Book preview Harry: Conversations with The Prince

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Hampstead Journalist Angela Levin gained rare access to the soon-to-be bridegroom for her new biography

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With a hotly anticipated wedding and a new royal baby in the space of a month, it seems that Princess Diana’s most enduring legacy has been to stabilise the royal family through her two sons.

Hampstead journalist Angela Levin spent a year following Prince Harry on his UK duties and was granted the rare access of an interview.

Her biography Harry: Conversations With The Prince (John Blake)comes out in time for his May 17 wedding to Meghan Markle, although the American actress was off limits in their chats.

“I got the impression he was superkeen on Meghan but he didn’t know if she would be deterred by being in the media spotlight like previous girlfriends,” she says.

“He didn’t want to put a foot wrong or make it difficult by talking about her. He was going to pop the question and if she said no he would look silly.”

It took five months to get permission to follow Harry on his royal duties, then Levin asked for an interview.

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“Eventually they said yes, I went to Kensington Palace, we talked for a long time. Getting that access is particularly difficult with Prince Harry because he understandably doesn’t like the press and blames them for what happened to his mother. He also dislikes focus on his own life and says he feels he is in a goldfish bowl.”

But having watched him at public engagements, Levin is full of praise for the once rebellious 33-year-old: “He’s an extraordinary young man; charismatic and intuitive as to what to say and how to say it.”

At a Nottingham community centre he met a group of young adults from troubled backgrounds.

“It was in a very tough area, and they had all been excluded from school or came from dysfunctional families. I talked to them beforehand and they were all so what,? Then Harry arrives full of energy and enthusiasm and positivity, slaps them on the back, hugs people, and in minutes they were all over him asking for selfies; instantly at ease.”

Another group she saw him bond with were army veterans.

“He knew exactly how to deal with them, and clearly liked that comradeship and army joshing. They felt comforted by his presence. He is so much like his mother, brilliant at dealing with individuals but not much time for the nitty gritty or bigger picture. He puts people at ease by saying something funny, he’s quick thinking, not an academic but a lovely man.”

Mental health and Diana’s death came up in their conversations.

“I hadn’t brought it up - you have to tread very carefully - but suddenly he stopped talking and said how terrible it was that he had to walk behind his mother’s coffin and that it would never happen today. It was such an open comment that he had volunteered. This terrible long mile with millions lining the streets and shouting the boys’ names– I remember watching thinking it seemed appropriate they were there with their father and grandfather, I’ve changed my view totally.”

Levin recalls that the funeral took place amid a backlash of blaming the royals for Diana’s death: “It was a dangerous atmosphere, anything could have happened but it wouldn’t if those boys were walking down the road.”

But Harry also spoke of the years afterwards, trying to deal with his grief.

“He had his head in his hands any time he thought about it. It was too painful and he bottled it up for 20 years because he didn’t know what to do about it. Prince William tried to persuade him to see someone but he turned it down because he said you have to do these things at the right time. It was when he worried he was becoming increasingly aggressive that he decided to see someone.Then he found so many others had issues of mental health.”

She adds: “The Royals are a strange family, not in each other’s pockets or close like the rest of us, although he adores his grandmother and says she’s phenomenal. He was worried about asking her to do a video for the Invictus games but the Queen did it all in one take and he kept fluffing his lines.”

Levin believes The Prince is keen to have children and to support his brother as heir.

“It’s been a difficult journey for the boys but no doubt they will modernise the Royal family and do things in a different way.”