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Harry at 30: The partying prince who 'grew up' in the army in Afghanistan; THERE will be parties, gifts galore and his Invictus Games to raise cash for the war-wounded when Prince Harry celebrates his 30th birthday, but what he needs is a wife.

Byline: MAUREEN MESSENT reports

ONE picture above all others sums up Harry's life so far: it shows the young prince, a few days short of this 13th birthday, walking behind Diana's coffin in 1997.

He was the little boy in tears - but showed us his gutsiness later at the funeral when speak-speak ing of his mother - William was too afraid of breaking down in tears.

Before that, we'd seen idyllic photographs of both princes - drenched with Diana at theme parks, off to start school, and happy family groups with Charles and Diana on official Christmas cards.

What we forget, with hindsight, is that Harry, always the spare to William's heir presumptive, survived a dysfunctional childhood beside his brother, both witnessing the Wars of the Waleses as their parents' marriage collapsed in recriminations and bookthrowing.

Then the bewildered little boys would be swept into the royal limousine for an earlierthan-planned exit from Highgrove because Diana felt Charles' place in the country was alien territory.

Life with Diana, the boys had worked out, was more fun. She'd taken them, unrecognised, to cinemas and pop concerts, had allowed her lover, James Hewitt, to teach them to ride.

Charles, on the other hand, appeared more serious, more severe.

Nor should it be forgotten that, at one stage, society's rumour-mongers, aghast at Diana's affair with Hewitt while Charles returned to the married Camilla, hinted behind their hands that Harry might not be Charles' son, tittletattle soon laid to rest.

And forget the myths of royal births being joy-surrounded. Diana told a close friend that Charles, meeting Harry minutes after his birth, had said: "Not a ginger-haired baby, for God's sake", a remark that left her heart-broken.

By then, both knew their marriage was a bomb-site. William, who entered the world while both pretended all was well, signalled a happy marriage. Little Henry Charles Albert David - perhaps fittingly for a future soldier, arrived to a war zone. In nursery days, William was the more biddable, often reprimanding his small and wayward brother to behave himself, a remark trumped by Harry's reply. "Shut up", he said. "You're only good because you'll be king one day. I'm just a prince so I can do whatever I like".

Oddly though, it's Harry who has become a stauncher member of the House of Windsor's "family firm", as Philip calls it.

This birthday, that brings him PS10 million from his mother's estate, finds Harry more confident than William. He doesn't regard journalists and photographers as enemies. He trusts everyone until he's learned not to. He doesn't stand on ceremony.

The Good Fairy at his birth bequeathed him the greatest of all royal gifts - a strong personality and massive good humour.

There are no intellectuals in our modern-day royals - and Harry was the family dunce. Dismal GCSE results at Eton resulted in resits through which he scraped ingloriously.

Extra cramming followed. Harry buckled down, scraped into Sandhurst Mili-tary Academy - and found his niche in life.

He loved the routines, the trust each cadet had in others, the lack of grovelling to his background. And the Sandhurst top brass, who felt the young prince might present problems, were impressed by his buckling down.

There were, of course, his off-duty nights on the tiles to be monitored: Harry was no stranger to London's fashionable night clubs like Chinawhite, Boujis, and Mahiki, where he established a reputation for getting over-merry, then being helped into cars by anxious bodyguards who wanted to whisk him home unseen.

This never happened.

Harry's nights out were the cue for paparazzi, some of whom made small fortunes from his unsteady legs, to gather, all waiting for the pie-eyed prince.

Occasionally, William was with him. But compare the brothers' expressions as they made their exits. Harry's unashamedly tight and enjoying every second. William looks apprehensive, as if worried he might be letting the side down.

We didn't know it at the time, but these differences were the seeds of what we know today. William is the stodgier of the two, reluctant to let too many feelings show in public, wary of publicity. Harry just wants all those round him to have a good time - and if that means playing the goat, he's up for it.

Harry is gallant to William's worthiness. William chooses the tried and tested where Harry's inclined to jump in with both feet for better or worse.

Harry, rumoured to be promoted to a major soon, now serves as a staff officer with the Household Cavalry, and would like to return to Afghanistan where, he says, he "grew up" on tours of duty with the Blues and Royals and the Army Air Corps.

"I didn't know I was born until I landed at Kabul", he's on record as saying. "I left a man".

It's undeniable that his liking for heavy drinking worried the royals. The spectres haunting them were earlier heavy quaffers back in the days before newspapers learned to tell all. The uncrowned Edward VIII was a heavy drinker and his brother George VI (the Queen's father) would fly into violent rages when hung-over.

So Charles, watching Henry's antics, summoned him to his to office in St James's Palace where the prince learned he was to be sent on a short exile to a cattle station in Australia's Outback.

Harry, always up for an adventure, saw this not as a rebuke, more a gift, all he could wish for.

Off he went and made long-lasting friends. He didn't mind rising before dawn and eating from a chuck-wagon, sleeping in a spartan bunk-house, sweating as he rode out to work with colleagues.

He left Australia with regret, callused hands, and a diminished thirst.

When and if he marries, Harry will insist the guest list includes many real-life cowboys from Oz.

| Tomorrow: The life and loves of Prince Harry


Harry at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan

A sombre Harry at the funeral of his mother, Princess Diana

Out and about with mum: Harry and Wills prepare to get drenched at Niagara Falls, and (right) in Hyde Park |
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 15, 2014
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