive topic after losing such a devoted parent as a young boy in the public eye.
In his AppleTV+ docuseries, “The Me You Can’t See,” Harry shared that in his younger life, he simply didn’t want to think about Diana due to the tragedy surrounding her life and death. “I don’t want to think about her, because if I think about her then it’s going to bring up the fact that I can’t bring her back and it’s just going to make me sad,” Harry shared of his former mentality surrounding his mom’s memory. And yet with time — and a supportive spouse — Harry addressed his sadness and transformed his perspective.
“I have no doubt that my mom would be incredibly proud of me. I’m living the life that she wanted to live for herself, living the life that she wanted us to be able to live,” he said. “So not only do I know that she’s incredibly proud of me, but that she’s helped me get here. And I’ve never felt her presence more as I have done over the last year.”
His relationship with sister-in-law Kate Middleton was drastically altered
It can be hard to introduce your spouse to your family, especially if you’ve had a relatively tight-knit dynamic. Dedicated to the crown and service above all else, the members of the Firm spend the majority of their lives performing royal duties — an obligation that Prince Harry gave up after he married Meghan Markle.
Given his prominence in the royal family and his then-close relationship with his older brother, Prince William, Harry was said to have enjoyed a close bond with his sister-in-law, Catherine Middleton. Their mutual dedication to the crown — plus their sibling-like friendship — allowed the three young royals to appear as a united front. But when Harry introduced Meghan into the royal fold, cracks began to form.
In Tom Bower’s book, “Revenge: Meghan, Harry, and the War Between the Windsors,” the author details that Harry and Kate’s relationship specifically was thrust into uncomfortable territory when the Duke of Sussex asked the now-Princess of Wales to be kinder to Meghan.
“Members of their family, said Harry, were not showing her sufficient support, respect, and friendship. Meghan, Harry believed, should be just as appreciated as their mother,” Bower wrote, per an excerpt of his book published in the Mirror. It’s since been reported that Kate has been playing “peacemaker,” trying to get Harry and William back on speaking terms. Her efforts, as many of us know, have been “unsuccessful,” as “Royally Us” co-host Christina Garibaldi asserted.
Harry started speaking more about his mental health struggles
Among the royal family, many have done a fair job at putting on a brave face amid controversy. And while some may think that keeping a stiff upper lip is the right approach for royals, Prince Harry’s attitude — especially regarding mental health — has changed since being married to Meghan Markle.
Amid his exodus from royal life, Harry has shared the realities of the monarchy and the toll the lifestyle can take on a person’s well-being. In a number of high-profile media appearances, Harry has discussed the generational traumas that were passed down from his parents, telling “Armchair Expert” host Dax Shepard in particular that the pain in his life has been cyclical.
“I don’t think we should be pointing the finger or blaming anybody, but certainly when it comes to parenting, if I’ve experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I’m going to make sure that I break that cycle so I don’t pass it on,” Harry explained. “There’s a lot of genetic pain and suffering that gets passed on anyway. We as parents should be doing the most what we can to try and say, ‘You know what, that happened to me, I’m gonna make sure that doesn’t happen to you.'”
If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.
He became a dedicated dad
First comes marriage, then comes babies, and that was the case for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. After tying the knot in 2018, Harry transformed from one of the world’s most eligible bachelors into a happily married man with eyes only for his wife. Then, in 2019, little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born. Of becoming a father, Harry revealed in the AppleTV+ series, “The Me You Can’t See,” that he was terrified of his wife experiencing the same fate as his mother, who similarly faced intense media scrutiny. It was the birth of his son that spurred action on Harry’s part, and he took the steps to get his wife and child out of the United Kingdom.
“I then had a son, who I would far rather be solely focused on, rather than every time I look in his eyes wondering whether my wife is going to end up like my mother and I’m going to have to look after him myself,” Harry said. “That was one of the biggest reasons to leave, feeling trapped, and feeling controlled through fear. Both by the media and by the system itself, which never encouraged the talking about this kind of trauma. Certainly, now I will never be bullied into silence.”
Now, Harry and Meghan have two children, Archie and Lilibet, with Harry telling NBC’s “Today” that he loves having “two little people who I’m responsible for.”
Prince Harry began opening up about his drug and alcohol use
Before Meghan Markle came into his life, Prince Harry was known as a sweet, albeit troubled kid with a proclivity for partying, dating, and wearing some inappropriate clothing. On the outside, it looked as though he was enjoying the high life as a bachelor, but the prince revealed in the AppleTV+ series, “The Me You Can’t See,” that his behavior stemmed from a far more negative place than many could have predicted. It was only after Meghan entered his life — and after the prince started sharing more of his personal story — that Harry opened up about his past drug and alcohol use as a coping mechanism.
“I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling,” Harry shared, highlighting that his drinking habits transitioned from a weekend social activity to a numbing habit. “I slowly became aware that I wasn’t drinking Monday to Friday, but I would probably drink a week’s worth in one day on a Friday or a Saturday night. And I would find myself drinking, not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something,” he further shared.
If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
The prince became an advocate for race-related issues
Until Meghan Markle came into Prince Harry’s life, the prince had not only enjoyed the luxuries of royal life, but he also navigated the world as a white, accomplished, educated man — the pinnacle of success in a patriarchal culture. It wasn’t until he witnessed the racially targeted media criticism Meghan faced in the United Kingdom that he began speaking out against racism in a variety of forms.
Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in the couple’s sit-down interview, Harry revealed that a “large part” of why he and Meghan sought a life in California was due to the “bigoted” and “toxic environment” the tabloids created. In response, the Society of Editors told the BBC that the British media is not racist, but rather holds the “rich and powerful to account.”
In the AppleTV+ series, “The Me You Can’t See,” Harry shared that one of his biggest regrets was not defending his wife sooner when it came to the racism she experienced on a regular basis in the United Kingdom. He even went as far as to call out the environment it created and how it directly linked to his mother’s death.
“History was repeating itself. My mother was chased to her death while she was in a relationship with someone that wasn’t white and now look what’s happened,” Harry said bluntly. “You want to talk about history repeating itself, they’re not going to stop until [Meghan] dies.”
Prince Harry started attending therapy
One of the best things a spouse can do is expose you to new perspectives and encourage you to be the best version of yourself. It certainly seems this is the impact Meghan Markle had on Prince Harry, as the beginning of their relationship was dominated by Harry’s learning — and unlearning — of past habits, beliefs, and experiences. Harry ultimately started going to therapy, as he revealed in the AppleTV+ series “The Me You Can’t See.”
“When [Meghan] said, ‘I think you need to see someone,’ that was in reaction to an argument we had. And in that argument, not knowing about it, I reverted back to 12-year-old Harry,” the Duke of Sussex shared about his mental health path. “The moment I started therapy, and probably within my second session, my therapist turned around to me, and said, ‘That sounds like you are reverting to 12-year-old Harry.’ I felt somewhat ashamed and defensive, [like], ‘How dare you, you’re calling me a child.’ She was, ‘I’m not calling you a child. I’m expressing sympathy and empathy for you for what happened to you when you were a child. You never processed it. You were never allowed to talk about it. And all of a sudden now, it’s coming up in different ways as projection.'”
Once Harry could name his emotions, he was far better able to identify the “trapped … mindset” he had been under while living within the royal family.
His relationship with his father drastically changed
Royal watchers can only pick up on so much from observing familial relationships from the outside, but even Prince Harry has confessed that his relationship with his father, King Charles III, has changed since he married Meghan Markle. Speaking about what he and Meghan Markle experienced at the hands of the press — and the Firm — while still senior royals, Harry explained that he thought his father would help tame the tabloid beast.
“I thought my family would help, but every single ask, request, warning, whatever, it just got met with total silence, total neglect,” Harry shared during the AppleTV+ series “The Me You Can’t See.” “We spent four years trying to make it work. We did everything that we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role and doing the job … My father used to say to me, when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well, it was like that for me. So it’s going to be like that for you.’ That doesn’t make sense — just because you suffered it doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer.”
Even Meghan weighed in on the changed dynamic between Harry and King Charles, telling The Cut that Harry confessed to her he’d “lost [his] dad in this process.” Any kind of meaningful reconciliation has not happened as of publication.