As he embarks on what feels very much like a farewell tour of the U.K. this week, Prince Harry has proved that while he has lost the right to use his royal title, he has lost none of his charisma.
On Wednesday, after arriving in the U.K. via a commercial flight, the Duke took a train (not a private jet) to Edinburgh to attend a summit for his new sustainable travel venture, Travalyst. Pre-empting any awkwardness over how to address him now that he is stepping down as a senior royal, he told his fellow delegates to “just call me Harry.”
It was typical of the down-to-earth royal, and what makes him (still) one of the most loved and popular members of the British royal family. Dressed in a suit jacket (which might have felt more formal than what he’s been accustomed to having spent recent weeks practicing yoga and hiking on Vancouver Island) he looked just like the Harry of old. There was a twinkle in his eye and more than a hint of royal about him. His entourage had booked an entire carriage on the train and he wore his usual scowl when he was met by the waiting press pack. But when it came to meeting delegates for the sustainable travel initiative, which will form a key part of his future work, he was all smiles.
On Friday, Harry was back on duty visiting the Abbey Road Studios to meet Bon Jovi, who is recording a version of “Unbroken” for the Invictus Games at the Hague; Harry will attend the games in May.
Next week he will be joined by Meghan for the Endeavour Awards before joining senior royals, including the Queen, for the Commonwealth Day Service on March 9th the couple’s last official engagement before they stand down at the end of the month.
While aides say they will be back in the U.K. regularly, Canada will be their new home as the couple embark on a transitional year working out how to become financially independent.
“It’s an emotional time for him in many ways,” one of the Prince’s oldest friends told *Vanity Fair*. “I think in many ways it’s bittersweet. He’s always wanted to have a regular life and to get away from the spotlight, and that’s what he’s doing, but it basically means walking away from his family. Harry’s a loving loyal guy so that will be very hard for him.”
In essentially quitting the royal family (and becoming the first royals to do so since the abdication of Edward VIII), Harry and Meghan are breaking away from The Firm to forge a new way of life.According to Ken Wharfe, Princess Diana’s former bodyguard who watched Harry and William grow up, the late Princess would have “applauded” Harry’s decision to break the mold and do things differently.
“Diana always said you have to make your own way in this family and Harry is doing that,” he said. “I think she’d applaud him for what he’s doing but I think she would advise him to think very carefully about what he does next and to take some time. Harry has made the choice to go and now he has to start all over again and I suspect it’s going to be a long road. He effectively has to re brand himself.”
The “just call me Harry” impulse may be something he inherited from Diana. “His mother used to say ‘I wish I was normal’ and I would say you can do normal things but you will never be normal,” Wharfe said. “It’s the same for Harry.”